“COVID is a killer-- in red states and blue states alike.” In asking the American public to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his administration, calling it the “100 day challenge," President Joe Biden reflects the values of a safer public, especially as they are vaccinated. In addressing the general population, he pleads, “It’s one of the easiest things we can do that will make a huge difference to save lives.”
Healthcare workers. Nursing home residents. Frontline essential workers. As the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine begins to trickle through these groups via their FDA assigned phases, the increasingly large body of vaccinated individuals may begin to wonder: what’s next?
The strategic cycle of vaccination, beginning in December with healthcare workers and residents of “long-term care facilities” the CDC classifies as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities, will continue to unfold as frontline essential workers and individuals aged 75 and older are reached by the second phase of the process. It will reach its third when the vaccine is administered to individuals in the age ranges of 64 to 74 years and 16 to 64 years given that the individuals in the younger range are affected by underlying health conditions. Additionally, the third phase is inclusive of other essential workersnot categorized in the second tier of administration--professions including food service, communications, construction, and finance. As more doses are made available, the CDC will release guidelines for more groups in-need to receive the vaccine, with a goal to reach the entirety of the general consenting American public.
When one is vaccinated, they must remember that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine does not grant a means of guaranteed viral immunity to them, and that the research conducted on the contagious nature of the virus within vaccinated individuals does not currently offer a conclusion as to whether they can still spread infection to others. In a December studyconducted by Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics Fernando P. Polack and his associates, it was concluded that protection from the COVID-19 virus in individuals who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine did not begin until 12 days after the first dose, reaching about 50% effectiveness in several weeks. A week after the second dose is administered, three weeks after the first, this percentage reaches 95% effectiveness. For vaccinated individuals, it is crucially important to recognize the sensitivity in the gap of effectiveness even the final dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has--guaranteeing about 5% of vaccinated individuals to be as susceptible to developing moderate to severe cases of the virus as they were unvaccinated. The 95% rate of effectiveness is high in comparison to the standard flu shot, which the CDC estimated to have 45% effectiveness against 2019-2020 seasonal influenza. Though the rate is promising, groundbreaking, and reassuring to many, we must not let the high rate cloud our best judgement.
In a surveyconducted by Liz Hamel, Vice President of Public Opinion Research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, more-than one quarter of Americans reported they would not take a coronavirus vaccine. This poses an additional health risk to the American public, and creates barriers to the ultimate goal of the CDC--for the vaccine to reach the entirety of the population.
A responsible vaccinated individual will inquire into the word of scientists and question the word of skeptics. In an American setting where COVID-19 can still spread from vaccinated and the large body of non-consenting individuals, it is important to continue to follow guidelines such as wearing masks, social distancing, and attention to cleanliness to continue to flatten the curve. And why not? If we continue to follow these guidelines whether we have been vaccinated or not it could save a life.
COVID-19 and your health. (2020, December 16). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations.html Interim estimates of 2019–20 seasonal influenza vaccine ... (2020, March 25). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6907a1.htm?s_cid=mm6907a1_w KFF COVID-19 vaccine monitor: December 2020. (2020, December 22). KFF. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/report/kff-covid-19-vaccine-monitor-decembe r-2020/
Long-term care facilities | CDC. (2020, June 22). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/longtermcare/index.html
Safety and efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine | NEJM. (2020, December 10). New England Journal of Medicine.