Vaccination Rollout Better Than Many Expected, But Slowing

Sometime very soon—if it hasn’t happened already—the United States will reach a point at which the supply of vaccines for COVID-19 will outrun demand. Hundreds of millions of vaccine doses have been given. Restrictions on outdoor activities are gradually being relaxed. Discrepancies in vaccine availability among the different states are declining, although states are differing in the timing and scale of how they are easing restrictions on outdoor activities.

Some of the expected reduction in demand for the vaccines, however, is due to what is being called vaccine hesitancy, based on misperceptions about risk, fueled in some cases by misinformation. Some studies indicate that hesitancy is strongest among younger people who grew up with social media, where rumors and misinformation can be amplified. 

According to Dr. Scott Cherry, chief medical officer of Axiom Medical Consulting, who has advised many industries, including the towing industry, on health and safety policies, America’s rollout of three effective vaccines due to Operation Warp Speed is one of the fastest and most impressive achievements in the history of vaccines. This is due to many factors, he said:

• The messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used as a delivery platform was already well-known, tested and understood. It wasn’t itself new. “mRNA vaccines are less risky than old-style vaccines,” said Cherry.

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• Unlike some past vaccines, none of the current COVID-19 vaccines contain a “copy” of the virus, not even an “inactivated” copy and can’t give you the virus.

• mRNA does not go into your cell nucleus, much less your DNA, as some misinformation alleges. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.

• All steps and safety checks used in any test were rigorously followed in developing all three vaccines.

• The vaccines will not make you test positive for COVID-19.

What Warp Speed did to speed up production, Cherry said, was to to enable the companies working on COVID-19 vaccines to skip to the “head of the line” to use testing labs and other facilities, ahead of the hundreds of other drugs that are under development in any given year. Some factories were refitted at great expense, while trials were still underway. Part of the Warp Speed money went to compensate drug companies and labs for the losses they would have otherwise experienced in making such shifts.

While the three vaccines are slightly different, they are all much more effective than the flu vaccine that tens of millions of Americans willingly get every year. No vaccine is completely free of risk, Cherry said, but all the evidence gathered so far shows that the risks of not taking the vaccine remain far greater than the risk of taking it: especially for those with risk factors that make them more vulnerable to the virus or to unwelcome lingering complications known as “long COVID.”

After more than a year of lockdowns and restrictions, many people are understandably anxious to get out and active again, to drive, dine out and go on vacations. Pent-up demand is driving an unprecedented influx of consumer goods. IHS Markit is predicting an economic growth rate of 6.2 percent. Retailers and economists are predicting a record-setting boom in economic activity at a speed and scale perhaps not seen since the post-World War II boom.

“However, the COVID-19 story is far from over,” Cherry said.