STERNBERG: Getting Closer To Vaccine. Then What?


We’re Getting Closer To A

COVID-19 Vaccine. Then What?

Richard Sternberg, a retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, has agreed to provide his professional perspective while the coronavirus threat continues. Dr. Sternberg, who is also a village trustee, resides in Cooperstown.

It appears that we are getting closer to the development of vaccines for COVID-19.

There have been some missteps in the process, including the development of an unexplained illness in one participant in the U.K. study of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. This required a halt to the study for about a week while the data was being reviewed. The study is progressing again at this time.

There are multiple other studies. Some of the vaccines are further along than others.

It’s not going be enough to develop one vaccine. The number of doses that can be produced quickly is limited. It is currently estimated the first batch will be limited to perhaps 10 million to 15 million doses in the United States, according to the National Academy of Medicine. This is why it’s important to have multiple vaccines available so they can be produced in tandem.

So, the question comes back to triage, which is something we first discussed six months ago. In this case, in what order are the vaccines going to be rolled out? Who is going to get them first? Where are they going to be distributed first? Right now, this is a matter of heated opinion.

• In my opinion, and solely in my opinion, I feel the following distribution order should be performed:

• One, frontline healthcare workers who are dealing with patients with COVID-19, or can reasonably expect to come into contact with patients and other affected people with COVID-19. This would include people working in hospitals, nursing homes, emergency medical services, and clinics.

• Two, other essential workers at high risk of being exposed to patients, or people who have
COVID-19 or are positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

• Three, those with two or more risk factors, including age.

• Four, health care and essential workers at any risk of exposure based on their job.

• Five, those with only one risk factor.

• Six, children.

• Seven, adults older than 25.

• Eight, young adults.

My only exception to the above is that I would withhold vaccination for all those who have refused to social distance, wear a mask, have publicly proclaimed that the pandemic is a hoax, or have attended illegal mass gatherings.

At the rate that we can expect vaccinations to roll out, at best we will probably only get the first and possibly some of the second group inoculated within the next three to six months.

With the development of more vaccines by different companies, we might be able to get the entire United States vaccinated within nine to 15 months.

This of course does not discuss the problem of whether money or fame puts you at the head of
the line.

As many of us have noted, professional athletes have been getting tested at will so they can go back to their sports. Other people have to wait or had to use tests that are not instantly available.

We can predict a similar occurrence with who gets the vaccine first. Should VIPs have priority? Should their families? Should the vaccine be equally available in countries which develop it versus non-developed countries?

Just as it was a mad scramble for supplies when lockdowns first began, there’s going to be a mad scramble for the vaccines with people trying to find reasons to be put at the head of the line.

Ultimately there’s going to have to be some pre-existing protocol, or decision-making process in place to sort this out.

As I said above please contact me with your thoughts on these issues. I will make your responses the subject of a follow-up column.

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