dr. kathryn bass

COVID Update

Dec 18, 2020

COVID Update: Strength & Stamina Needed for Holiday Homestretch

As we prepare for the holidays this year and are bombarded with minute-by-minute news updates on the COVID vaccine, it’s important to temper your expectations, knowing that most of us will not have access to it for several more months.

Estimates differ even among the nation’s foremost experts as to when we can expect most Americans to be able to receive their inoculations. Some, like our federal government “COVID Vaccine Czar” Moncef Slaoui, predict a significant threshold could be reached by the end of February, while others, like National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, warn it could lag into the summer.

Regardless of who’s right, it’s critical for us all to understand — and accept — that the vast majority of Americans, including those of us in Western New York, won’t have it in time to safely gather for our traditional winter holidays.

It’s deeply frustrating for us all, but as we’ve just seen following Thanksgiving, at-home gatherings have caused the virus to spread the fastest, causing unmanageable spikes in hospitalizations, which stood at more than 110,000 as of Dec. 14, along with countless — and needless — deaths.

Furthermore, data in a recent New York State’s Governor’s Office report continues to show that these small, in-home get-togethers continue to serve as the biggest viral spreaders, making holidays gatherings potentially deadly, especially for our loved ones who are seniors or have underlying health conditions.

Having said this, it is wonderful news to see such hope glimmering on the horizon! The studies for the first two vaccines produced excellent results in terms of effectiveness and safety. Pfizer’s study of 43,500+ patients generated a 95% effectiveness rate with no adverse side effects, including a 94% rate for people over 65. Moderna’s vaccine study produced similar results, and both were far more beneficial than epidemiologists’ original predictions, making them among the safest and most effective vaccines developed in recent memory. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson each have vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials as well, so there is reason to be optimistic…but also to be realistic.