2020 has been hard for everyone, but especially for the healthcare worker. Many are reaching burnout from the constant struggles against this coronavirus.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Recently, a committee of leading US vaccine scientists recommended that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorize the first COVID-19 vaccine for Americans. What does that mean for healthcare professionals? Here are a few things to know about a COVID-19 vaccine and what it means for you.
Why We Need a Vaccine
As with most vaccines, the goal is to build some kind of immunity or protection against COVID-19. It may not keep you from contracting the virus completely, however, it may help keep you from becoming seriously ill if you do get it.
Like masks, the vaccine isn’t just for you, it also helps protect the people around you. Working in a medical setting puts you in close proximity to at risk patients even if you are taking every precaution. Using a combination of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommended guidelines and getting vaccinated will offer the best protection possible from COVID-19.
Vaccinations for Healthcare Workers
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that roughly 21 million frontline healthcare workers should be the first to receive the vaccine. How? Once the vaccines are authorized by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization, doses will be allocated to each state according to population. The goal is, within 24 hours of FDA approval, doses will be available at key locations for the shots to be administered.
According to the CDC, “the federal government will oversee a centralized system to order, distribute, and track COVID-19 vaccines.” To receive vaccines at your facility, all vaccines will be ordered through CDC. Then the vaccines will be distributed from CDC's centralized distributor or directly from the vaccine manufacturer.
Most pharmacies are preparing to distribute vaccines similarly to how the annual flu vaccine is distributed. The vaccines will be available in hospitals, larger outpatient clinics, pharmacies, long term care facilities, doctor’s offices, Indian health services, public health clinics, mobile units and other federal entity sites.
About the Vaccine Options
As of this time, a vaccine from Pfizer has been approved by the FDA for distribution, with one other vaccine from Moderna also looking promising and should potentially be approved soon. Both had great results in the clinical trials with over 94% efficacy. The US now joins the UK and Canada with approving and beginning distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Both vaccines are gene-based, and 2 dose shot vaccines. Today, the vast majority of vaccines require multiple doses. This gives the body a chance to produce more antibodies and allows it to make a more robust supply of memory cells, leading to a faster and more effective response to antigens in the future.
There are some concerns for people receiving the vaccine that have sensitivities. In the UK, there were two people that had severe allergic reactions after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. In addition, there’s no data for pregnant or breastfeeding women and the effect the vaccine may have on them. There is also limited clinical data about the vaccine in children under 18. However, this vaccine is a step in the right direction.
Since there is a limited supply of the vaccines for now, healthcare personnel and long-term care facilities will be offered the first doses. Until then, it’s important to continue taking precautions and lead by example.