Running for Daylight in COVID Battle

Amidst all the bad news on the spread of the covid virus, there is some daylight to run to.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times just reported that the vaccines now on the market or coming to market are even better than expected. He points out that if metrics would assess prevention of serious illness – versus any illness – the percentage of people protected would be even higher than the 95% attributed to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The shots work heroically in preventing major illness. Early returns suggest they also work against variants of the virus.

At the same time, there is unending criticism about the vaccine rollout across all 50 states. Government officials are being hammered for their inept management of vaccinations.

Many people over 65 are extremely frustrated as they struggle to get an appointment for a shot. Phone calls go unanswered and email queries are useless.

Yet, right here in Washington County is a sterling example of very effective rollout of vaccinations. Froedtert Health was notified last week that it was getting 15,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The next day the system began contacting their patients  over 65 by phone or email.

Kudos to Froedtert managers for getting a jump on the vaccination schedule. Before they knew when or how many doses they were getting, they plowed through their files to identify eligible patients and were ready notify them as soon as the doses hit their door.

One day after they learned they were receiving the vaccine, they were putting needles in arms every five minutes. Within five days they had scheduled all 15,000 doses.

My wife and I (both in our 80s) were the beneficiaries of their intense efforts to reach out to their customers and get them vaccinated in short order. We were both vaccinated within a week of Froedtert receiving the doses. Her appointment went smoothly. I did not receive my notice and had to go directly to our local hospital to get a slot.

There are examples to the contrary, but overall the big health care systems in Wisconsin are stepping up to the plate with fast vaccination rates.

Across the country, more than a million people a day are being vaccinated. That’s enough to meet the goal set by President Biden for 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.

The biggest constraint right now appears to be getting enough vaccine doses into the hands of the hospitals and approved sites. Froedtert could perform a lot more shots if they had the vaccine.

At the state level, job one for the state bureaucrats is to get all their vaccine in their inventory out the door and into the hands of the providers. Forget holding reserves.

Job 2 for Wisconsin is to lobby for a bigger share of available vaccines at the federal level.

Job 3 would include emergency approval at the federal level of several vaccines that are just coming to market. The additional vaccines are reportedly good enough in trials to justify their emergency release to the market. The process of approving the new drugs cannot be rushed, but it can be expedited.

Part of the successful rollout of the two drugs on the market was a heightened level of collaboration between the scientists and drug companies across the world. Breakthroughs in the labs became public knowledge and shared quickly on the internet instead of going through an elaborate process of peer review.

That collaboration needs to be sanctioned at all levels of government across the world, and the drug companies need to be rewarded for that collaboration.

This column from a non-scientist is not meant to be Pollyannaish, but it is an attempt to spread enormously good news in the face of negative non-scientific opinions.

My wife and I have just been vaccinated and felt that we had been given a get-out-of-jail card. It was a great relief and we look forward to our second shot in a month.

We can’t wait to see and hug our kids, our grandkids and friends again.

That experience must be given to all Americans ASAP. This is a war we are fighting.

Even one shot by any of the vaccines helps us all by speeding immunity.

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