The fact that we now have two incredibly effective COVID vaccines approved by the FDA (with more on the way) is amazing and heartening to me. Those responsible for that speedy development with such fantastic efficacy deserve high praise, and our thanks.
Let’s talk about what comes next.
• Understanding the Shot
The remarkable speed of development of these COVID vaccines makes some of us understandably wary and concerned as to whether corners were cut.
I believe the answer to this is: “No.”
Researchers sped up their trials by using existing clinical trial networks. Drug companies assumed a financial risk by beginning manufacturing while the trials were taking place. And the FDA and CDC let the vaccines cut in line, setting aside other reviews and approvals.
In that way, labs, businesses, and government agencies accelerated the process without sacrificing safety protocols.
This past Sunday the Director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) approved the use of the COVID-vaccine produced by Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. The day before the FDA determined that the vaccine was safe and effective for the prevention of COVID-19 and gave it an EUA (emergency use authorization).
On Monday, the state Task Force unanimously recommended its use.
The entire current inventory of 3.9 million doses is scheduled to ship this week. J&J says it plans to manufacture enough additional doses to ship 16 million by the end of March. New York State is supposed to receive somewhere between 93,000 doses and 160,000 this week depending on whether you believe the Feds or the state. In any event, this is very good news.
There have been some concerns from some people; two called me today. They are concerned that this vaccine is not as effective as those already approved. They want to know if they should get the J&J vaccine now if available, or wait to get either the Moderna or Pfizer one.
Beginning this week, some members of the general public are now eligible to schedule an anti-COVID vaccine appointment.
As of Monday, Jan. 11, the state gave the go-ahead to expand vaccine appointments to Phase 1b populations – seniors, first responders, corrections officers, teachers and other school staff; in-person college instructors, childcare workers, public facing grocery store workers, transit workers and individuals living and working in homeless shelters.
Also Monday, people 65 and older were folded into Phase 1b; previously, it has been 75 and older.
Phase 1a was focused on healthcare workers. The 1b situation is “fluid,” Kelly Rudd, Bassett Healthcare Network director of pharmaceutical services, said of the many moving parts of the operation.
The implementation of phases ultimately boils down to the prioritization of limited supplies; plus, state and federal guidelines continue to evolve.
“This is an extremely complex national endeavor we are navigating,” said Bassett President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim.
Organizations that will administer the inoculation – some drug stores, for instance – can submit requests for supplies; however, across the country, demands continue to trend higher than the stockpile – lending to the delay in vaccinating at a faster pace on a larger scale particularly in rural communities.
That said, the county Department of Health and other local providers have worked to set up clinics, expanding their vaccinations to include eligible phase 1b individuals.
According to the state website, “People age 65 and over (along with other Phase 1b individuals) will primarily be vaccinated at pharmacies and other sites that are part of the ‘retail network,’” by “appointment only.”
“The COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline is open 7 a.m.-10 p.m., 7 days a week, for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX 833-697-4829,” according to the website.
Community members are asked to check am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ concerning their eligibility to receive the vaccine in addition to a list of various local clinics and pharmacies to inquire about making an appointment.
Bassett patients are encouraged to setup/use their MyBassett for updates on eligibility and other information as it becomes available to the public in real time.