As dire as my thoughts were last night, I have more hope today. Moderna is asking the FDA for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine, showing 94.1% effectiveness after reviewing the data from the study of 30,000 people, half who got placebo, the other half getting the real thing. It also was shown to be 100% effective at preventing severe disease, which is wonderful news. They can start distributing the vaccine as early as Dec. 21. Along with the Pfizer vaccine, that means 40 million doses of the two different vaccines may be ready before the end of the year, a remarkable feat. So far, they appear safe. Dr. Fauci spoke optimistically about them today, which goes a long way in my book.
I am old enough to remember standing in line as a child with my brothers and parents to receive the first oral polio vaccine, placed on a sugar cube. Due to the fear of polio and its silent transmission, families were eager to be protected. The relief to have their children protected from polio was palpable in my parents. They knew of children needing to live with “iron lungs”. My mother’s brother’s always had a weak and smaller right arm due to his bout of polio as a child.
Of course, the next steps are to decide on priority and distribution, as well as more data on safety which can help enough people decide to get the vaccine if they feel it is safe enough. Without public acceptance and large numbers getting the vaccine, our crisis will not end sooner. Priority will be given to health care workers and others in the front lines, as well as people living in institutions like nursing homes and prisons. Next will be people with risky conditions, including being older. There will be much debate about these priorities, but at this point it is not based on income, which is good. The front line workers have some of the highest risk and more exposures and they should be protected.
Remember that these are both vaccines that require two doses, so getting enough for everyone will take time. Hopefully, they do better than they did with the new Shingles vaccine which has taken awhile to get enough.
Other technology is advancing as well, for good or bad. Apple and Google have combined to make a COVID-19 exposure alert app. Washington State just approved its use today. People have to opt in, but it can make it easier to contain a series of infections by letting people know they were exposed, I know there are concerns about privacy, but at this point I am happy to have any new tools to help decrease transmission and have signed up.
And we know the surge from Thanksgiving is probably on its way, although it may take a while to show up. So stay safe and sensible.
Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, have hope that next year we can celebrate together.
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.