Americans’ impatience is showing and is occurring as our COVID-19 cases are rising in the US. We are on the cusp of getting enough Americans vaccinated to provide our country enough collective immunity to get back to a reasonable normal. There is so much great news on the vaccine front. According to our CDC 154 million vaccines have been administered in the United States. We are averaging nearly 3 million shots in arms daily. The Biden administration goal of every adult in the US being eligible for vaccination by May 1 is well within reach. As of March 29, Ohio Governor Michael DeWine has lowered the eligible age for getting vaccinated to 16 years old. Recall that the three vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, which have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) are being administered in the USA at this time, at a combined clip of about 3 million per day. They were given EUA because the data developed from large group usage was short term, having been studied for only two months. These initial study groups have now been observed for six months, coupled with the tens of millions of Americans who have now been vaccinated. The updated information from Pfizer is that their vaccines are 90% effective for at least six months at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease and even better against severe disease. They have also been shown to be effective against the UK (B.1.1.7) and the South African variant (B.1.351). Additionally, recent information from Pfizer is that their vaccine is 100% effective in children between 12 and 15 years of age. EUA for this age group is likely to be requested “within weeks”. A multicounty safety and effectiveness vaccine trial for the 6 months to 11-year-old age group has also recently been launched by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. This progress means that vaccinating all our children is on the near horizon. Imagine their safely returning to daycare and school, and their parents being able to return to work! The last piece of great vaccination news is that vaccinated pregnant and breastfeeding women past protective antibodies on to their newborns and through breast milk.
Despite all this wonderful vaccination progress, the actual case numbers in the US have increased 20% in the last 14 days. The daily case count has risen to over 62,000. Thousands of cases caused by foreign and domestic variants have been identified. The U.K. variant has been identified in over 11,500 cases, even with limited genomic testing availability. Michigan has seen its hospitalizations double in the last couple of weeks. The US death rate is not going down as we continue to lose nearly 1,000 Americans a day. The COVID-19 American death toll is over 552,000. Our European allies are experiencing drastic increasing numbers causing countries like France to implement its third national lockdown. Throughout this pandemic it has been noted that Europe is the harbinger of things to come in the US, 3-4 weeks later. Many of our infectious diseases’ experts are pleading that we be more vigilant so as not to continue that trend of following Europe. They lament that we are on the brink of another surge. We can prevent this if we are smart and just continue to WEAR masks, WASH our hands, WATCH our distance, and get vaccinated when our time comes.
We are continuing to see some state governments function in an anti-science political mode as they eliminate mask mandates and some even eliminating ALL COVID-19 restrictions. Others, like Ohio, are slowly relaxing restrictions while accelerating vaccinations and even offering the one-shot J&J vaccine to college students before they go home ending the school year. Some private businesses are also disregarding the experts’ recommendations that safeguard their customers. For instance, MLB Texas Rangers allowing 100% stadium capacity as opposed to 25-33% capacity in other stadia. The ill-conceived full capacity decision is contextualized by the postponement of the Mets vs Nationals game on opening day because of players testing positive.
Our country will be best served by governments at all levels, businesses, organizations, and individual citizens being patient. As more of us are vaccinated, the spread of this deadly virus can be in our rearview mirror.
Clyde E. Henderson, MD
Cincinnati Medical Association