As I write these words, shipments of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine based on breakthrough mRNA technology have been arriving to hospitals for several days, with the first shots already having been administered. Simultaneously, we've now surpassed an awful milestone of 300,000 Americans lost to the virus, which is akin to the entire population of Pittsburgh being wiped out. With frequently more than 3,000 dead on any given day (the comparison being that we lost approximately 3,000 people on September 11th, 2001), the expected post-Thanksgiving surge is upon us, just as experts forewarned (and the public ignored).
With Christmas and the New Year ahead of us, now is not the time for the doffing of masks and giving up on social distancing and other recommended measures. In fact, it's time for us to double down and work together in order to move us into 2021 with hope for seeing this pandemic in the rearview mirror.
Eyes on the Prize
Far too many people here in the United States are resistant to receiving the new COVID-19 vaccines that are emerging. With Pfizer's vaccine now having received its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA — and Moderna's possibly being receiving EUA approval this very week — we have the opportunity to initially offer protection to frontline healthcare workers, as well as those who live and work in nursing homes and other facilities housing vulnerable elders. I've also seen articles and photographs of frontline workers such as hospital housekeepers/environmental services staff and others being given the vaccine. We all know they also put their lives on the line every day.
Once the above-mentioned populations have received both doses, it will be high time to move on to other groups. I believe that essential workers like bus drivers, mail carriers, those who work in pharmacies and grocery stores, as well as many other public-facing citizens should be next in line.
We have 330 million U.S. citizens, and Pfizer has promised 25 million doses by the end of the year, meaning that a mere 12.5 million Americans will have been vaccinated. Since production, transportation, distribution, and administration of these vaccines is the most monumental public health undertaking in the history of the country, it may be late spring — or even early summer — until everyone who is eligible and wants to receive the vaccine will have been inoculated with both necessary doses. Therefore, we must press on as we've been while we keep our eyes on the prize.
Pushing Back and Waiting Our Turn
As we await our turn to join the swelling ranks of the vaccinated, it's our civic duty to stay on course, mitigate risk, follow the commonsense and simple guidelines put forth by experts, and push back against cynicism, resistance, and misinformation that often comes in the form of outright lies.
Oddly — or perhaps not so oddly — the absolutely egregious falsehoods put forth by QAnon have coincided with those of the so-called New Age community, with conspiracy making incredibly strange bedfellows.
To counterbalance such damaging anti-scientific rhetoric, our job as healthcare professionals and intelligent citizens of conscience is to educate our friends, families, neighbors, and others in our communities that getting behind this global vaccination campaign is essential.
I'll be standing in line for the vaccine as soon as it's available, and I hope other healthcare providers and leaders will do the same. A nurse was reportedly the first person in the U.S. to receive the vaccine, so let's line up behind her, pull together, and do our part.
(Note: a version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn on December 14, 2020)