This week has brought both some very good and some sobering news on the COVID-19 front. Let’s start with the good news.
Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have released preliminary results of their phase 3 vaccine trials and both show that they are >90% effective at preventing COVID-19. Just as significantly, both appear to be very effective at preventing severe disease (a vaccine that prevents only the mild cases wouldn’t be very helpful) and to be effective for older patients (which is sometimes more difficult to achieve with vaccines). Today, Pfizer submitted the information required to the FDA asking for this vaccine to be given emergency authorization. The other company, Moderna, is expected to do the same soon. There is an enormous amount of information from their studies about the safety and efficacy of this vaccine that needs to be reviewed and it will likely take several weeks for this to occur. The FDA committee responsible for approving vaccinations meets on December 10 and that is probably when an approval would be given if it meets the requirements. While that seems like a long-time, some of the distribution of the vaccination will happen at the same time, so that if authorization is granted it will already be stored near the sites where it will be given. If all goes smoothly, it is estimated that about 20 million people in the United States could receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year.
On to the sobering bit – Iowa is getting hit hard. Here at Iowa Specialty we’ve had between 6 and 9 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 for most of the last week (fortunately it looks a little better today) and the state of Iowa has been hovering around 1500 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. At the current rate of infection, roughly 1 out of 100 people in Wright County are being infected each week. Of course, those are only the ones who get tested. That is a massive amount of spread that makes it much more difficult to avoid infection, even for those who have been very careful. My advice at this point is to only consider being within 6 feet of others from outside your own household if both yourself and the people around you are wearing a mask at all times. If you have to be around someone who isn’t wearing a mask, I’d recommend wearing both a mask and faceshield yourself. These measures aren’t guarantees that you can’t get infected but substantially decrease the risk. We’re so close to getting an effective vaccine and starting to get out of this nightmare we’ll all remember as 2020, we’ve just got to hang in there a little longer.
Finally, I’d just ask that if you do develop any new symptoms, please get tested and isolate from others. We’ve seen many positives from people who initially thought that their runny nose was just their allergies and only realized something was wrong when they lost their taste or smell a few days later. When those late symptoms appear, the spread to others has likely already occurred and we aren’t slowing it down in our community.