February 24, 2021 10:00 AM
This week’s Courier Herald column:
It was a beautiful 68-degree and sunny day at my house Tuesday, and I missed it. I was there, but after almost a year of limited outside activities and a couple of weeks of bitter cold, I’m overly conditioned to accepting HVAC controlled 72 degrees and inside as my status quo.
I apparently no longer bother to check the weather. Despite the home office desk facing a wall of windows overlooking my backyard, it was a glance at social media late in the afternoon that let me know what kind of day – and possible opportunities – I had missed by acquiescing to my indoor status quo.
One of my last trips outside was a half day spent with my mother. I was honored and grateful to pick her up and go with her to get her second vaccine shot.
There is great relief in my family as our constant concern over the last year has been protecting the bubble around Mom. She’s beaten cancer and congestive heart failure in the last four years. Her second shot will hopefully soon relax the confines of her virtual bubble and allow for more than the extremely limited participation in otherwise normal activities that she’s observed for the last year.
Some like Mom can start to look forward again because of the vaccine. Others like myself have at least a temporary reprieve as someone carrying antibodies from a recent infection.
Too many are not like us. On our way home from getting Mom’s shot we stopped to pick up lunch for a family friend who lost her son the weekend before due to Covid. This weekend we virtually attended the funeral for another distant relative but close friend from the same community where I grew up.
To say the last year has been rough is the understatement of understatements. Most of us have a hard time appreciating that we’re still the lucky ones.
After a year of seemingly never ending bad news and dealing with real and regular notices of sickness and death, it’s been easy to accept a cold winter of immobility and virtual connections as our status quo. On the calendar, spring is just three weeks away. In Covid terms, it’s likely only slightly longer.
This week, Johnson and Johnson is expected to start shipping a third vaccine option for Americans. Unlike the two currently available, this one requires only one dose and doesn’t have the ultra-cold storage requirements. It should thus be easier to transport and won’t require administration to exactly six people at a time to avoid waste once a vial is opened and exposed to room temperature.
It’s not just that the logistics of the new vaccine are going to help distribution. Math is on our side.
The population of America is estimated at approximately 330 million people. The vaccines are not approved at this time for use with children. That gives us a target population to vaccinate of approximately 210 million people who are over 18.
According to the CDC, 45 million Americans – roughly one out of five U.S. adults – have already received at least one dose of the current vaccines that are available. Pfizer has been ramping up shipments and will reach 13 million available doses per week by mid-March, and projects it will deliver 120 million total doses by the end of March. Moderna projects 100 million doses delivered within the same timeframe, and will increase shipments to 40 million doses per month in April.
Quick math there suggests that one month from now, the first two vaccines will have been shipped in quantities that would fully vaccinate half the U.S. adult population. By the end of April, that number would rise to 75%. Add in Johnson and Johnson’s 100 million single doses due by the end of June, and it’s clear that we’re soon going to switch from rationing vaccines to begging adults to take it.
We’re still in the deep grips of our Covid winter. Vaccine shipment and the positive early results from those who have received it tell us that a spring thaw is coming.
Let’s remain prudent in the interim. Equally important, however, is that we change our expectations in order to take advantage when the forecast allows us to get back outside.