A Game You Don’t Want to Lose
The defense against COVID-19 runs parallel to American football. Defensive vaccines try to prevent anyone from sacking the quarterback. For most of the year 2020, doctors were on the offensive team without the ball—treating the virus post-infection.
Throughout 2021, several pharmaceutical companies are moving to the defense with vaccines. Meanwhile, the population is still wearing protective gear on the line of scrimmage.
The team members off of the field have the best chance of walking away uninjured. Similarly, people who avoid crowds are least likely to contract the coronavirus. Some epidemiologists feel everyone will get COVID-19 at some point. Late in 2020, Medscape revealed that only 6% of its site visitors or their acquaintances have escaped a COVID-19 diagnosis. How your body reacts to the virus depends on many factors.
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Nine companies are sprinting to the end zone with potential vaccines. “We, the undersigned biopharmaceutical companies, want to make clear our on-going commitment to developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accord-ance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles,” the statement read. It was signed by the CEOs of AstraZeneca, BioNTech GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi.
The first two vaccines that have approval in the United States and Europe are from Moderna and Pfizer. Each requires two timed doses. Healthcare workers and elderly within assisted living facilities are the first priority for vaccination. Johnson+Johnson is working on a single-dose vaccine. Talk of spreading out the doses to partially cover more people is underway. Meanwhile, single-dose vaccines are in final stages of testing.
As more vaccines become ready for wide distribution, an important question arises: How do we prioritize those who receive it? Various models are being explored.
Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, is director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center and School of Medicine. Caplan raises good questions about the broad category of “healthcare workers.”
Next, we might vaccinate people at higher risk for severe symptoms, including the elderly, those with underlying conditions, and certain racial and ethnic minorities. This may not matter since 20 or 30 million doses could be depleted by doctors, nurses, maintenance workers, and administrators in the healthcare industry.
The current deployment strategy is to vaccinate health care workers and the residents of long-term care facilities. First shipments not high enough to fulfill this goal. So hospitals are prioritizing a subset of Tier 1 personnel. Some states are offering vaccines on a first-come-first serve basis to the elderly.
With doubts over efficacy, less than half of people polled say they trust a vaccine. Lack of confidence breeds noncompliance.
After millions of people receive vaccines, can you anticipate the reaction? People fed up with wearing masks and home confinement may lax rules of face coverings. A two-stage vaccine might embolden them shun other protective measures. Or without inoculation, individuals may feel that enough other people are vaccinated to reduce risk.
Football players do not remove their gear for the remainder of the game after a touchdown. Similarly, a vaccine will not eliminate the need for masks or various safety precautions. It is not as though others can tell by looking who have been vaccinated.
A handful of studies on COVID-19 survivors suggest that antibodies—key immune system proteins that fight infection—begin to disappear within months. A handful of patients have been reinfected during this interval. This has led scientists to worry that the protection provided by vaccines could fade. Manufacturers assure the public that vaccines build stronger immunity than your body produces after recovering from COVID-19.
Will the virus mutate each season like the flu or subside when enough people receive vaccinations? Already a super-virus variant has infected a few people in Europe and the United States.
If everyone does eventually contract COVID-19, as suggested earlier, it will occur when your defense weakens. If you remove your mask near virus carriers or wear an ill-fitted mask, coronavirus is likely to tackle you. Remain calm, patient, and exercise precautions.