Enlarge /. NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 14: Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is led by Dr. Michelle Chester was vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine in the New York borough of Queens.
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Due to the positive results of large-scale studies, many countries are using the COVID-19 vaccine, which was made in collaboration between Pfizer and BioNTech. This resulted in some of the population's first vaccinations last week. In the US, it took until Friday for the vaccine to receive emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Agency. Following this decision, shipments of the vaccine began almost immediately and there are now reports of the first vaccinations in the United States.
The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine uses technology that, while not uncommon in biology laboratories, has not yet been used in vaccination. The vaccine consists of RNA molecules with an oleochemical coating. The shell fuses with the surface of human cells and empties the RNA in them, where it controls the production of the coronavirus spike protein. As soon as a person's cells produce a spike, the immune system reacts and prepares to protect the person from infection by the virus itself.
Unfortunately, this formulation requires that the vaccine be stored at very low temperatures during shipping. In the US, both FedEx and UPS offer trucks equipped for these requirements. American and United Airlines are also working together to get the vaccine into distribution centers.
For many months, however, the primary constraint on vaccine availability will not be shipping, but production capacity. While supplies are limited, vaccines are issued according to a combination of need and risk. Currently, only health care workers who are at high risk of exposure and the elderly who have the worst results from COVID-19 should receive a dose.
It was announced on Sunday that the White House wanted to grant early access to its employees. While staff are at high risk of exposure due to the administration's inability to follow public health guidelines, many of them are already immune from previous exposure and others do not fall into an obvious high risk category. However, shortly after reports of the plan were released, President Trump announced that the plan would be put on hold.
As a result, one of the earliest reports of a person receiving the vaccine was someone who was supposed to receive it: a health care worker in Queens, New York named Sandra Lindsay. When Lindsay spoke afterward, she made it clear that she was aware that the vaccine would be scarce for months and that the politicization of the pandemic was reluctant to receive it. So she used her time in the spotlight promoting vaccination and bringing home the importance of following public health advice until it is an option for everyone.
We are in a pandemic and so we must all do our part to end the pandemic and not give up anytime soon. At the end of the tunnel there is light, but we still need to wear our mask to create social distance. I believe in science. As a nurse, my practice is science-based and that's why I trust it. What I don't trust is that when I sign COVID I don't know how it will affect me or those I come in contact with. So I encourage everyone to take the vaccine.
Given the current spread of the virus in the U.S., widespread vaccination won't come fast enough to change the dynamics of the pandemic this winter. As a result, the final death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic over the next few months will be heavily influenced by our ability to follow public health advice on mask use, social distancing and other responsible behaviors. We are fortunate that Lindsay uses her opportunity to drive this message home.