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Vaccines Are On The Way — What Now?

The continued progress on COVID-19 vaccines over the past few weeks has been pretty exciting, to say the least. Many are hopeful that the end of the pandemic may finally be in sight after the promising trials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. With both vaccines demonstrating high levels of efficiency, many world leaders are already pre-ordering vaccines and beginning to strategize distribution. So, how will distribution work in the United States?

So far, it is predicted that the United States will have approximately 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of 2020 — just a few weeks from now. Assuming that the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for emergency use, this means that millions of people could be vaccinated in the near future. Currently, the US government plans to distribute 20 million doses to Americans and save the other half of the vaccines for the required second dose of those same 20 million people. However, some think that it would be smarter to simply distribute as many doses as possible right away with the assumption that the United States will be receiving more vaccines in the near future that can be used for second doses.

Distribution Strategies

It’s easy to see the logic of both strategies. Distributing 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine ensures that each of those people will have a second dose available. However, given the emergent nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the record-breaking numbers of cases and hospitalizations over the past few weeks, perhaps now is not the time to be playing it safe. Distributing all of the vaccines right away will provide protection to more people quickly, but it also takes a risk. What happens if the expected second doses for those individuals aren’t ready when they’re needed? So the question is, should the government assume that something will go wrong with vaccine production and make sure that second doses are available, or should they take a risk and vaccinate as many people as possible right away?

While some experts believe that it is very likely that second doses of the vaccine will be available when they’re needed, others say that producing vaccines is challenging, and the government shouldn’t count on additional doses being available. Pfizer did significantly reduce the number of doses that would be ready by the end of 2020 from their original estimate of 100 million due to supply-chain issues, so it is possible that something similar could happen again in 2021. Mass production of vaccines is typically the most difficult part because obtaining large amounts of the raw materials required can take time. Usually, a second dosage is required approximately three to four weeks after the first dosage, so there is a small window of opportunity for more doses of the vaccine to arrive.

The good news is that even if second doses aren’t available, it may still be worthwhile to vaccinate as many people as possible because they would still likely have partial protection from COVID-19. However, it is difficult to predict the effectiveness of the vaccine without a second dosage, and not completing immunization could decrease public confidence in the vaccine. This is crucial because if people aren’t confident in the vaccine, they won’t use it, and how quickly the pandemic comes to an end is largely dependent on how many people get fully vaccinated.

When vaccines do become available, it’s likely that high-risk groups such as seniors in long term care homes and healthcare workers will be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine itself will not cost anything for U.S. citizens, but there may be a charge for the service of administering the vaccine, which can be reimbursed through health insurance or a relief fund.

While we wait for distribution strategies to be finalized, it’s important to keep practicing preventative safety measures as much as possible. The less that COVID-19 is able to spread before we are able to get vaccinated, the quicker a vaccine will be able to eradicate the disease and end the pandemic. The COVID PreCheck App is a great resource for staying safe. It allows users to perform a self-screening test and share official test results with other users quickly and easily. Use the COVID PreCheck App and stay safe while we wait for vaccines to be distributed. We are also working on how a user can update status on their vaccination , negative lab test results or return to work status via the QR code generated for use by an employer or business.