September 17, 2020
Dr. Jerome Adams
Former Surgeon General, United States
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
When the coronavirus first began to spread in early 2020, nations around the world implemented lockdown measures and restrictions to contain the virus. As COVID-19 reached pandemic proportions, the scientific and medical communities realized that immunization would be an important step toward returning to normalcy. However, the vaccine development and approval processes are lengthy ones, typically taking years rather than months.
To expedite the process, government programs such as Operation Warp Speed allocated companies significant funds for vaccine research and development. Fortunately, these efforts were not in vain: in December of 2020, the Pfizer vaccine was the first to be approved for emergency use, followed shortly thereafter by the Moderna vaccine. Most recently, the Janssen vaccine (through Johnson & Johnson) was approved in February of 2021.
With three vaccines currently authorized by the FDA and several more candidates in development, America’s next challenge is implementing a thoughtful and impactful vaccination strategy. In conversation with the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams shared his insights on the COVID-19 immunization process — and when America can expect to see an impact.
Strategic Vaccination Can Help Break Transmission
With an estimated 330 million Americans, many are wondering how long it will take to get everyone vaccinated. However, several factors can impact this timeline, making it nearly impossible to make a definitive prediction: “Anyone who would speculate is just speculating,” said Adams.
“If it’s a one-dose vaccine, then it’s going to be a whole lot easier to get people vaccinated than if it’s a two-dose vaccine,” he continued. “That’s just one variable that comes into play.”
Other determining factors include the availability of healthcare facilities and providers to store and administer the vaccine, how quickly and how many other vaccines reach emergency authorization status, and personal choices of vaccine candidates.
However, according to Dr. Adams, our nation may still be able to round the corner on COVID-19 before getting every individual immunized.
“Our strategy is going to be to vaccinate the vulnerable and frontline workers first because we feel that’s going to have the biggest impact,” he said. “It’s not so much about getting everyone vaccinated as it is getting the most vulnerable vaccinated, and the people who are most likely to encounter disease or spread disease vaccinated, so that we can break transmission."
At the time of the interview, Dr. Adams predicted that Americans could begin receiving the coronavirus vaccine by the end of 2020 or early 2021, which we have already seen happen across the nation.
“And if we use that strategy of protecting the vulnerable and frontline workers first, then we will see an impact from this in short order.”
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