January 3, 2021

A new year

A year ago the initial reports of a “novel coronavirus” causing severe respiratory illnesses started making the rounds. What a year it has been since then. These two brief articles in Journal Watch review what happened each month of 2020- the first is a review of the first 6 months and the second is the other half of the year. They briefly summarize the year and are interesting to look at. Such a year of grief and heartbreak, but also a year of so much innovation and cooperation. The speed of knowledge obtained is astonishing. We know better how to treat the disease with improve survival and now how to prevent it with several vaccines. We are also better able to surveil it so the new fast moving strain can be monitored and warnings made for people to be more careful about transmission. The new strain is definitely in California and therefore can be considered to be spreading across the country. Keep up your methods that have kept you safe so far!

Frustratingly, the vaccine rollout is having issues. I am not surprised about difficulties when trying to arrange something on a massive scale without direction and support from the federal government. So sad. It doesn’t have to be this way. Right now, each state is essentially on its own, some having things go more smoothly than others.

The vaccines are very effective with good data, but we don’t have enough of them. Now experts are looking for ways to make them go farther. Actually, the idea of giving half size dosing is not crazy, there is some data supporting the idea. Half dosing seems better than only giving one dose. We need this innovative thinking to help us have enough and get people vaccinated faster.

We have two problems right now that are going to make it harder for a while. One is the new variant that is more transmissible, which alone is concerning, especially as people relax their social distancing. When you combine it with the surge in travel over the holidays, we may have another explosion of cases with deaths to follow. The vaccines can’t prevent that because we can’t get people vaccinated yesterday. The vaccine is still expected to work on the new variant, so do get a vaccine when you can.

The other issue is how many people, including health care workers, are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Not because they are anti-vaxxers but for other concerns like how fast the vaccine was developed and approved. The politicization of the process hasn’t helped. But they also hear about the severe allergic reactions in the news and suddenly have real fear it could happen to them. Even though these rare and treatable allergic reactions have only happened about 1-2 times in a million doses, all the news services spread the reports. Suddenly, the risk of an allergic reaction weighs on their mind, even though the risk of COVID-19 is so much higher. Relative risk vs perceived risk can be a challenging concept. It takes time to help someone see the difference and answer their questions. A group of Allergy experts has released a statement reassuring people about the rare risks of allergic reaction. We will be busy educating about vaccine safety and how they work. Please help if you can. Reassure your friends and family. The more people immunized the better and the faster we can return to visiting with each other.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and keep up to date in your knowledge.

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.

https://www.jwatch.org/fw117343/2020/12/27/covid-19-year-review-first-6-months

https://www.jwatch.org/fw117352/2020/12/28/covid-19-year-review-2nd-6-months

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/health/coronavirus-variant-transmission.html

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2035389

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/health/vaccine-distribution-delays.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/03/health/coronavirus-vaccine-doses.html

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/u-s-officials-consider-half-doses-of-modernas-vaccine-to-give-more-people-some-immunity/

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/01/03/world/covid19-coronavirus

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201231131638.htm allergic reaction