The race to a COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT/AP) — With COVID-19 vaccines in the works, it seems as though many are starting to see the first glimmerings of light at the end of the tunnel.

Pfizer, now asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, said its vaccine appears 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease. Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective. AstraZeneca said late-stage trials showed that its COVID-19 vaccine with Oxford University was up to 90% effective in preventing disease.

When asked if everybody should get the COVID-19 vaccine, Regional Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Dr. Rodney Young, said in general, yes.

“I think everybody ought to go ahead and get it,” said Dr. Young. “Again, this is based on review of safety data. I think what we have is a very well studied, very safe, and apparently very effective product. That if we will use it wide scale, that probably holds greater hope than anything we’ve come to thus far of helping us to attenuate this thing and snuff it out and get back to something that looks like more of a normal life.”

Though many are willing to take a vaccine once it has been approved, others still have concerns.

“The process of the speed did not compromise at all safety, nor did it compromise scientific integrity. It was a reflection of the extraordinary scientific advances in these types of vaccines, which allowed us to do things in months that actually took years before. So I really want to settle that concern that people have about that,” said the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“I think I stand right in line with Dr. Fauci on this, which is if this passes the routine regulatory hurdles that it is going through, and we expect it to do so I would be right at the front of the line ready to receive that vaccine,” said Dr. Young.

Though a vaccine is expected to arrive in just a few weeks, it could take several months before things start returning to normal in the United States. According to the Associated Press, the first, limited shipments of the vaccine would mark just the beginning of what could be a long and messy road toward the end of the pandemic.

While we wait, Americans are being urged to not throw away their masks just yet.

“If you’re fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop shooting; you keep going until the cavalry gets here, and then you might even want to continue fighting,” Dr. Fauci said.

Dr. Young echos that thought. He said, “I don’t know that just everybody getting immunized is going to snuff it out to the degree that we’re not having conversations about COVID as a potentially recurrent problem. It may be that the new normal means periodic vaccination for COVID, in addition to influenza to keep it at bay, but vaccination … holds the greatest promise to restore us to a more normal world.”

“So what we’re hoping is that those who have vaccine hesitancy, who are skeptical about a vaccine, will see that the efficacy of this is so high that they may change their mind about wanting to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Fauchi.

Federal and state officials are still figuring out exactly how to prioritize those most at risk, including the elderly, prison inmates and homeless people. By the end of January, HHS officials say, all senior citizens should be able to get shots, assuming a vaccine becomes available by the end of 2020.

For everyone else, they expect widespread availability of vaccines would start a couple of months later.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Monday the guiding principles for Texas’ COVID-19 vaccine allocation process. The principles were established by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP), created to make recommendations on vaccine allocation decisions, including identifying groups that should be vaccinated first to provide the most protection to vulnerable populations and critical state resources.  

“These guiding principles established by the Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel will ensure that the State of Texas swiftly distributes the COVID-19 vaccine to Texans who voluntarily choose to be immunized,” said Governor Abbott. “This foundation for the allocation process will help us mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, protect the most vulnerable Texans, and safeguard crucial state resources.”

Texas will initially allocate COVID-19 vaccines based on the following criteria:

  • Protecting health care workers who fill a critical role in caring for and preserving the lives of COVID-19 patients and maintaining the health care infrastructure for all who need it.
  • Protecting frontline workers who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work providing critical services and preserving the economy.
  • Protecting vulnerable populations who are at greater risk of severe disease and death if they contract COVID-19.
  • Mitigating health inequities due to factors such as demographics, poverty, insurance status and geography.
  • Data-driven allocations using the best available scientific evidence and epidemiology at the time, allowing for flexibility for local conditions.
  • Geographic diversity through a balanced approach that considers access in urban and rural communities and in affected ZIP codes.
  • Transparency through sharing allocations with the public and seeking public feedback.

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