December 14, 2020

we have lift off

Shipments of the newly approved Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 arrived today in several states and immunizations already begun in some places. Queens was one of the first places in the US to be hit really hard and was the first place to start giving the shots today. The story of Sandra Lindsay, a critical care RN in Queens who received the first dose is inspirational. “Use me as an example, I would not steer the public wrong.” Lindsay said. “I can say it is safe to take the vaccine. I have seen the alternative and I do not want it for you.” In a phone interview she said “That was the goal today. Not to be the first one to take the vaccine, but to inspire people who look like me, who are skeptical in general about taking vaccines.”

I agree with her that the choice between receiving a vaccine versus catching COVID-19 is clear. I do not want COVID-19 and I, especially, don’t want to give it to anybody else. The guilt would be overwhelming. I am watching families deal with those consequences now. A son or daughter or grandchild exposing a parent who gets critically ill can tear a family apart.

The vaccine’s data is compelling. Researchers I trust, like Dr. Larry Corey from UW/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute, like it. I have known his work on viruses for decades, his lab early on was where we would send samples to help distinguish between the two types of Herpes Simplex Virus, 1 or 2. His “Type Specific” testing was reliable and informative. Since then, he has continued his research with other viruses and vaccines. He did an excellent Q&A with The Seattle Times today. I recommend reading it to get lots of your questions answered and explain further the amazing research that has been done, reassuring that corners were not cut to get data and approval this fast.

He does acknowledge though, that having an approved vaccine or two is one thing; but the roll out, especially funding for it, is critical and still in need of refinement.We need ways to help get people back for their second vaccine, not always an easy task. Also, we need funding for the vaccines, but more importantly for the states and the health departments. Coordinating it all will take time and money, especially since we have precious few actual vials of the vaccine at this point and need to not waste any. Please write your Congress People since they are considering a COVD relief bill now. Without the money to help distribute the vaccine, we risk wasting doses and all other recovery efforts will be slowed down if the roll out takes too long. People will take more risks, thinking the pandemic is over. More people will be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and more will die from COVID-19 for lack of the vaccine.

More money is needed to buy enough doses to vaccinate all of our citizens, as well. Word came today that the government is buying 100 million more Moderna vaccine doses to add to the ones already bought, pending its approval. That means we will have 300 million doses of vaccine ready by the summer to vaccinate half that many people since the vaccine is two doses. We need at least another 400 million doses to get the rest of the country immunized. That is where other vaccine candidates may help and why Operation Warp Speed supported several different candidates, knowing we would need enough for 340 million people, as several companies will need to be manufacturing vaccines at the same time..

I can tell you that many of us are like the character in the XKCD comic, refreshing to see how soon we may be able to get the vaccine.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, be safe and don’t lose focus.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

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