Good-bye 2020 and good riddance. COVID-19 sucked the life out of 2020 with over 300,000 Americans perishing from the novel coronavirus. With at least two approved and very effective COVID-19 vaccines, 2021 could be a much better year, but it is up to us to make it so.
In December Sonoma County received doses of a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer. They distributed the doses to local hospitals to start vaccinating their critical health care providers.
The overarching goal of the vaccination campaign is to prevent the spread and reduce the severity of infections from the virus that creates COVID-19 and end the pandemic. Stopping the pandemic will require using all of the tools we have. A vaccine is one tool, but it is not a silver bullet. With relatively few people getting the vaccine for several months, vaccines will initially have minimal impact on limiting the spread of COVID-19 early in 2021. Using our other tools remains critical: continue wearing a face covering, keep six feet from those not in our households, stay home when sick and quarantine and isolate when exposed or infected.
Based on what we know about studies on COVID-19 vaccines, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on severity of illness from COVID-19, as well as its ability to keep people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine before it is approved for use.
Getting COVID-19 may offer some natural protection, known as immunity. But experts don’t know how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity. COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience sickness. Both natural immunity and immunity produced by a vaccine are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
Hospitals, health care systems, and community clinics will administer vaccines in compliance with federal, state and county requirements. Sonoma County will be following prioritization guidelines established by federal authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health. Prioritization decisions are not made at the local level.
The following is the distribution plan laid out by the California Department of Public Health. First, people working in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and similar settings. Residents of these facilities and paramedics/emergency medical technicians and kidney dialysis center workers are also included in this first phase.
The second round will offer vaccines to intermediate care facilities for persons who need non-continuous nursing supervision and supportive care, home health care and in-home supportive services, community health workers, public health field staff, primary care clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Centers, correctional facility clinics, urgent care clinics, specialty clinics, health laboratory workers, dental and other oral health clinic workers.
The next in line are essential workers such as teachers, childcare providers, police, firefighters, child and youth service providers, food and agriculture workers, grocers, bakers and butchers, plant nurseries, florists. Included in this phase are people with chronic medical conditions which number 100 million in the United States. So, it will take some months to work through this phase.
The final two groups will be the remaining people 65 years and older and the larger community in general that doesn’t fall into a category above.
I encourage you to keep protecting yourself and others and, when offered the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine, consider contributing to our shared goal of ending the pandemic once and for all. Let’s all work together to make 2021 a Happy New Year.