About ten years ago we were recovering from a milder pandemic – H1N1 Swine Flu. There was no international rush to quash that virus. It lasted for nineteen months and a quarter of a million people died. It was estimated that over a billion people were infected. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/2009-h1n1-pandemic.html
Coronavirus Medicines Status
At least twenty-three companies around the world are currently working on a vaccine for COVID-19. (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-nine-companies-are-working-on-coronavirus-treatments-or-vaccines-heres-where-things-stand-2020-03-06) and (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html) offer details.
There are additional studies testing existing approved medicines that can ameliorate the symptoms of more severe cases. Scientists are working on antibody options that might prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from finding a home in our bodies.
Many things are ongoing at the same time. Already approved medicines are easier to obtain new approval. However, new medicines (vaccines) must go through a specific protocol that normally takes years. The FDA will expedite portions of their approval processes, but the medicine must be safe before that happens.
Vaccines in the US
We have 350,000,000 people in the United States. It will probably take at least two doses of any vaccine to be marginally effective. The vaccine might stop you from getting the virus, but it is not a cure for the virus.
The best guess is that one or two vaccines might make it through the expedited approval process this year. However, it will be several months before a significant portion of our population can be treated. Manufacturing, packaging, distribution, scheduling, and more will need to be solved.
How do you maintain social distancing when administering the vaccinations? Will it be drive-through or waiting in line somewhere?
Some of the vaccines being discussed require that the source material be kept refrigerated. Our home refrigerators can handle a reasonable range of low temperatures. What happens when those ranges are outside normal equipment operating parameters?
Moderna’s vaccine is published to be kept at minus four degrees F (a temperature that most modern freezers can easily handle). However, Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at minus ninety-four degrees F – a major problem for existing equipment. https://www.fiercepharma.com/manufacturing/pfizer-moderna-s-covid-19-shot-rollouts-could-be-ice-as-analysts-question-cold
We have a problem ramping up for seasonal influenza each year and that program is much smaller than the potential COVID-19 vaccination effort. It will take many weeks or months to have a workable plan for distributing the vaccine to each American. At the same time, other countries will be vying for a vaccine too.
Each company manufacturing a vaccine will have different procedures for the various aspects of getting the vaccine to market. The payment for the vaccine has not been brought to the table yet, but it will be expensive.
Sense of Security
Having a vaccine approved, available, and distributed is a major step in preventing future infections. Herd immunity is generally not achieved until over 70% of a population is inoculated. Once a vaccine is declared available for the public a false sense of security might develop.
When you know a solution is just over the hill some people think that they no longer need to be as vigilant as they were before the availability of a vaccine. New cases can rise during that period because a ‘solution’ will offer them a cure if they get the virus. The vaccine is not a cure – it is a preventive option. People must understand that prevention does not equal correction.
Initially, I am sure that vaccinations will be given to those in critical areas – first responders, health industry, military, etc. Seniors with pre-existing conditions might be a segment that is offered a vaccine prior to the general public. Just because it is available does not mean you can walk into your local hospital or doctor’s office and get inoculated tomorrow morning.
If you are vaccinated with company A’s vaccine in September next year, can you get your second (booster shot, so to speak) a month later from another company? Are they compatible with follow-up vaccinations?
Post Vaccination Phase
Just because you were one of the fortunate ones to get your COVID-19 vaccination early in 2021, what happens if there are unforeseen side effects? What if the number of people dying from the vaccine is considered too high? How will you be tracked to ensure that your side effect symptoms are collected and available for analysis?
The vaccination phase is huge, but the follow-up phase can be even more expansive. What happens if you get the second vaccine shot before the first? How does that not happen? All of this will be going on as life in America is attempting to return to normalcy. Add a few hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters and the tracking can become a nightmare.
Seniors and Others
What if the vaccine is not recommended for seniors with pre-existing conditions? Many vaccines cause viral-like symptoms within a day or two of getting a vaccination or shot. How many people get a seasonal influenza shot and feel badly for days? Is it wise to give the vaccine to someone with compromised health? Not giving it to them requires additional safety concerns.
There are some who will refuse vaccinations. I might be in that category. I need to see a lot of data before I decide I want the vaccine. Others will not want to get a vaccination even if it is safe. How are those cases handled and tracked?
States versus the federal government could present interesting issues in the vaccination world. We have seen different policies prescribed for citizens of different states regarding businesses, quarantine, and more. Will there be a food fight with the COVID-19 vaccine?
There are still many questions that must be asked and answered before most of us feel comfortable about the safety, security, efficacy, tracking, and more. A little bad press on the front end with people waiting in line for hours or days and higher than expected deaths could shut down some of the plans for mass vaccinations. Is there a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D?
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com