As California prepares for rollbacks of reopening plans and a possible curfew due to another COVID-19 surge, the pharmaceutical industry has given us hope for a brighter future: a vaccine. If all goes well, families spread across the country might be able to come together for next year’s Thanksgiving without worrying about the virus.
Pfizer and partner BioNTech reported today that their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was 95% effective in preventing infections and caused no serious safety concerns. Another company, Moderna, also released data showing its vaccine as 95% effective.
Once the FDA grants Pfizer emergency use authorization, the company will start producing and distributing the vaccine. Ditto for Moderna and any other drug manufacturer with an effective vaccine.
The Rough COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline
If the FDA approves a vaccine in December (it scheduled advisory committee meeting for early December according to CNBC), the first group of individuals might get vaccinated by the end of the year.
Most likely healthcare workers, especially those working in nursing homes, will get the shot first, along with people at high risk of serious disease (older adults, people with underlying health conditions). Next comes essential workers, teachers, and people who work in prisons and homeless shelters. After that, children and young adults. After that, the rest of us.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, our country’s infectious disease expert, said every American could get a vaccine by July 2021.
The Grain of Salt
The vaccine news gives people something to celebrate at the end of a difficult year. But the timelines are optimistic estimates. FDA approval might take longer than expected. Many people are distrustful of the vaccine. We don’t really know how effective it will be across 328 million Americans as opposed to the 30,000 to 40,000 people who participated in clinical trials. Some experts say we might not fully return to “normal” until 2022!
What You Can Do in the Meantime
While we wait for the vaccine to arrive, follow all public health safety measures. Wear a mask when you’re around other people. Try to stay at least six feet from others as much as possible. Avoid crowds and gatherings of people who aren’t in your immediate household. Most importantly, wash your hands often.
If you’re healthy, protect yourself, your family and everyone else by celebrating Thanksgiving safely. Think twice about traveling, especially by airplane. Do you want to put mom and dad at risk?
If you do get together with nearby family, keep dinners small. Dr. Fauci also recommends masks for people who haven’t had a recent COVID-19 test. Other tips: keep a window open to circulate air and don’t use shared serving utensils.
You can also keep yourself and others safe on the highways by not drinking and driving. Like every year, appoint a designated driver if you want (or need) to drink during a family gathering.
When you do hit the road, give other vehicles plenty of space. And make sure your vehicle is in good working order.
Myself and my staff wish you a joyous Thanksgiving. It may look a little different this year, but have faith it will get better.