The vaccine has been promoted as a silver bullet to the COVID crisis for months, and it is absolutely a game changer in the way that COVID will be managed in the coming months. But it’s important to understand how it will change the game and to avoid a false sense of security produced by news of its production, approval and delivery. Here’s some things to think about:
- Timing: The vaccine is being produced in massive numbers, and distributed through federal, state and local means in an unprecedented effort to control the pandemic. But even best case, most people will not receive their first dose until approximately June. In the months between now and June, COVID will likely affect as many people as it has in the entire pandemic so far. Winter, Spring and early Summer are going to see a gradual roll out of the vaccine, both due to production bottlenecks and staged administering of the vaccine. The most at risk and the most likely to be exposed will receive their vaccinations first.
- False Sense of Security: The arriving vaccine is not a cure for COVID. It’s not a treatment at all, it’s a preventative measure. Until around 80% of the populace receives the vaccine, it’s best to act as if the vaccine hasn’t arrived yet, as most people will still be vulnerable to its effects. The vaccine rollout to first responders and medical professionals is no excuse to stop masking up, social distancing or managing your exposure risks.
- Transmission: There are many unknowns surrounding both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. We are very sure that they prevent severe symptoms from COVID in the overwhelming majority of those who receive them. We’re less sure about if they prevent transmission from the vaccinated to unvaccinated, or even between vaccinated patients. One of the reasons for the slow rollout period is to learn more about the epidemiology of the vaccine, and until we hit the critical threshold of around 80% vaccinated, we need to be extremely careful about relaxing our guard. As of early January, 2021, there are studies suggesting that those vaccinated do not pass on the virus to others, but it’s still very much an open question for now.