A COVID Vaccine: Silver Lining Amidst the Winter Blues? 

With the incoming holiday season, it is evident that the past 9 months have created a new normal among Americans. While strolling down almost any New York City street, people walk with masks adorned on their faces ranging from surgical grade KN95’s to fashionable cloth ones to match their style. On public transportation, seats are left vacant and evil side glances are given to any passenger who comes to close for comfort. Rush hour no longer holds the same meaning and as the sun sets by 5-6 pm, the streets clear out for an almost 

The city that never sleeps has once again returned to the ominous slumber that gripped it back in the beginning of the pandemic with the first surge. 

The media hysteria and general mental fatigue that these unprecedented times have brought makes it easy for positive headlines to either be overlooked or lead to high expectations. We must take this information with a grain of salt; too much pessimism is dangerous but by the same token, false optimism without looking at the facts is just as harmful. 

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer recently announced that the COVID-19 vaccine it has been testing showcased 95% effectiveness in clinical trials. This past Friday, the company submitted its vaccine data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in hopes of securing an expedited approval so the vaccine can begin being distributed for emergency use. While these numbers sound promising, there are many factors at play beneath the surface. In order to build upon the information seen in the phases of the FDA approval process, more data needs to be collected on patient outcomes weeks or even months after vaccine administration to determine how many patients become infected and either symptomatic/asymptomatic. These statistics could potentially reduce the effectiveness that Pfizer has initially reported. 

Furthermore, researchers run into the question of herd immunity. Under this premise, if enough of the population is vaccinated and can have their immune systems properly recognize and fight off the coronavirus then the select few of the population who are not immune will have a reduced likelihood of being infected. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert had this to say on the matter on CBS “Face the Nation”: 

If you have a highly efficacious vaccine, and only a relatively small 40, 50% of the people get vaccinated, you’re not going to get the herd immunity you need…What we do need is we need to get as many people as possible vaccinated.

While this mentality sounds idealistic on paper, it is difficult to implement in practice. With the recent events of the election and the current administration fighting the validity of the results, the nation is deeply divided politically. This political divide exacerbates clashing viewpoints, especially of those individuals who are skeptical about the efficacy of vaccination, COVID social distancing and mask wearing precautions, as well as the intent of big pharma companies. Along with this complication, the vaccine would most likely be administered to priority populations such as essential workers, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing conditions. This leaves an entire subset of young adults and teenagers vulnerable to contracting COVID and continually passing it on in that duration of time. 

As we near Thanksgiving and the holiday season with the upcoming new year, it is imperative that we continue to practice procedures that have been proven to slow the spread. We must continue wearing masks, social distancing, and keeping our loved ones accountable for doing the same thing in order to benefit the greater good. We must recognize the sacrifices of those who are putting their lives on the line to ensure our safety during this pandemic. Working in an urgent care center has given me unique insight and further appreciation for healthcare workers laboring tirelessly to provide testing and treatment to the ill, at times with little regard for their own health or sanity. Let us look at this vaccine data with scrutiny but simultaneously be hopeful that a way to truly alleviate this public health crisis is being worked on. Let us look at this silver lining amidst our winter blues.

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