• Dr. Soumi Eachempati

Vaccines are here! (For some)

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

As you probably heard, vaccines are coming to hospital or pharmacy near you. The order of which individuals will be vaccinated first will vary by state. Generally, health care workers and elderly will be the at the front of the line. Next, “essential workers” (which is still being defined) and individuals with health care issues. Finally, the general public and children.

Along the way, we will see rollout speed bumps. Some individuals do not want or believe in vaccinations. More reports of side effects will occur as millions become vaccinated. Already, two cases of anaphylactic reactions and one of an anaphylactoid reaction have been seen in the UK. Consequently, individuals with a history of allergies will be discouraged from receiving the vaccine. Other subgroups such pregnant women and children will not be vaccinated due to a paucity of safety data. Difficulties in transporting Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to rural or remote areas may limit vaccines in these areas due to cold storage requirements. Public health officials still are uncertain whether vaccinated individuals can transmit the disease to others.

In short, sadly, the pandemic is not over yet. Instead, organizations will need to be prepared for a very unusual set of circumstances. In the near term, Covid-19 rates may keep increasing from current record numbers for the next one to two months. During this time, vigilante surveillance testing will be needed by businesses and schools to minimize outbreaks. Some industries may even be challenged to stay viable in areas with higher disease rates.

The first quarter of 2021 will see a flurry of activity as the new White House Administration aims to have 100 million vaccinations performed to Americans in the first 100 days following January 20, 2021. At this time, organizations will need to monitor for residual Covid-19 infections while they are concurrently trying to keep track of their vaccinated individuals.

To make matters more complicated, these organizations will also have to monitor whether individuals have received both requisite vaccinations and not just one. Those still needing the second shot may need a different surveillance strategy than those who have already completed both. Careful documentation will be necessary to avoid misclassification of individuals and create potentially disastrous comingling of ill and vulnerable populations.

A time will come when successful herd immunity has been achieved by mass vaccinations. Until then, there will still be a role for surveillance testing, symptom monitoring, and contact tracing. The final phases of the pandemic may be in the near horizon but it is definitely not here yet.