A Race Against Time--Getting COVID, or Getting the COVID Vaccine

LEANING RIGHT-We can go on and on about how the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was predicted to be worse,  and  certainly was, as borne out by the evidence and everyday reports.

But never before have we required leadership to give the vaccine doses we have to those who need them the most. 

To his credit, Governor Newsom has stated that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being administered to too few people, and at a pace that is too doggone slow

But it's very difficult to suggest that Newsom has done the right thing about fixing that. 

Only one-third of California's 1.3 million vaccines doses have been shipped to the state as of 1/4/2021, and another 611,500 doses were on route. However, only 454,306 doses have actually been administered. 

As an outpatient physician (dermatologist), I am in Tier 3 of the first wave of those prioritized to get the vaccine, and hopefully by the next 1-2 weeks I will be eligible to get my first injection. Those of my colleagues who are hospitalists and do inpatient surgeries, as well as nursing home residents and providers/nurses need it well before I do.

But many are NOT getting it...and they are entirely pro-vaccine, and they want it NOW:

1) Let's make something clear--not Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, not ANYONE in Washington can fix this slow distribution problem. Even FEMA funds and federal support can't preclude or overcome local leadership and distribution of resources that is mandated at a state/local level.

If the National Guard is to make sure that the vaccines are aggressively promoted and distributed (with outreach!), that's the call of the governor of each state, and perhaps with the support of county/city politicians demanding it.

2) Those health care workers affiliated with a hospital are the most likely to have access to the vaccines than other batches of "essential workers". If you can get it from one entity or another, go with that entity ASAP.

But right now, it's every man/woman for themselves, because the infection rate is flying higher than ever. That's due in part because of Thanksgiving/Christmas gatherings, but in EVERY winter there is an influx of flu/pneumonia and other infectious diseases related to colder weather forcing people indoors and being in closer proximity to each other.

3) Perhaps this virus (COVID-19), like most viruses, is more virulent and aggressive based on the size of the inoculum with respect to symptoms and survival. This means that if you catch a bit of it on your person, the viral replication rate has less of a chance of overcoming your body's ability to mount an immune response in time. 

Hence, summertime infections were more easily overcome, and the infection rate rises in certain states didn't lead to higher mortality rates. But it's winter, and we're both NOT using California's gigantic outdoors/rural areas to arrange for living and food and other resources, or we lost the ability to do that when we had the chance during the summer and fall.

Instead, we're still packed into the cities and being forced to be at greater risk.

4) With respect to the economy and health care rules, the ability for some entities and industries to remain open is entirely about POWER and not about SCIENCE. Hence, Hollywood/Entertainment has had priorities that restaurants (including outdoor restaurants) don't have. 

And the more city, county, and state lockdowns are made out of "feel-good" or "virtue-signaling" politics and policies, the more dangerous the risk of people ignoring or violating those rules to get on with their lives.

I will again suggest that Governor Newsom should have resigned over the French Laundry restaurant incident, while being unmasked with California Medical Association lobbyists. 

People need to eat, people need to have income, and people need to live...particularly because it's anything but the two-week or two-month promise we were once given. Some of us have more education, knowledge, and resources to get through this long-term, but precious FEW in power are doing the right thing for those who have no income, shelter guaranteed, or hope.

5) An innovative idea has been to having hospitals who have COVID-19 vaccine doses were prematurely left outside of refrigeration/freezing, and/or were about to expire, given to non-essential workers and family members of staff and physicians.

If you can score a dose of the vaccine, do it. As horrible as it is for me to write this, it's every man and woman for himself/herself.

6) Although it makes me want to vomit to write this, there will be a worldwide demand for these vaccines. There is an extremely high likelihood that those who should get it (including grocery workers, food workers, and restauranteurs, dammit!) will not get it before the winter of 2021, and we will see a third wave.

I want to wretch just writing this, but while I disagree with the logic of having young people age 30 or less having "COVID-parties", we will see more and more young people do just that to get on with their lives. 

I've often wondered about having "COVID camps" with people signing waivers and being quarantined for 30 days after being exposed to that virus...but while this might enhance "herd immunity" the risks of these camps for young adults being insufficiently administered are too high.

Just don't be surprised if young people say, "screw it!" and don't want to wait until late 2021/2022 to get on with their lives. Or maybe even people not so young, in light of current studies supporting that infected individuals are protected from reinfection for at least six months.

These are all terrible, terrible things to ponder and write. But the physical and mental health problems caused by an ongoing and unpredictable and seemingly interminable lockdown might easily be as horrible, if not WORSE, than the dreadful disease.

So, anti-vaxxers, get out of the way. 

And those of you who want a vaccine, get as LOUD as you can to get your vaccine ASAP!

We have got to get past this!


(CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two stints as a Board member for 8-9 years and is also a Board member of the Westside Village Homeowners Association. He previously co-chaired the MVCC Outreach, Planning, and Transportation/Infrastructure Committees. He was previously co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, the grassroots Friends of the Green Line (which focused on a Green Line/LAX connection), and the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Ken.Alpern@MarVista.org. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)