News: COVID - 19 Cautiously Optimistic

The news this week has highlighted the imminent approval of the first vaccines against the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV 2.  The news is exciting, and we are cautiously optimistic that a safe and effective vaccine is going to be available soon.  We will review the available information about these initial vaccines as a foundation as the data is released over the coming weeks and months.
 First, please be reminded that the state of Illinois is currently under “Tier 3 mitigation”.  We should all be limiting nonessential activities, travel, and gatherings.  This is the most restrictive mitigation strategy prior to a formal stay at home order.  The number of cases in our state has exploded and the hospitals are getting crowded. We need to take this seriously and remain as physically isolated as possible.  Remember the 3-Ws: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, Watch your distance.
 This shines an uncomfortable light on Thanksgiving, arguably the American holiday that gets the most people together.  We should not be having the traditional holiday meal with loved ones outside of our immediate household.  Many of us are considering different strategies to make it work, but the reality is that it is risky and will undoubtedly lead to more infections and more serious illness.
 The bright spot in all of this is that the vaccines are coming soon and look very promising in preventing COVID 19.  The following is what we currently know:

  1. 2 companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have completed their phase 3 (final) trials.
  2. Pfizer has applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and Moderna is about to apply. The first vaccines may be given by mid to late December 2020.
  3. Both vaccines employ a similar technology called “mRNA”, which uses a genetic mechanism to stimulate the immune system to develop antibodies against the COVID virus.
  4. This vaccine requires 2 injections separated by 3 weeks.
  5. Antibodies are like a tag that attaches to the virus calling on the immune cells to “seek and destroy” the virus.
  6. As a result of prior infection or a vaccine, the presence of antibodies in your blood stream can knock out the virus before you get sick.
  7. This is a new technology.  There are currently no vaccines that use this mechanism to stimulate antibody production.
  8. Independent experts in vaccine development seem optimistic that these new vaccines will be safe and effective.  However, this data has not been formally released for the larger medical community to review.
  9. Distribution of these vaccines will be complex.  They both require a frozen environment (Pfizer colder than Moderna) making transport and storage challenging given the number of people who need to be vaccinated.
  10. The state and federal government will have a prominent role in the distribution process.  It is likely that we will not have access to these vaccines at the office.  We will provide thorough notifications of the process to obtain a vaccination as soon as it is available.
  11. The vaccination process will likely be a tiered approach with the highest risk people having access to the vaccine first.

There is a lot to learn over the upcoming weeks and we will be reviewing the data as it is made public. In turn, we will work hard to simplify and present the information to you as it becomes available.  There are several other vaccines under development that will also make an impact in the coming months.
As we have said many times, don’t panic.  It is a very scary and lonely time, yet we need to be creative in finding ways to connect with each other and in getting through the dark months of winter.  We will continue to do our best to enhance communication and make ourselves available for your questions.