The vaccine roll out has been problematic, disorganized, slow and asymmetric. Because public health and vaccines are controlled at the State level, there are as many vaccine distribution plans as there are States. This is frustrating for many people since, although our Constitution states that “all men are created equal”, it certainly doesn’t seem that way. In some states, relatively young and healthy people are getting vaccinated while in others, elderly with many medical problems are still waiting. In some states, the spouses of healthcare and other essential workers are eligible for the vaccine, while in most others, they are not. There are many examples, but this is how our government was set up. State and Federal.
All that having been said, we are heading in the right direction. More people are getting vaccinated daily than are getting infected by SARS-Cov-2. The scales are slowly tipping in the right direction.
The very fact that we even have a vaccine, introduced less than a year after the virus was discovered, is pretty amazing. We have 2, very safe and very effective ones out now (Pfizer and Moderna). 95% effectiveness at preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19 is unheard of in the history of vaccines. They do have some issues, both requiring 2 doses to reach those levels of protection and their transport and storage requirements are challenging, but it’s still amazing.
A third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, is also on the horizon. Although on the surface appearing less effective, only 66% effective at preventing symptomatic disease, it is still 85% effective at preventing hospitalizations and death. This far surpasses the typical flu vaccine (averaging 40-60% effectiveness).
There are also a number of other issues to look at when comparing these vaccines. The J&J vaccine was tested later in the pandemic, at a time when there was much more disease and the more transmissible variants were already on the scene. Secondly, the J&J vaccine was tested in areas like Brazil and S. Africa, where these variants were actually the predominant one already. We don’t have all the data but one might argue that it is better to get the J&J vaccine over the others because of the ability to cover all the variants which are on a rapid rise all over the world, including here in the US. Although the Pfizer vaccine does appear to have some, but less, protection against the more aggressive variants, the Moderna vaccine, in early small studies, seems to be much less effective.
In addition, there are some real advantages to the J&J vaccine. It is only one dose and it’s storage and transport needs are much simpler. All you need is basically a regular fridge.
In these three vaccine studies combined, there were 58,000 people who actually received the vaccine, half of all the participants. Not one of those 58,000 people died and the vast majority of those who ended up getting sick, requiring hospitalizations, were those who received the placebo.
Essentially, the vaccine saved over 100 deaths in the trials. And that is with only 58,000 people. So far, 52 million doses have been given in the US and 172 million worldwide. That’s potentially 100,000 Americans saved and 300,000 worldwide at this point in time. In addition, think of all the fewer hospitalizations, time away from work and family, illness acutely and chronically. To say that vaccination is risky and questionable is lunacy.
All of this is wonderful and we should be excited about the vaccine. Just think about how much of the misery we have experienced as a species we could have avoided if we were better at behaving responsibly, wearing masks and doing all the other things which we know are helpful.
But lamenting the past will get us nowhere. We must move forward, and vaccination, along with CONTINUED protection, vaccinated or not, is the key if we are to rid ourselves of this virus or return to some degree of pre-Covid normalcy. There will, or at least should, be a new normal. The way we were living is how we got here in the first place and we MUST change, but let’s get over this pandemic first as best as we can.
Stay Safe and BE Well