According to infectious disease officials, the disruptions in daily life due to the Covid19 pandemic will continue until most people in the US get the first shot of vaccine. The vaccination program will be a huge one that needs meticulous planning and deft implementation to ensure that the overwhelming majority receives the jab. Eric Dalius echoes the same views as he believes vaccinating people is the only way to stop the infection in its tracks and pave the way for ending the pandemic.
December 2020 had been a landmark month in the fight against the novel coronavirus as boxes of vaccines reached hospitals across the country. Healthcare workers in large hospitals in large cities like Washington DC and New York are among the first batch of beneficiaries. Boxes of vaccines have reached Kentucky, Louisiana, Arizona, and Michigan.
A long wait
The picture depicted above might give an impression that people would soon get their vaccinations. Still, after more than a month, the reality about the time taking vaccination program is becoming quite clear. Vaccination programs consider prioritizing the high-risk groups of frontline warriors comprising of millions of health care workers and nursing home residents who will receive the vaccines first, within the end of 2020. It will take months to get the jab for the rest of the population, believes Eric J Dalius, which seems quite logical by considering the vast expanse that the program must cover a vast population.
Attaining herd immunity is the goal
Producing billions of vaccine doses is a huge challenge. Equally challenging is its distribution across the country’s length and breadth while catering to the needs of various risk groups. Add to it the arduous task of tracking millions of doses. According to Anthony Fauci’s forecasts, people might have to wait up to June 2021 for their turn of vaccination. Since vaccination aims to reach herd immunity, it would require vaccinating 75% to 85% of the population, which then can stop the spread of the virus. Unless the majority of the population receives a dose of vaccine, it will not be possible to stop the virus from spreading so that life can once again return to normal.
Consider the supply constraints
It is hard to predict any definite timelines by when most people would receive the vaccine because of the constraints in supply. A lot depends on the number of vaccine candidates that receive approval and how soon. The manufacturing and distribution abilities will influence the availability and speed up the vaccination process. While the adult population above 65 years are likely to receive the vaccine soon after the front line warriors, those under 65 years and children may have to till late summer for their turn. Add to this the process of allocation that has always been a reason for debate and delays.
Here is a probable projection of the vaccination timelines that will give some idea about whose turn comes. The list starts with the events of December and continues through the subsequent months.
As the vaccination program rolled out in the United States in December, it follows the Advisory Committee of CDC (The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for immunization practices. Following the recommendation, 21 million front line healthcare workers and support staff and 3 million people living in long term care facilities who have been most affected by the pandemic are among the first group of people to receive the vaccine.
It is easy to reach out to the group that is already in institutional settings, and as the caregivers at nursing homes receive the vaccine, the residents would receive it at the same time. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have received FDA’s emergency use approval that paved the way for starting the immunization program. Each vaccine needs two doses at an interval of 21 and 28 days, and the combined doses of Pfizer and Moderna that have received approval add up to 18.9 million doses.
Expectations are that more health care workers would receive the vaccine in January 2021. The list could include emergency medical technicians, police, and firefighters belonging to the category of other essential workers. However, everything depends on the approval of two vaccines in December, which holds good promise about the availability of 50 million doses in January and another 60 million in February and March. While the figures seem encouraging when considering only the tagged groups, far more people are waiting for immunization.
As the vaccination program gathers momentum and availability improves, high-risk adults and more health workers are likely to receive the vaccine in February. By this time, the states should be ready to vaccinate their residents by moving beyond nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers, and facilities like medical practices and pharmacies. During January and February, more vaccine authorizations are likely to happen because Pfizer and Moderna supplies can never be adequate to meet the high demand.
Most likely the Phase I of vaccination will prolong till March in the US. This seems unavoidable because of the huge numbers. Essential workers would continue to be a focus group for receiving the vaccines in March, while those less than 65 years and not belonging to the high-risk or essential group will have to wait.
Hoping that more vaccine candidates obtain approval within March, there are chances of commencement of the Phase 2 vaccination program in April. Although it is not sure which would target groups during this phase, child care workers, staff, K-12 teachers, transportation workers, and retail workers belonging to the group of critical workers could receive the vaccine. People in homeless shelters and those above 65 years who could not b covered during Phase-I will also receive the jab.
May 2021 could see the beginning of Phase 3 that would cover young adults and children. But it can spill over to June depending on the supply position of vaccines.