Pamela Cruz. Peninsula 360 Press [P360P].
Although the COVID-19 vaccines were approved for emergency distribution by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last December, they are completely safe and necessary, guaranteeing up to 95 percent protection after two doses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which so far has caused, at least in the United States, more than 23 million positive cases and more than 385 thousand deaths.
This was stated by physicians and specialists William Shaffner and Robert M. Wachter, who during the panel "Challenges of Vaccine Distribution", organized by Ethnic Media Services.They stressed that today more than ever, it is necessary to trust the vaccine, use it and continue to maintain the necessary care to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, distribution of the vaccine in various parts of the country has been slow, because of "national and local bottlenecks" so far only five million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Laboratories have been distributed in the United States, said Dr. William Shaffner.
In that regard, he said residents in hundreds of cities aren't sure when the vaccine will arrive. "Sometimes it arrives a little late, sometimes it arrives with fewer doses than anticipated, and sometimes the vaccine from Minnesota arrives in Tennessee," he said.
"Frankly, some of the places -- where the vaccine is being distributed -- thought this was going to be just another flu vaccination campaign. They didn't prepare enough," said the professor of preventive medicine in the Department of Health Policy in Nashville, Tenn.
In addition to this, he said, there are logistical challenges, since in the case of the Pfizer vaccine, super-refrigerators are required that can keep the doses at extremely cold temperatures and thus maintain the vaccine's stability and good condition.
Dr. Robert M. Watcher is not surprised that "we're not doing very well" on vaccination, saying, "The only parts we've liked are the vaccine discovery and the science. We don't seem to have the logistics, the politics, the society and all the other components that have to come together.
However, they agreed that it is highly necessary and advisable to get vaccinated when the time comes and the turn comes, because there is, so far, no other way to fight the virus that continues daily causing more deaths.
There is a whole series of videos, texts and messages on the internet that generate bad information against vaccines, many of them even with a paranoid and conspiratorial character, which only cause uncertainty in people and thus to advance ignorance and continue to die people.
"There's a lot of nonsense on the Internet that causes concern," Watcher said, which is why, he said, he and his colleagues have taken on the task of making videos, texts and messages that can answer any questions people might have about the COVID-19 vaccine and take the fear out of getting immunized against the virus.
"The fact that they're choosing not to get vaccinated is absolutely horrifying, because we know that vaccines are incredibly effective and we now know that they're very, very, very safe," she said.
For his part, Dr. Shaffner specified and made it clear that those women who seek to become pregnant, are pregnant or breastfeeding, can, without fear, get the vaccine, because it does not transmit or harm the fetus or the baby who consumes the milk.
"The vaccine is safe, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly supports it and we can be confident that it's a good and appropriate thing to do. Those women need to be reassured because, as I said before, there are all kinds of things on social media that might discourage them from doing that -- getting the vaccine -- anytime soon," she said.
In that sense, he added that RNA vaccines do not approach or alter "in any way the human DNA in our cells, nor the mothers, nor the babies. So this is a safe process for all of them," he added.
He said the COVID-19 vaccine was essentially designed to ensure that someone could get a second dose three weeks after the first immunization in the case of Pfizer-BioNTech and four weeks in the case of Moderna.
However, it is necessary that the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine are applied because they protect the immunized person by about 45 or 50 percent, while for the second dose, the effectiveness reaches up to 95 percent.
The specialist said that, despite having the first dose of the vaccine, it is necessary to continue with the care that so far have made a difference in the transmission of the virus: wash hands constantly, wear a mask, keep a distance of at least two meters with other people who are not from home and do not go to crowded places.
Dr. Sheffner explained that, according to one study, a substantial proportion of vaccinated people are no longer able to transmit, "but this is preliminary data and we know there is some potential for transmission. So, until the full data are in, if you are unvaccinated for the first or second dose, please continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
And is that, misinformation about COVID-19 disease, treatment and vaccines has been given from the highest spheres, such is the case of President Donald Trump, as his administration has not handled the issue well, which has helped the virus spread.
"I think that when there is a lack of national orientation, there is too much room for manoeuvre," said Robert Wachter.
She added that there is a well-intentioned effort to try to be very careful about which groups get vaccines first and when, as well as paying attention to equity and making sure that priority is given to groups that appear to have a higher number of pandemic victims, particularly communities of color.
In turn, he explained that, while the most vulnerable groups are required to be vaccinated, the fact that Walgreens or CVS assists in the implementation of the vaccine doses, there is no certainty that the people who are immunized actually belong to those groups.
Faced with this, he said, "the answer is always 'we'll figure it out' and I think the lesson of the last 10 months in terms of COVID-19 is that 'we'll figure it out' is not a good answer," he added, "I think we didn't prepare very well the resources that were made available to support this effort.
In that sense, he said that vaccination has not been treated as the emergency that it is, because people who should have received the immunization and did not, are those who could get sick, of which some will be in treatment and others will die.
"Because of the value of people dying every day, we should have attacked this as an absolute emergency, we did with vaccine development, but we've approached vaccine delivery as a relatively routine process that will stumble until we find the right answer, and that clearly doesn't work very well," said the chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
The situation could be very different when Joe Biden comes to power on Wednesday, January 20, and with it comes the change of administration, he said, because from then on communication with the people will be much clearer and more forceful.
"Leadership is going to be very important, and the new administration has already appointed many of the key leaders to these roles, and there are a couple more coming and they're great. They're smart, they're good communicators, they're able to communicate science," Dr. Wachter said.
Robert Wachter noted that the national average of vaccines distributed in the country is about 30 or 32 percent, "that's nothing to be proud of, so the fact that we're falling behind - California - the national average is appalling,
He said the state Department of Health is trying to figure out what the problem is with the poor distribution and slow delivery of the vaccine, a complex problem attributed to the fact that Southern California is experiencing a massive increase in SARS-CoV-2 positive cases.
"Right now and in many cases the same entities that you're counting on to run large, complicated vaccination programs are also taking care of hundreds and hundreds of really sick patients. We have to do both at the same time. You can't say well, we're too busy. We don't have the people to do the vaccination."
In this regard, he said the state must be more creative and put the necessary resources so that more and more people are immunized, whether it is hiring doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists to do so.
"This is the most important problem in the world today and the faster we get people vaccinated, the more lives will be saved," he said.
One idea that experts thought might work for distributing the vaccines is to use a lottery or randomization system to make the vaccination service more equitable, once those who are prioritized and most affected by the pandemic have been immunized.
In the case of California, they said, if vaccination continues at the current rate, it will take a little more than a year for everyone to be immunized, which is "unacceptable.