Push on to Vaccinate Majority of Americans by End of Summer

Whether to make getting the COVID vaccine mandatory for health care workers is something that needs to be worked out against a backdrop that sees the recent surge subsiding and states starting to reopen.

The vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are truly miracles of modern medicine. They were created in just 9 months, where often the time it takes to make and distribute a vaccine is measured in years. So—as Infection Control Today® pointed out recently—hats off to the pharmaceutical companies who pulled off a nearly impossible feat. Now, it’s the federal government’s turn to pull off a nearly impossible feat and President Biden plans to do just that.

It’s been a little more than a month since the first person in the United States was given a COVID-19 vaccine. Since then, about 22 million people have received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s not much in a country of over 300 million.

The Biden administration wants to buy 200 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and hopes to have 300 million Americans vaccinated by the end of the summer. The administration also plans to increase the number of vaccines being shipped to states weekly from 8.5 million to 10 million.

President Biden also wants to press companies into manufacturing the vaccines faster and is asking Congress for $20 billion to set up mass vaccination centers that, President Biden hopes, will be able to serve more people more efficiently.

An opinion piece in STAT today talks about one of the possible byproducts of vaccination—a humane byproduct. The author is Ben Moor, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist. There are a lot of horrible things about the COVID-19 pandemic. But possibly one of the more heart-breaking aspects is that people have to die alone. Loved ones and friends cannot gather around somebody’s deathbed because of the contagious nature of COVID-19. Moor says that the vaccines offer an opportunity for volunteers to be with those patients in these agonizing moments that often turn out to be their last moments. Moor says that such a movement needs to happen organically, and should probably start with those who have been first in line to be vaccinated—frontline workers at hospitals. It needs to come from doctors, nurses, infection preventionists, technicians, environmental service workers—anyone at a hospital whose been vaccinated—to dedicate a few minutes at the beginning or end of their shifts to be with a COVID patient. To serve as a link between that dying patient and their loved ones.

One hurdle to this project remains the fact that most hospitals have not made taking the vaccine mandatory, even though some federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are inching toward doing so because COVID-19 can be considered an imminent threat in the workplace. Nonetheless, some health care professionals feel that there’s still too much we don’t know about the vaccine.

This is one of the many aspects of living with COVID that need to be worked out against a backdrop that sees the recent surge subsiding and states starting to reopen. Yesterday, there were 146,640 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. While the curve seems to be flattening nationwide, case counts continue to rise in a handful of states. They are California (21,823), Texas (21,197), New York (11,040), Florida (9594), and Virginia 8392. And, death counts are rising as well. Yesterday, 4087 people died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins. Only 3 other days in the pandemic have seen more than 4000 deaths.

Overall, in the US, there have been over 25.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. About 425,000 have died from the disease. In the world, there have been over 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. And, in the world, over 2.1 million people have died from COVID-19.