On December 14, 2020, a nurse in Southern California was among the first in the state to receive the Pfizer vaccine. One month later, in Jacksonville, Florida, I received my first shot. For those of us who have been waiting, the Covid vaccine seems to have been a long time coming, but actually, it has been a miraculously speedy operation from development to rollout.
When the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which became COVID-19, surfaced in the Wuhan region of China at the end of 2019, no one could have predicted what was to come. But by March 11, 2020, it had turned into a full-blown pandemic. The numbers kept going up and up and up. As of January 17, 2021, there have been 23,653,919 cases and 394,495 deaths in this country. To many in the scientific and medical communities, it quickly became apparent that we were going to need some sort of immunization program.
Vaccine development is an arduous process, taking about ten to fifteen years on average to accomplish. The mumps vaccine in 1967, the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed, took four years. But with the worries surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic putting unprecedented pressure on our healthcare systems and economy, the US. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) started a program they named “Operation Warp Speed,” (OWS) in an attempt to expedite a COVID-19 vaccine.
By mid-summer, Moderna and Pfizer emerged as the leaders in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Johnson & Johnson has now entered this historic effort. Federal officials and the CDC recommended that states open up vaccine eligibility to anyone over the age of 65 or younger residents with added risk factors. There have been many mixed messages over the availability of vaccines, the most troubling of which is that the vaccine reserves promised by the Trump administration do not exist.
It’s impossible to know what to believe. Here in Florida where I received my vaccine, the whole process was organized and seamless. I don’t know the status of the other people getting their first vaccinations. I only know that I was there as an over sixty-five close relative of a hospital employee. I would have had eligibility for other reasons as well, but what matters is that I was vaccinated. Nonetheless, nothing has really changed. I am still wearing a mask and will be after my second shot. I am still social distancing and staying home except for doctors’ appointments. And I suspect life will go on exactly as it has been for some time to come, since the numbers are continuing to rise. “Herd immunity” seems like a distant dream.