December 15, 2020

COVID Vaccines Arrive

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“Health care workers around the country rolled up their sleeves for the first COVID-19 shots Monday as hope that an all-out vaccination effort can defeat the coronavirus… Some 145 sites around the country, from Rhode Island to Alaska, received shipments, with more deliveries set for the coming days. High-risk health care workers were first in line.” AP News

Many healthcare professionals have written articles in recent days stressing the safety of the vaccines and recommending ways to get public buy-in:

These vaccines' development did not cut corners. Moderna's and Pfizer's compressed timeline reflects unique partnerships between industry, government, and academia, high levels of funding, and decades of previous research on mRNA vaccines, as well as countless individuals working day and night given the nature of the crisis. Authorization may be expedited, but both organizations followed the requisite orderly progression from Phase 1 to Phase 3 trials. The careful scientific design and rigor has given us a great deal of confidence in the final product…

“Two federal advisory boards (the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as a separate advisory board in New York have evaluated Pfizer's results, and approved the vaccine through the Emergency Use Authorization process. They will follow the same process for the Moderna vaccine. Pfizer's Phase 3 results have additionally undergone external peer review and been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Each of these independent reviews was incentivized to identify problems, not to gloss them over. It's also tremendously unlikely that all of them missed a problem related to safety and efficacy… From our perspective, the likelihood of harm from Covid-19, in both the short and long term, far outweighs the small potential risks from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.”
Megan L. Ranney and Esther K. Choo, CNN

“If government and health care leaders take the right approach to educating the public about the vaccines, we can create a pathway for the public to assess options and choose to get vaccinated. Given the accelerated development of the Pfizer vaccine and other vaccines not yet approved, convincing people that the vaccines are safe and effective is critical…

“Communications should stress that the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine (not yet approved) are 90 to 95% percent effective. It’s also important to emphasize that while the development, testing, and approval processes for vaccines have been accelerated, no steps were skipped… Transparency also means being upfront about potential side effects of vaccines. These include possible arm soreness (as with most vaccines) and possible fatigue a day or two after vaccination. If people expect knowledge to evolve and believe public health leaders will be upfront, reports of new side effects are less likely to undermine confidence and trust.”
Austin Baldwin and Jasmin Tiro, Fox News

Many on both sides are calling on policymakers to prioritize high-risk communities in their vaccine distribution plans:

“Recent research has shown that the excess mortality in the minority community is attributable to socioeconomic factors, including lower-income as well as below-average living and working conditions… People with lower income or crowded living conditions may not be able to follow public health measures such as social distancing, remote work, or even use of masks. It is alarming to note that CDC makes no clear mention of economic or working conditions when both so clearly put certain people at risk. Furthermore, many low-income jobs are as essential to a functioning society as healthcare provision…

“As the US explores vaccination distribution, recommendations from federal agencies such as the CDC should look to existing data regarding disproportionally impacted populations. This has already been done for those ages greater than 65. The same calculations should be applied to low-income people and racial and ethnic minorities.”
Kirsten Axelsen and Benson Hsu, American Enterprise Institute

“People who live or work in high-risk, high-transmission communities must be given priority. Giving vaccines as soon as possible to these people will save a disproportionate number of lives because they are more likely to get the coronavirus. Many work in crowded conditions, including factories, meat packing plants, public safety jobs and agriculture. Others live in close quarters. Many are essential workers…

“These groups lack political power and they are usually the last to get society’s most important benefits. Some in these groups will not want the vaccine — at least not initially. This includes many in communities of color who have suffered and continue to suffer inequitable treatment and at times have been subjected to medical experimentation. And some members of the historically privileged will question why these at-risk communities should be given priority… [But] Making sure that those who are most at risk are prioritized for access to the vaccine will help protect the public, allow businesses to re-open, and save lives.”
William B. Schultz and Dr. Regan H. Marsh, USA Today

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Thank you to the scientists who started working on the vaccine in February, even before it was clear how widespread the pandemic would become. Thank you to the thousands of clinical trial volunteers who risked their health to take an experimental vaccine for the benefit of others. Thank you to the government officials who worked to limit the bureaucratic red tape that typically makes vaccine development a years-long process, and for doing it without compromising safety controls. And thanks, too, to President Trump… Operation Warp Speed delivered.”
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

“Getting a vaccine out to more than 300 million Americans within months will be like nothing the US has done before. It will require enough raw materials to manufacture the doses and enough factories to produce them. Those doses will then need to be purchased and shipped to all 50 states. The states will then need to distribute the vaccines to different localities, which will have to distribute them at the local level based on need — all while keeping the vaccines safely stored at the right temperature…

Local and state governments are cash-strapped from dealing with the ongoing economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. It’s not clear that the federal government is doing enough yet: Some officials say states need $8.4 billion to do this work; so far, they’ve gotten $340 million.”
German Lopez, Vox

[The states’] plans are imperfect at best. Less than a third of the states included any estimates in those plans for how many providers would be in the vaccination chain, only a quarter had plans in place to make sure the vaccines reach under-served populations and only half of the states had a vaccination registration system ready to track doses… New Jersey’s plan is 182 pages. Wyoming’s is 33…

“[Supreme Court Justice Louis] Brandeis’ observation about states being laboratories for democracy sounds honorable when it comes to tax policy but may prove to be folly when it comes to serving a lifeline to a country hobbled by a pandemic. After all, America doesn’t fight its foreign wars with each state leading its own military unit. But it is about to wage a domestic campaign against a virus with dozens of distinct battleplans.”
Philip Elliott, Time

“For Covid-19, prisons, jails and other detention centers are arguably the worst environment to be living in. These populations are uniquely vulnerable to the virus: Confinement is the antithesis of social distancing as cells are small and shared showers and common areas are natural Covid incubators. Meanwhile, supplies such as soap and masks are scarce…

“Incarcerated individuals are four times more likely to become infected than people in the general population… We need urgent action now, with vaccines prioritized for distribution among incarceration facilities along with nursing homes and health care settings.”
Ashish Prashar and DeAnna Hoskins, NBC News

From the Right

“Six deaths did occur during the vaccine’s Phase III trial, but most of them occurred in the group that received the placebo. There were two deaths in the vaccinated group, one of which was caused by pre-existing arteriosclerosis while the other was caused by cardiac arrest, which occurred 60 days after receiving the vaccine…

“These six deaths represented 0.01 percent of the 43,448 trial participants, and the briefing notes that ‘All deaths represent events that occur in the general population of the age groups where they occurred, at a similar rate.’ The briefing report does not suggest that the deaths are connected to the vaccine in any way, and only 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent of the vaccine group and the placebo group reported serious adverse events, respectively.”
Alec Dent, The Dispatch

“Donald Trump said during the second and final presidential debate on October 22 that he was optimistic a vaccine would be ready ‘within weeks’… The media could have accepted that the President probably has better insight into the timeline of vaccine development and approval than those not involved in the process. Instead, they roundly mocked his prediction…

“Just a couple of weeks after that final presidential debate, Pfizer announced that it had completed its third phase of vaccine trials successfully. The FDA issued its first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine last week, nearly a month ahead of the end of the year…

“It’s no wonder that the media wanted to undermine Trump’s successful vaccination fast track program, Operation Warp Speed, ahead of the election. Many Americans cited the handling of the pandemic as a key voting issue. It would have hurt Biden immensely if Americans were made to be optimistic about Trump delivering a vaccine so quickly.”
Amber Athey, Spectator USA

“[Biden’s] plan to put teachers at the front of the line for vaccination, second only to health-care workers and nursing-home residents, is driven not by science but by pure political pandering… while the initial fear that teachers expressed was understandable, recent data indicates that teachers and students are at no greater risk of contracting covid in schools than they are elsewhere…

“In our urban centers, should teachers get the jump on bus and taxi drivers and transit workers, who are confined in extremely close quarters with the general population but are nonetheless vital to keeping our cities functioning? What about immigrant farm laborers, who have been especially hard-hit by the virus, and restaurant and grocery workers who have braved covid-19 to keep the country fed?…

“It is wrong for Biden to pursue a one-size-fits-all approach across the more than 13,000 school districts in the United States simply because teachers unions wield more power in the Democratic Party than do interest groups representing other sectors.”
Ray Domanico, Washington Post

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