Earlier this month, Mayor De Blasio announced an ambitious amount of vaccinations in New York City. A whopping ONE MILLION dollars…I mean, vaccinations. PS – if you don’t get the reference, check it here. Here’s everything you need to know about the Coronavirus Vaccine.
“We are going to expand our hospitals, clinics, neighborhoods across the city. Our goal is upwards of 250 locations citywide. This is going to be a massive effort, part of the largest single vaccination effort in the history of NYC. It’s going to take a lot of work.” – Mayor DeBlasio
But, things aren’t quite that simple.
Originally, the US had lofty goals of distributing over 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020. According to the CDC, only 12.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed, and only 2.8 million people inoculated.
Bottlenecks, Bottlenecks, Bottlenecks.
Why? For starters, bottlenecks in production. Earlier this summer, glass vials, cargo planes, dry ice, and even wooden pallets were some of the items on backorder that would slow things down. Plus, no game plan. Distribution was left to hospital and health officials who were already overwhelmed by patients.
Who’s to say what will happen in the next month?
The new stimulus package allots another $8 billion in funding for vaccine distribution. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping our masks on, hands sanitized, and socializing through Zoom with our cat.
As for vaccine plans for 2021?
Expect another 125 vaccine sites to pop up by the end of the month, 24/7 vaccine facilities (we are currently operating during the week only), and additional groups to be vaccinated in phase two including police officers, firefighters, teachers, pharmacists, and grocery store workers.
In this article, we’ll be tackling all the questions you have about the Coronavirus vaccine, such as – Is the Coronavirus vaccine safe? Will I be able to take the vaccine? Do I have to pay for the vaccine? Fasten your seatbelts folks, because you’re in for a ride.
Editor’s Note: This article was created with the help of Danielle Deschaine, a Pharma marketing executive working on the distribution of two Coronavirus vaccines.
Here’s some more resources from our Corona series:
- Here’s how to stay safe at home (especially if you live with roommates).
- Fastest Places You Can Take a Rapid Covid Test in New York City
- That Weird Emotion You’re Feeling? It’s Grief.
First off, let’s start from the beginning. What is a vaccine?
According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), vaccines contain the same germs that cause the disease. Vaccines have germs that have been, “killed or weakened to the point that they don’t make you sick. A vaccine tricks your immune system into producing antibodies that act as your body’s defense.
Ok, I Slept Through High School Biology. Explain the Coronavirus Vaccine.
Let’s create a parallel world with football.
Imagine you’re playing against a team called, oh let’s say the “Covid-19ers”. They’ve been absolutely crushing every team this season and somehow, your coach has managed to get their old playbook.
Let’s call this playbook the, “Vaccine”. This book has every single play, strategy, team member, strength, and weakness that the team has ever used.
“Pfizer and Moderna have estimated that they will have enough to vaccinate, at most, 22.5 million Americans by year’s end, with the required two doses, a few weeks apart” – NYT
Now, your coach (who’s been an expert for years and years) studies the playbook and knows exactly how the Covid-19ers think, play, and operate. In fact, she’s studied hundreds of playbooks of hundreds of other teams.
She helps to devise a strategy for your team – when to run and shoot offense, and what plays to use based on that foundational knowledge vetted by thousands of other football experts.
Having the playbook is an essential tool for your team to understand your opponent, develop a defense strategy, and beat the team. Having the vaccine is an essential tool for your body to understand Covid-19, and develop antibodies to the virus. Think of the playbook as the vaccine, and your “coach” as the global medical team of experts behind the vaccines. What up, Fauci!
What’s so special about the Coronavirus Vaccine?
Now, to make things a little more complicated, the Covid-19 vaccine is a Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. The mRNA tells our cells to make a clone of the spike on top of the coronavirus – which triggers our immune system. This would be like, not only has your team studied the playbook, it made a clone of the Covid-19ers‘ head quarterback to beat its own team.
The Pfizer BioNTECH vaccine has proven to have nearly a 95% success rate after the second dosage. The efficacy also seems to work equally amongst older, obese, black, white and latino candidates as well.
How long have vaccinations been around?
Vaccinations have been around for over 100 years. Prior to vaccines, the average life expectancy of a human being was 35 years old, meaning half of Williamsburg’s emotionally unavailable single population would have been 6 feet under instead of texting you 6 days later.
Today, the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.7 years. You can thank vaccines for that. Tuberculosis, Measles, Diphtheria, Polio, and Yellow Fever were all diseases that would have cut off the life expectancy had it not been for vaccines.
If we continue to allow Coronavirus to spread the way it is, you can expect over 40 million people to die.
Ask an Expert: How do vaccines work?
Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett is an American immunologist, research fellow, and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC). Her team is responsible for the research that led to Moderna’s vaccine. She had this to say about vaccines:
“They work in two ways. They prevent you from being sick and prevent transmission in the community. Herd community can only be achieved effectively by vaccination. People have doubts about the process, but the vaccine concepts that are put into Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson, and Johnson and etc.. the actual sequence of the protein that is being used to vaccinate people, we worked on that sequence for 6 years since I got to the National Institute for Health
Because we understand so much about how to make the right immune response for Coronaviruses, this is why we are seeing 90% efficacies…which are just astonishing efficacy rates for any vaccine. They’re reviewed by a diverse panel of experts external to the company who have nothing but the best interests of mankind“.
How many Coronavirus Vaccines are in Production?
In the United States, there are currently two vaccines in production – Pfizer and Moderna. In total, there are five U.S.-backed candidates in phase three trials including Astra-Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson.
Coronavirus vaccines require two shots to be taken within two weeks of each other. Pfizer and Moderna estimate that they will be able to create an additional 60 to 70 million doses by January. The UK started its first dosages on December 8th with the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine.
Why should we trust this rushed vaccine?
The Coronavirus vaccine isn’t “rushed” in the traditional sense.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publicly rallied AGAINST rushing the science. Two months of follow-up safety data required for the vaccine application is actually more than is traditionally required!
A lot of what COVID has done is strip away a lot of the process-driven inefficiencies of vaccine development and push resources towards this vaccine on a global scale. While the strain of Covid-19 is new, the formulation of the vaccine is based on a foundation of vaccine knowledge that has been going on for years.
“The actual sequence of the protein that is being used to vaccinate people, we worked on that sequence for 6 years since I got to the National Institute for Health.Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, American immunologist
In an oversimplified analogy, think of the Apple team of developers making a new update for the Apple iOS system. They are building updates and fixing bugs based on past iOS systems, not relearning coding from scratch for each update. Experts are building off the foundational knowledge of vaccines and coronaviruses from years prior.
The biggest hurdles for the Coronavirus vaccine in regards to FDA approval are actually production capabilities, not testing.
Moderna has not brought a single drug to market. How can we trust this rushed vaccine?
Moderna specifically focuses on developing mRNA “directions” which is the exact method Pfizer uses. In tests, the two saw similar results, so if nothing else Pfizer is a widely-known public company also using the same technique and science- mRNA.
Moderna also, in an effort to be transparent, actually published their protocol for the clinical study on the COVID vaccine so ANYONE can read it. You can see the results of the trial for yourself in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
How will NY prioritize who gets the vaccine? I want one ASAP.
In the United States, each state and health system will decide on their own guidelines as to which groups get priority vaccinations. The CDC recommends:
- Senior citizens in nursing homes (they have accounted for 39% of deaths nationwide)
- Healthcare workers and essential personnel like those who work in schools, emergency responders, police officers, grocery workers, corrections officers, public transit workers, and others whose jobs make it hard or impossible to work from home. (85 million people)
- Adults with medical conditions that put them at high risk of coronavirus infection, such as diabetes or obesity, and everyone over 65
In New York, Governor Cuomo has suggested:
- At risk, older people over the age of 65 in nursing homes
- Healthcare professionals and essential workers
- Black, brown, Asian, Undocumented, and high-risk populations (such as those living in NYCHA public housing). Governor Cuomo issued a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to include these communities to be covered by the vaccine.
The priority, of course, will be the medical professionals. We need to protect medical workers and those on the front lines first to ensure they can keep us all safe.
Regular folks like you and I will be waiting for vaccines as they amp up production. Dr Fauci estimates vaccinations for the general public will not start until April 2021.
When will life return to “normal”?
In order for life to return to “normal”, we need to have herd immunity, or have over 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated.
There are many variables, but the general consensus can be summed up by Dr. Bob Wachter, a Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF. He expects over 150 million people by June 21, and the entire US by December 21, 2021.
*Please note the CDC does not explicitly give a date beyond “the first vaccines will be available before the end of the year,” so you can hang up your party hats.
What are the negative side effects of the Coronavirus?
Coronavirus vaccine side effects have been documented as follows:
- Pain at the injection site (typical of many vaccinations)
- MODERNA: Fatigue, headaches, joint pain (literally me all of COVID anyway)
- PFIZER: Flu-like symptoms such as muscle pain and fever
- Pfizer is preparing the full findings to be published for peer review (the FDA is already reviewing).
- No serious safety concerns were observed in their trial of 43,000+ participants.
Moderna noted that there were no serious safety concerns in their 30,000 person trial either, but that the lesser side effects more commonly happened after the second dose. Studies on children or pregnant women have not been done yet, so we aren’t sure of the side effects.
Will the coronavirus vaccine lift travel bans?
America is unlikely to take any drastic action until our caseload is under control and we’ve reached herd mentality.
We need to vaccinate the health care workers, the vulnerable, and essential workers GLOBALLY. That will ultimately be how we keep folks the safest – vaccinate those most at risk and the rest of us patiently wait our turn. So, short answer: Unclear but candidly really not a priority for anyone to figure that out right now.
Do I need to pay for the Coronavirus Vaccine?
- Short answer: MAYBE. Long Answer: It’s complicated. See below.
- The CARES act has designated the COVID 19 vaccine as a preventative health service. Anyone with insurance would get it covered 100%, full-stop.
- The government has been brokering deals to ensure the Coronavirus vaccine is affordable. Individual drug makers are making deals with other countries to sell it for under 40$ a dose. The Flu vaccine actually costs 67$ a dose, for reference!
- Read up on health insurance plans to see what’s covered. Medicare and Medicaid are aiming to make coverage affordable. The uninsured (or underinsured) will be vulnerable to price gouging, and may not be able to afford it at all.
In the meantime, wear your masks, avoid small and large gatherings and stay safe. We have a long winter ahead of us but, with some old school New York grit, we’ll make it out together.