Sabbasani: Can we get COVID-19 vaccine yet?

Jothsna Sabbasani, Staff Columnist

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a prominent topic of discussion for over a year now. Though the dangers of this virus remain unpredictable, many have suggested that the problematic course of the pandemic will be halted by the distribution of vaccinations. This statement may be true, however, the difficulty of distributing the vaccinations could slow down the process of gaining immunity and reviving our communities. 

Currently, there are two authorized and recommended vaccines, made by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Therapeutics. Both are distributed as two doses to be received a few weeks apart to help the body develop immunity. Naturally, the immune system contains cells of different types that fight infections. The COVID-19 vaccine elicits immune cells, specifically T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes,  to “activate,” which break down the virus through various recognition mechanisms. Overall, the human body gains the ability to detect and protect the body from future infections. 

The United States government created a phase plan to aid in quick distribution of the vaccine. During Phase 1a, high-risk health workers and long-term care facility residents

are prioritized. Phase 1b promotes distribution to first responders, to older adults and people of all ages with comorbidities—underlying conditions—that put them at higher risk. Phase 2 of the plan offers the vaccine to Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, school staff and child-care workers, as well as critical care workers and all other older adults not included in Phase 1. Finally, Phase 3 will distribute the vaccine to young adults, children and other workers not included in Phase 1 or 2.

In Ohio, Phase 1b recently began. During the week of Jan. 18, the vaccine was provided for those aged 80 and older. On Jan. 25, vaccines were administered to those ages of 75 and up. Now, vaccines are being offered to those 70 and up. 

Though this process seems straightforward, there has been a significant delay in administering vaccinations for all age groups. 

A number of states have reported a shortage of vaccines. In fact, according to The Associated Press, many have not even received the first dose. States expected more doses to be distributed; the reasons for the shortages could be attributed to many factors, including the limited number of companies in the COVID-19 vaccine market, manufacturing problems and insufficient stock. This led directly to thousands of cancelled appointments all over the country.

Currently in Ohio, there are approximately 420,000 people 80 years old or older. However there are only 100,000 first-dose vaccinations available. 

To worsen the situation, the COVID-19 virus is still ravenging Ohio. On average, there are still 5,006 cases per day. 

Analyzing these statistics, the obvious question to ask is: When will our country return to normal? 

Under the Biden administration, there is a set goal to distribute 100 million shots during his first 100 days in office. This goal receives $20 billion as a part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan with a budget of $1.9 trillion. Though the plan seems ambitious, it could alleviate the shortages that have been occurring all over the country. However, there is no certainty that it can be the sole solution. 

Currently, the two vaccines that are available can only be stored in cold conditions. The complexity of the vaccine and transportation has further slowed down distribution. Thus,

the federal, state and local governments must collaborate with the companies in the vaccine market to research and develop a more efficient system to deliver a much needed vaccine. In this current scenario, matching the supply and demand of the vaccines could also alleviate the haphazard distribution. Moreover, comprehensive public awareness campaigns greatly enable the public to not be vulnerable to misinformation and reassure them that vaccines are safe. 

At this moment, fears of not being vaccinated have been overwhelming. Some are frustrated that some of the most vulnerable populations have yet to receive vaccinations. The roadblock of distribution has created a tense environment with great uncertainty. People do not have much control over this current situation. Though the process is slow, all that can be done for now is to wait and take all possible safety precautions against this deadly virus. Thus, it is very important that regardless of vaccinations, we are all wearing masks and maintaining responsible social distancing, as well as following other precautions placed by the state.