January 10, 2020

Steepen the curve

The next 6 months is going to be all about vaccines. The roll out has been challenging, with little to no help from the feds with little guidance and health departments already strapped for funds and personnel. The rest of us will be trying to keep the transmission curve flat while the vaccination curve steepens, as evidenced by my favorite geeky comic XKCD.

There are myriad reasons the rollout of vaccines has been challenging. We can’t just line people up in nursing homes. We are fighting agains reluctance on the part of health care workers and others to even get the vaccine. Misinformation is starting to morph into disinformation. Consequently, some places run out of vaccines if too many people get in line, and other places have had to waste vaccine if not enough sign up.

Those reasons are hurting the roll out. The recommendations are in flux and the organization of getting them distributed will change as we get more information and support from the federal government after January 20. I don’t expect a miracle change overnight but I do expect vaccinations to ramp up and steepen the curve over the next few months.

Vaccine hesitancy is real and will be a continuing challenge as misinformation is spread. African Americans have their own reasons to distrust the medical system so I loved this story about Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, former U.N. Ambassador and civil rights leader Andrew Young and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan receiving their vaccines in Atlanta last Tuesday.

We know it takes a couple of weeks to start to develop immunity after the first vaccine. The good news is that the science is supporting that the vaccines should work against the new fast moving variant from the UK and that immunity is looking to last at least a a year. The viral mutations may mean booster shots in the future.

I am excited and hopeful about the vaccines. They are proving safe generally with reasonable side effects and only rare serious reactions. We need to remember that the known serious risks of COVID-19 outweigh the rare risk of the vaccine. One day I will write more about the “nocebo” effect which is just as powerful as the “placebo” effect. Most of us know about the real positive effect we can get from a “placebo” or inert pill, if we think we are getting the real deal. The same can happen if we expect a negative effect of a treatment, we are more likely to have the negative effects. I have seen this so many times over the years. One reason why I hope for the best and work on my expectations.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, help steepen the curve.

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.

A webcomic of romance,
sarcasm, math, and language.