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Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021

Have you noticed the coverage of Florida’s vaccine distribution? The news shows long lines of cars with senior citizens waiting for hours for their turn. I worry about elderly adults spending the night in their cars with granola bars, sleeping bags, and Dixie cups. We’ve seen pictures of people in California waiting in their cars to be tested, people in Texas waiting at food banks. Why are the newscasters showing this? My guess is that endless lines of cars have immense visual impact. Why are people lining up in their cars? One reason: hope.

Sign at local Walgreen’s. Nov. 2020.

Florida has released vaccines for local jurisdictions to administer to people over 65 and seniors look up where they can go and they go there and do whatever it takes. Here in California the state has just announced an accelerated vaccine rollout with hundreds of people lining up in Anaheim. I don’t know how we’ll find out, but I keep watching the state’s web site https://covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/#When-can-I-get-vaccinated. I hope I won’t have to camp out.

The whole world is grappling with rolling out the vaccines right now. It’s a massive project that involves millions of people and requires coordinating expiration dates, storage temperatures, communication, documentation, and training. And there is much at stake, with hospitals stretched to the max in a world dependent on the constant movement of goods and people. Which is another way of saying the consequences of failing on the public health front will be a worldwide depression. So, with 7 out of 73 vaccines approved for use in various countries, how is the rollout going?

Here are a few examples, in order of ascending population size:

  • Israel (pop. 9.3 million) has approved BioNTech/Pfizer. As of Jan. 6, 2021, Israel has vaccinated 15 % of its population with the Pfizer vaccine. Israel paid more to receive the Pfizer vaccine early and they have similar arrangements with Moderna and Astrazeneca. A universal health care system facilitates administering and tracing the vaccinations, which the government sees as the way to open up their economy and end lockdowns.
  • The UK (pop. 66.7 million) has approved 3 vaccines: BioNTech/Pfizer, Oxford/Astrazeneca, and Moderna. Starting with the most vulnerable, Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to vaccinate 15 million people by the middle of February. Hospital hubs, community pharmacies, and local GP practices are being set up across the country, supported by 7 mass vaccination sites and 21 rapid-deployment mobile teams. The goal is to vaccinate as many people over the age of 16 as possible.
  • Japan (pop. 126.4 million) expects to approve the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine by February. Like most countries, priority will be given to emergency and healthcare workers. People over 65 will start getting vaccinated by early April, followed by people 20-64 with underlying conditions. Japan has the additional pressure of deciding what to do about the Olympic Games currently scheduled for July 23 of this year.
  • Mexico (pop. 128.9 million) rolled out its vaccination program in December, the first country in Latin America to do so. It has approved BioNTech/Pfizer’s vaccine and has contracts with AstraZeneca and CanSino as well. With a high death toll and no financial aid from the government, Mexicans hope that the vaccinations, which are free of charge, will give them the economic and medical relief they so badly need.
  • Indonesia (pop. 273.5 million) will roll out its vaccination program on Jan. 13, 2021, with China’s Sinovac vaccine, CoronaVac. Their goal is to reach herd immunity, which Health Minister Budi defines as 67% of the population inoculated over the next 15 months. They will also use BioNTech/Pfizer and Astrazeneca.
  • The United States (population 328.2 million) has approved BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna. Vaccine doses have been allocated to the states in proportion to their population. The CDC has issued priority guidelines, but the states make their own distribution plans. At this point about 6.7 million people have been vaccinated and out of those, about 151,000 have received both required doses. Discussions are underway about whether it would help accelerate the process to release more vaccines, enabling more people to get vaccinated, but perhaps with the risk of not being able to give them the second dose on time.
  • India (pop. 1.353 billion) has approved Oxford/Astrazeneca, Serum Institute of India: Covishield, and Bharat Biotech: Covaxin. The decision to approve Covaxin before completion of Phase 3 trials is controversial in the Indian medical community, but the argument is that it was approved only as an emergency measure in case of a surge of the UK variant and the trials now underway will continue. India’s goal is to inoculate 25% of the population by August.
  • Low-income countries: WHO reports that inoculations will begin in the world’s 67 poorest countries by mid-February. The procurement and distribution of vaccines is coordinated by COVAX, supported by WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Oxford/Astrazeneca has pledged to distribute 64% of their vaccine to low-income countries. Contributions have also been pledge by the EU, the UK, Sweden, Canada, Germany, and Italy. Still, there are concerns that as many as 90% of the world’s poorest people will not be vaccinated this year.

Every country I surveyed has decided to begin with health care and emergency workers followed by the elderly and most vulnerable. In many cases political leaders also take the vaccines first to instill confidence. As far as I could tell, the vaccines are free, which makes sense because this is the best hope for economic recovery we’ve got. Some of us may escape the direct health consequences of COVID, but the economic repercussions will miss no one.

Economic news sources are beginning to optimistically refer to a “vaccine rebound.” As in travel rebound, manufacturing rebound, retail rebound, entertainment rebound. A recent article in USA Today suggested that we may have a “Roaring Twenties” epoch like the one that followed the 1918 flu epidemic. For you and me this means a resurgence of family, celebrations, parades, singing, and — hope. Vaccines are the means to an end. Let’s get there.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Here’s the worst part about waiting hours for a vaccine: Nowhere to pee,” Orlando Sentinel, Jan. 6, 2021. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/coronavirus/fl-ne-covid-vaccine-seniors-bathroom-20210107-gw2ve4yj2ngjzopdpq3twi64ny-story.html

“Here’s how to register for the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida,” ClickOrlando.com, Jan. 7, 2021. https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2020/12/28/heres-how-you-will-know-when-you-can-get-the-covid-19-vaccine-in-florida/

“Covid-19 Live Updates: More Than 150,000 Are Fully Vaccinated in the U.S.,” The New York Times, Jan. 9, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/01/09/world/covid-19-coronavirus

“Will San Francisco, New York and other big cities recover from COVID-19? What a post-vaccine city could look like,” USA Today, Dec. 19, 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/12/19/covid-19-vaccine-gives-new-york-san-francisco-chance-rebound/3872733001/

Coronavirus Vaccine information in California: https://covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/#When-can-I-get-vaccinated

Sources:

“Moderna becomes third Covid vaccine approved in the UK,” BBC News, Jan. 8, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55586410

“Scientists criticize ‘rushed’ approval of Indian COVID-19 vaccine without efficacy data,” Science, Jan. 5, 2021. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/01/scientists-criticize-rushed-approval-indian-covid-19-vaccine-without-efficacy-data?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=55293848e1-briefing-dy-20210106&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-55293848e1-45876550

“Pizza-sized boxes and paying a premium: Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout,” Reuters, Jan 5, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-israel-vaccination/pizza-sized-boxes-and-paying-a-premium-israels-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-idUKKBN29B0KJ?edition-redirect=uk

“Indonesia says mass vaccinations to begin Jan. 13, president to get first shot,” World News (Reuters), Jan. 5, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-indonesia/indonesia-says-mass-vaccinations-to-begin-jan-13-president-to-get-first-shot-idUKKBN29A0KS?edition-redirect=uk

“Japan’s COVID-19 vaccine plan prioritizes health care workers and older residents,” The Japan Times, Dec. 25, 2021. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/25/national/japan-vaccine-older-people/

“Mexico Begins Vaccinations Amid Virus Surge,” New York Times, Dec. 24, 2020; Updated Jan. 8, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/24/world/americas/mexico-coronavirus-vaccine.html

“Poorest countries can expect COVID-19 vaccines within weeks: WHO,” Channel News Asia, Jan. 8, 2021. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/who-covid-19-vaccine-poorest-countries-supply-authorisation-13917468

“Covid-19: Many poor countries will see almost no vaccine next year, aid groups warn,” The BMJ, Dec.11, 2020. https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4809

“Countries pledge nearly US$ 1 billion to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” GAVI: The Vaccine Alliance, Oct. 6, 2020. https://www.gavi.org/news/media-room/countries-pledge-nearly-us-1-billion-support-equitable-access-covid-19-vaccines

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an estraordinary world crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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