By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
SOUTH JERSEY — Today, I am getting my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. When I scheduled my appointments earlier this week to get inoculated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine model, my first thoughts were — perhaps naturally — about myself.
I’m a bit worried about the side effects that my family members and friends have felt following their vaccinations. I’m also excited about the opportunity for my life to return to some level of normalcy because of this vaccine. I’m excited for weekend golf trips with my college buddies, trips to the beach with my family and friends, and to finally be able to get to know my coworkers as something more than little rectangles on my computer screen during Zoom calls.
As I’ve thought about my upcoming vaccination more, though, my thoughts have drifted towards others.
Vaccines exist to protect populations — not individuals. Vaccines are the reason why diseases like polio, measles, and the mumps are nothing more than afterthoughts for our society today. And vaccines are why, hopefully, the coronavirus will be nothing more than a footnote in our history about the time we lived through a global pandemic in a few years’ time.
Although more than 108 million Americans — nearly one-third of the country’s total population — had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday, there are still some people who are skeptical about the vaccine’s effectiveness. That skepticism is incredibly fair, as these vaccines may be humanity’s single most important scientific development since we tried to put a man on the moon. Plus, those who are getting vaccinated are essentially serving as guinea pigs to see whether or not the three models approved in the United States are effective.
It is still incredibly early in the COVID-19 vaccine cycle, as the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson models of the vaccine haven’t even been available for six months. However, early returns suggest that these three vaccines are our society’s best chance at returning to some level of normalcy.
Nursing home deaths are the subject of a massive, potentially legacy-defining investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo — and many are calling for a similar investigation into New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. However, a report by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living shows that, since December 20, COVID-19 cases in American nursing homes have decreased by 96%. Nursing home deaths have dropped by 91% since then, too, and both of these figures are directly attributed to the vaccine rollout beginning in mid-to-late December 2020. The elderly population was among the first to become eligible to get inoculated in the United States.
“We are not out of the woods yet, but these numbers are incredibly encouraging and a major morale booster for frontline caregivers who have been working tirelessly for more than a year to protect our residents,” Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the AHCA and NCAL, said. “This trend shows that when long term care is prioritized, as with the national vaccine rollout, we can protect our vulnerable elderly population.”
Additionally, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine model is 91% effective against the pandemic for at least six months. This conclusion suggests that follow-up vaccines may be needed (i.e. yearly flu shots), but these findings are still incredibly encouraging.
There are countless other examples of statistics and data showing how good the current vaccine models are. Right now, the biggest unknown regarding the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t how effective they are, but how long they work. Pfizer’s research suggesting that the vaccines are effective for six months is a start, but more data is needed to conclusively decide how long the vaccines work for.
If you’ve been vaccinated or are scheduled to get vaccinated, you, like me, probably have your own self-centered reasons as to why you’re getting inoculated. You may want to finally be able to safely invite your grandchildren over for dinner again. You may know someone who perished due to COVID-19 and want to prevent your family from experiencing a loss like that. You might just want to ensure that you don’t get sick.
At the end of the day, I’m happy to be one of the nearly 110 million American guinea pigs for the COVID-19 vaccine because my vaccine will help you return to normalcy.
Your vaccination will help me return to normalcy, too.
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