Iowa is set to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines this week, marking the beginning of the end of the pandemic that is attributed with more than 3,000 deaths in our state. It’s a “light at the end of the tunnel,” as Gov. Kim Reynolds said this month.
But make no mistake, we are in for a challenging winter. It will be several months before a significant portion of the population is vaccinated. Cold weather is associated with more viral spread and Americans are suffering from pandemic fatigue.
This is no time to let up on pandemic precautions. With the end in sight, we must double down and avoid unnecessary loss of life in the coming months.
“It will take a little more time before the vaccines are widely available. So in the meantime we can’t let up on our efforts to mitigate the virus. We’re too close now to have to go through another surge,” Reynolds said at a recent news conference.
As the vaccine rolls out, here’s what Iowans can expect.
The first round of deliveries to Iowa includes 172,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which both were found to be about 95 percent effective. Each vaccine requires two separate doses over the span of a few weeks.
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State officials are making plans under federal guidance to direct early vaccines to high-risk and high-benefit populations. The first installment is reserved for health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Critical non-health care workers also will be early priorities.
Sometime next year, in Phase 2 of the vaccination strategy, vaccines are expected to be available to the public through clinics and pharmacies. Public health officials note that prioritization plans are likely to be in flux based on vaccine supply and viral activity.
The existing vaccines have not been approved for children, though that could change next year.
Side effects associated with the vaccines are reportedly worse than with influenza vaccines. Public health leaders should acknowledge this while also touting that the COVID-19 vaccines are much more effective than influenza vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time through international cooperation among thousands of public and private sector actors, a testament to the awesome power of modern science and human ingenuity. From here, the results depend on widespread distribution and voluntary adoption.
We acknowledge that a small number of Americans are skeptical of vaccines. In the short term, that probably doesn’t matter since demand for COVID-19 vaccinations is far greater than supply. There is not yet enough for everyone who wants it.
Eventually, though, we want almost every adult to get the vaccine. Making it mandatory or inventing new surveillance systems to track who’s had the shot should be last resorts. Fortunately, polls show that the portion of Americans who plan to get vaccinated is steadily growing.
While the vaccine development process was expedited, the medical community is confident in its safety. Dr. Pat Winokur, who led a University of Iowa trial for the Pfizer vaccine, explained last month:
“Fortunately, most severe adverse events following a vaccine occur within the first two months after receiving the vaccine and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required a two-month follow-up before considering an emergency use authorization.
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“The study as a whole has included more volunteers than normal for a clinical trial of this type. This has been done so that we can go above and beyond in demonstrating its safety and effectiveness,” Winokur wrote in a guest column for The Gazette.
The most important thing for Iowans to know about COVID-19 vaccines is they appear to be safe and effective at significantly reducing the risk of contracting the disease. When it’s your turn, roll up your sleeve.
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