When the FDA took key action in the fight against COVID-19, by issuing an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December, US officials were expecting to vaccinate 20 million Americans by year’s end. Curiously, only 2 million were actually inoculated.
Who among us didn’t hear about the four severe allergic reactions to the vaccine while in clinical trails, or the other 3 who were presented with Bell’s Palsy? In fact, about 16 percent of those who took the shot in clinical trials experienced a severe adverse reaction: a classification the FDA uses to refer to side effects that require medical attention.
Moderna noted in its briefing document that “we’re still trying to find out how long the vaccine’s protection lasts,” and Pfizer admits “we don’t actually know how well it prevents transmission, or anything at all really about its long-term impact.” Both companies say they’ll monitor its trial pool for two years and will keep an eye on the first guinea pigs who received the vaccine.
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Though the US government has ordered 200 million vaccines to be delivered to the 50 states by March, the roll out has been slow, misunderstood and mismanaged. The CDC advised the states to prioritize the elderly for the vaccines last week, but Governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis admits “the COVID-19 vaccine supply is still limited. We don’t have enough vaccine currently on hand for all 4 million-plus senior citizens in the state of Florida,” leaving the vast majority sleeping in lawn chairs at vaccination sites for the ‘first come first serve’ approach.
The British government took a novel approach. “Our priority will be to give the first vaccine dose to as many people we can,” Prime Minster Boris Johnson said, “rather than giving fewer people the required two doses.” Pfizer warned this weekend, “There is simply no data to show that a single dose of its vaccine will give people protection after 21 days.”
Back in America, an increasingly vocal Medical Freedom Movement is gearing up to fight any attempts to make the shots mandatory. Vaccine opponents have aligned with religious and civil liberties groups to protest stay-at-home orders, business closures, and mask mandates in recent months. They argue that the policies, designed to stop the spread of a deadly virus, violate their constitutional rights. “Were hoping to procure protection from the Covid-19 vaccine specifically,” said Stephanie Stock, president of the Ohio Advocates for Medical Freedom, which opposes any type of mandatory vaccination.
Lawsuits aimed at blocking employer vaccine mandates usually fail, as long as companies comply with state or federal laws that allow exemptions for objectors, usually on a religious basis. But there is no precedent for mandating a vaccine available under an emergency-use authorization — as Covid-19 vaccines will be, initially — rather than full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. “The vaccines are really a gift to the American people,” says former President Jimmy Carter, who at 96 received the vaccine this weekend. “They should be redeemed as such.”