A chaotic week when all we wanted was order. Miscommunications about the status of the vaccine stock and how roll out was occurring. Unconscionable failure at all levels of government. That said, it seems our current wave is ebbing, and we're finally making good progress on vaccinations.
A quick update on the non mRNA vaccines.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to announce the results of their Phase III trial in two weeks. This one is closely watched, not only because another vaccine would speed inoculation, but because it is a single dose, fridge stable. If this one is effective, this is by far the best option for most of the world. J&J also stated they had a manufacturing issue, so they are 4-8 weeks behind where they wanted to be in production.
Sinovac is a Chinese vaccine I haven't talked about a bunch; it's using fairly old technology. Results from a large Brazil trial came in, and it seems to be about 50% effective, which is better than nothing but not by much. There are concerns with the new UK variant that at 50%, even if you could get the entire population vaccinated, they won't hit herd immunity. Like with the AZ vaccine, the announcements have been vague and haven't given much confidence in the results as stated.
This week there was a huge issue on releasing doses that the US gov had held back in a strategic reserve. This reserve was there to ensure we always had the second dose for the first doses that went out. Some reports said we didn't actually have any held back, but then Pfizer said we did. It's confusing, and even top health reporters were left in the end, unsure of the truth. The incoming administration has promised greater transparency, a welcome change.
The FDA announced this week that everyone over 65 could qualify for a vaccine, if and only if there were extra doses. This was a sensical change to prevent vaccine waste and acknowledged some states were moving faster than others.
However, California is not one of those states. We currently are ranked 46th in the percentage of vaccines we have that have been administered. Several million doses are sitting in freezers with seemingly no urgency to get them into people's arms. Under more and more pressure due to his singular failure to prep for this, Governor Newsom needed a cheap win. Without consulting anyone in the medical establishment, he announced that CA would start doing 65+.
Within hours every doctor's office and pharmacy were flooded with people trying to schedule appointments, overwhelming an already struggling system. What's worse is that several counties had to make huge public announcements saying they hadn't finished group 1A and didn't have enough vaccines to start doing 65+. Newsom had also announced that California would do 1 million doses in 10 days. We did 700,000. It's embarrassing he can't even meet his own shortest term goals.
Newsom seemingly doesn't have time to plan for vaccine rollout, he doesn't have time to investigate where all the extra vaccines are, but he always has time for a photo op. The worst type of leader, he won't do the work but shows up with his used car salesman smile for the ribbon cutting every time. This week that was the conversion of Dodger stadium from a test site into a vaccine site.
Despite their enormous failures, Newsom and his ilk have the audacity to call the effort to recall him a "coup." The California state constitution includes a provision to recall a sitting governor when they have failed us. It's as democratic as it comes; if they gather enough signatures, it will be put to a popular vote. The last time the state used it was when Gray Davis oversaw a summer of rolling blackouts.
Newsom has been at the helm and failed in every way he could, for two state-changing disasters. As Governor, he has complete authority over the vaccine rollout, and he just didn't bother to make a plan. Every four minutes, someone in California dies of Covid. Newsom is singularly focused on how this will affect his future presidential run, not on solving the problems at hand. The question isn't "Why are people trying to recall Newsom?" it should be, "Why don't they already have enough signatures to make the ballot?"
California's rollout has been so chaotic that the best resource to find out where there are vaccines, https://www.vaccinateca.com/, is a volunteer effort run by an American who lives in Japan and organized on Twitter. It is staffed by about a dozen volunteers literally just calling hospitals/pharmacies every day. Let that sink in; if you're over 65+ and trying to find out where to get your shots, that is your best resource. We're going to get this done, but not with the top-down coordination we need, but by nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and everyday people figuring out what to do.
The good news is that our daily vaccine rate is going up in CA and nationwide. On Thursday and Friday, as a country, we did over a million doses a day; that's a huge milestone! President-Elect Biden has stated he wants to have 100 million doses put out in his first 100 days. It seems we [fingers crossed] might be on track to beat that.
This week the CDC projected that the new UK strain, B.1.1.7, is on track to be the dominant strain sometime in March due to how much more infectious it is. Over the last few weeks, watching the UK and Ireland has been horrifying; the faster infection rate plus the holidays sent their infection chart vertical.
The good news for us is that we can still get ahead of it. Although it is more contagious, we believe that the current vaccines are equally as effective against it. We need all hands on deck to get people vaccinated. If we proceed at the 1 million+ doses a day rate we are today till March, we will probably contain it. A dark race to the finish, but one I think we can win.
It's been a frustrating week. I'm mad at the incompetence at various levels and the death and hardship it's caused. We need to hold our elected officials accountable for their failures.
However, the vaccines work, and we'll start to see their impact in weeks. It seems the systems are finally starting to perfect getting doses out. In the next week, we'll average over a million doses a day. Shot by shot, we're going to beat Covid.
Stay safe out there.
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