A shocking 78% of all I.C.U. beds are full across the United States as the total number of confirmed cases surpasses 18 million. In parts of California specifically, over 93% of all intensive care unit beds are full, and doctors and other health officials request for everyone to stay at home this holiday season.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to intensify in the United States, officials are urging everyone to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as soon as possible. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019…the emergency use authorization allows the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to be distributed in the U.S.”
Since then, officials have pushed for all frontline healthcare workers to get the vaccine first, as part of phase 1a. Adults aged 75 and older, along with all other essential workers, are recommended to get the vaccine next, and are prioritized in phase 1b, which should be in action sometime around the beginning of 2021. Phase 1c, which is planned to start in February, includes adults aged 65 and older and those who have underlying health conditions that make them more prone to contract the virus.
According to NPR, “So far, the federal government has provided around $340 million to states and territories to help fund COVID-19 vaccine planning efforts. State health officials say they need around $8.4 billion to expedite vaccine delivery. Additional funding for vaccine distribution is included in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package [that Congress has recently passed].”
The next phase, which is set to begin in late spring or early summer, will target teachers, child-care workers, adults not included in the previous phases, young adults, and children, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, it is important to note that as of now, both the vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are directed towards individuals of at least 16 or 18 years of age, respectively. Both companies are currently testing each of their vaccines in children aged 12 to 17.
According to Stat News, “The Pfizer vaccine showed efficacy of 95% at preventing symptomatic Covid infection, measured starting from seven days after the second dose was administered. The vaccine appeared to be more or less equally protective across age groups and racial and ethnic groups. The Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, measured starting from 14 days after the second dose. The vaccine’s efficacy appeared to be slightly lower in people 65 and older, but during a presentation to the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee the company explained that the numbers could have been influenced by the fact there were few cases in that age group in the trial. The vaccine appeared to be equally effective across different ethnic and racial groups.”
Although both vaccines are highly effective in reducing the risk of contracting severe COVID-19, some people have had severe allergic reactions, while others have experienced little to no side effects. Experts say that these reactions vary from person to person, and according to Stat News, “These side effects are a sign of an immune system kicking into gear. They do not signal that the vaccine is unsafe.” Therefore, for our sake, it is crucial to get vaccinated as soon as possible, so that we can gradually recover from the consequences of the pandemic in order for our lives to eventually return to normal.