September 27th, 2019
Vaccinations imperative for national health
WED. | 02-03-21 | OPINION
With COVID-19 recently surpassing 400,000 total deaths in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control, the need for an efficient and timely vaccine rollout has peaked. The release of COVID-19 vaccines Moderna and Pfizer both hold an efficacy rate of around 95%, meaning that the risk for infection has been reduced by approximately 95%.
Vaccines trigger the body’s natural response through the exposure to a weakened version of the virus creating antibodies that assist the body in fighting the virus. The BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, coined Moderna, underwent a series of extensive clinical trials consisting of 43,548 participants of which half were given the placebo and the other half were given the vaccine. Of the half receiving the vaccine, a mere eight cases with onset symptoms were identified. Along with this, vaccine efficacy was consistent regardless of “age, sex, race, ethnicity, baseline body-mass index, and the presence of coexisting conditions.”
In 2016, the Obama administration created an epidemic prevention model to prepare the United States against future infectious diseases such as the current coronavirus pandemic. This
Graphic by Tierney Reardon
plan was not used by the Trump administration, but had the potential to save lives.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services created a five step vaccine rollout plan aimed to prioritize groups as either high-risk or essential to continued governmental function. This way, the vaccine can be distributed in a fair manner. Fittingly, health care workers and long-term care staff and residents make up the first category. Not only are these individuals at particularly high risk of contracting COVID-19, but healthcare workers are in high demand in being best equipped to take care of others. Additionally, nursing homes have struggled to keep COVID-19 numbers down. Beginning on Feb. 29, the first cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. were found in a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington and a slow response to the pleas for support combined with an investigation resulted in 38 patients dying there alone. Had the nursing home received help quickly, rather than an investigation, there might have been a different outcome. Now though, there is potentially life-saving help available in the form of vaccines, residents just have to be willing to receive it.
The second category of older adults again makes sense due to the high-risk nature of the age group and the heightened likelihood of underlying conditions. Then, the third category made up of frontline essential workers who are not health care workers is listed prior to the high-risk adults and general population. We feel that this breakdown is an effective way to ensure that as many as possible are able to receive the vaccine and that the healthcare community is not further overwhelmed by an onslaught of people wanting to get the vaccine all at once. Our only concern with the order the vaccine is being distributed is that some workers, for example a doctor who is not actively seeing patients at the moment, are being prioritized over the elderly. This risk of misprioritization, however, seems necessary in the long run for efficiency’s sake. The additional time it would take to change policy to prevent any misprioritization would risk slowing down the vaccination process as a whole and would defeat the government’s current goal to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
When taking those who are unable to get the vaccine into consideration, for example those with severe allergies and those younger than 16, it becomes even more evident that everyone will need to thoroughly examine their reasons for choosing not to get vaccinated. Because of these groups who are not yet vaccinated or have chosen not to for allergy issues, it is that much more important for these leading groups to become a strong foundation in order to form the closest resemblance to her immunity.
Herd immunity is developed through either a large proportion of the population contracting the virus or a large proportion of the population receiving a vaccine; the latter is much more desirable. Not only will these vaccinations prevent many deaths, but it will also decrease the number of “long haulers.” These individuals have contracted COVID-19 in the past, but are now testing negative even with continuing symptoms. While in most cases this means that a person has entirely recovered, some still suffer effects of the virus including difficulty breathing or concentrating. The prospect of living with these long-lasting effects is frightening because of how little is known about how they will progress and just adds to the list of reasons to take every safety precaution. So, even with the vaccine, precautions should be taken, but this doesn’t mean that vaccines should be written off.
It is of extreme importance that as many people as possible get the vaccine as soon as possible if we want to have any chance of developing herd immunity. According to the New York Times, “Scientists initially estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the population needed to acquire resistance to the coronavirus to banish it. Now Dr. Anthony Fauci and others are quietly shifting that number upward.” This choice to continually move the estimate upward is based on the public’s reaction to the vaccine. There is a wide range of possibilities for the exact percentage of herd immunity needed, but citing the highest number in that range is something that Fauci felt would cause people to become dejected. Newfound hope that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel could easily be extinguished, especially when both doubts about the vaccine and the percentage needed for herd immunity are multiplying. The beginning stages of the vaccine will be integral in establishing societal momentum and support for the vaccine. These early stages will lay the foundation for a successful return to normalcy.
Normalcy, however alien of an idea that may seem now, is possible. For example, according to the World Health Organization, as of Thursday, Jan. 21, Australia only has ten new cases and New Zealand does not have any. In this instance, the country was able to control the spread of the virus before it took many lives. The United States is similarly aiming to control the spread through priority vaccine distribution plans. Hopefully, this will be reflected in a similar response that Australia experienced: specifically, a return to face-to-face school.
The entrance of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines have both presented a glimmer of hope that will only be upheld if eligible groups strive to receive their vaccines as distributed. As Phase 1a progresses into Phase 2 and 3, we strongly urge those who are eligible to jump at the chance to receive your COVID-19 vaccination. For more information on whether or not you are eligible, please visit this website.