By: Lauren Wolters
Young Americans are at a standstill for getting vaccines— they can’t stand in line to get one just yet
The question of when young and healthy Americans will be able to get vaccinated for COVID-19 remains unanswered.
With the recent shift of power from former President Donald Trump to current President Joe Biden, the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines looks to shift as well. Previously, Operation Warp Speed (OWS) implemented by the Trump Administration had a plan for distributing vaccines, but no specifics. The Biden Administration has since retired the name according to a tweet from White House Press secretary Jen Psaki on Jan. 15. The Biden Administration has released their own plan for increasing the distribution of vaccines, which relies on pharmacies across the nation to be vaccine centers.
According to the Ohio Department of Health’s phased vaccine approach, Ohio is vaccinating citizens 70 years and older and “employees of K-12 schools that wish to remain or return to in-person or hybrid models” currently. The next subphase of current phase 1B will be rolled out Feb. 8 and includes Ohioans 65 years of age and older. There is no information yet about when vaccines will be available to younger and healthy Ohioans.
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Findlay, Jason Guy, shared his take on the current plan of distribution over email.
“The rollout seems to be targeting those patients at the highest risk if they get COVID-19 or those individuals who have some of the highest level of exposure to the disease,” Guy said.
Bloomberg reports that 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccines are given in the United States a day. More than 119 million doses have been administered across the globe, Bloomberg also reports. With only 4.5 million doses of the vaccine given around the world per day, Bloomberg estimates that it will take seven years for 75% of the world’s population to be vaccinated.
Guy provided some reasoning for why the vaccine distribution may seem to be progressing slowly and why many news platforms are describing issues with it.
“Pharmaceutical companies still need to be able to show data that the vaccine is safe and effective before the FDA will approve it for use,” Guy stated. “The rollout and distribution of the vaccine has been slow because of the demand for the vaccine. There isn’t a large enough supply currently.”
Guy explained that vaccines must pass several testing phases, and then they must be sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval.
“The FDA primarily wants to see data and information to determine if a vaccine or medication is safe and if it is effective,” he said.
Dr. Shantanu Rao, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, stated over email how the testing process had to be quickened for the COVID-19 vaccine. She said that the urgency of the disease required pharmaceutical companies to overlap some of their testing phases to save time.
“For instance, instead of starting the recruitment for Phase II clinical trial AFTER the end of Phase I clinical trial, companies had some overlap amongst the different phases of clinical trials,” Rao said. “This strategy, along with the strong financial commitment from the government and other factors, helped shorten the time for vaccine development without compromising the established safety norms for new drug discovery.”
Guy added that the initial stages of testing involve small groups of healthy individuals, while in the later phases pharmaceutical companies will use a larger number of patients.
As of now, there are two types of COVID-19 vaccines cleared for the public: “Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine” and “mRNA-1273” coming from the companies Pfizer and Moderna respectively. Both vaccines are given in two doses, waiting about a month between the two. Johnson and Johnson is also currently working to get their latest COVID-19 vaccine approved for the public. A news release from the Johnson and Johnson webpage states that their vaccine candidate is “72% Effective in the US and 66% Effective Overall at Preventing Moderate to Severe COVID-19, 28 Days after Vaccination.” If cleared by the FDA, it could speed up the COVID-19 vaccination process tremendously.
Ohio has seen 1,085,391 vaccines administered with only 200,000 receiving their second dose. The state of California has seen the most vaccines administered at 3,671,316 doses given, according to the CDC.
The U.S. will continue to vaccinate those at risk until more vaccines are readily available for young and healthy Americans.