St. Martin Parish President Chester R. Cedars
December 15, 2020
12:00 P.M.

 

LATEST ON VACCINES

During a conference call yesterday with representatives of the Louisiana Department of Health, I received an update on the COVID-19 vaccines about which there have been much publicity. Thus, I wish to share with you the data which I received, noting that the information is “somewhat preliminary,” meaning many, if not most of the protocols hereinafter discussed may change. Also, much of the data regarding the distribution is still being developed.

The only vaccine which has received FDA approval is the one which has been developed by Pfizer, Inc. and its German partner, BioNTech. This vaccine calls for two doses administered 21 days apart. Moreover, the vaccine must be stored at a temperature of minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Hence, its administration is somewhat complicated.

This week, it is anticipated that a second vaccine will be approved by the FDA. This vaccine has been developed by Moderna and consists of two doses administered 28 days apart. There is no requirement that the Moderna vaccine be kept at extreme frozen temperatures. Hence, its shelf-life is much greater, and the administration more easily accomplished.

Several thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine have already arrived in Louisiana, and its administration has commenced. The vaccine will be given to frontline healthcare professionals and Tier I Hospital personnel (those with acute care/emergency rooms). Once this group has received the vaccine, it will next be administered to Tier II Hospital personnel (those without acute care certification) and long-term nursing home patients/residents and the employees at those facilities.

Thereafter, the protocol will address the distribution to high-risk persons based upon age (65 years or older) and underlying medical conditions. It is anticipated that this group may not be reached until more than a month or so. Furthermore, the general population may not start to receive the vaccine until several months down the road.

Specific and defined protocols remain in the development stage. Also, Points of Distribution (POD’S) have not yet been firmly determined. Obviously, the administration of the Pfizer vaccine will prove to be most challenging because of the temperature requirements.

There are rumblings that a third, and possibly a fourth, vaccine is on the “near horizon” and may only require one dosage. I have no confirmation one way or the other and thus will reserve further comment other than to observe that the more vaccines that are approved, the quicker the population can receive the immunity provided by them.

Noteworthy is that the Pzifer and Moderna vaccines have a 95% efficacy rate.

There will be no cost for the vaccine beyond what one’s insurance will pay. If one does not have insurance, there will be no cost.

I have been assured that as matters evolve, I will be advised. As such, I will diligently pass on any and all information I receive. This matter, while encouraging, is rapidly evolving.

NEED FOR CONTINUED ADHERENCE TO MITIGATION MEASURES

The emergence of the vaccines IS NOT a reason to abandon the mitigation measures about which I have commented many times in the past. In fact, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Region 4 and the State of Louisiana continue to rise at an alarming rate. Three weeks ago, I stated:

“…

Rather, no one can in good faith deny that, from a state and local perspective, we have abandoned personal behavioral measures including mask wearing, social distancing, the avoidance of large crowds, particularly indoors, and personal hygienic acts such as frequent hand washing.

The flattened curve which we welcomed after the mask mandate is no longer flat. Healthcare experts, state and local, warn us that our hospitals will soon be overwhelmed if we do not reverse the current upward trend. Areas of concern particularly, though not exclusively, address staffing issues. The number of doctors, therapists, and nurses will simply be unable to meet the medical demands of the public, as regards both COVID-19 and “routine” medical needs. And, unlike a storm event, other states cannot be relied upon to provide assistance.

Moreover, we must note that our schools have also been overburdened with COVID-19 cases and/or quarantines associated therewith. As such, school systems have been compelled to reassess their re-opening and on-campus classes. The number of cases has caused absences for students, faculty, staff, and bus operators. Most school systems find it almost impossible to recruit substitute teachers.”

The arrival of the vaccines does not afford any immediate relief from the foregoing scenario. Indeed, as noted at the outset, we may be able to see “light at the end of the tunnel” because of the vaccines; however, we are far from arriving at the end of that tunnel.

I continue to strongly and emphatically accept what medical science, without substantial credible dissent, advises relative to the simple, basic steps which should be adopted to abate the alarming rising spread of the virus:
• Wear a mask
• Social distance
• Follow personal hygienic recommendations such as frequent hand washing
Avoid large crowds, especially relative to indoor activities.

I do not advocate that we close down, but rather I urge all to mask up and lather up while we social distance in small, controlled crowds. Large gathering, outdoors or indoors, should be avoided.

These measures worked previously as we witnessed in late July, August, September, and most of October – all while we were increasing our activities and enduring several storms. There is no cogent reason they will not be and cannot be successful again.

My comments are not arbitrary or unsubstantiated opinion, nor are these observations a reflection of mere political or social ideologue. Rather, they are based on sound, medical advice which mirrors the posture of the medical professionals who we trust every day to treat us and our loved ones. The medical data on this matter is without credible opposition. I am reminded of these remarks I encountered several months ago and have previously quoted:

“I wear a mask because if the experts are correct, I could potentially prevent someone from getting sick and dying. If the experts are wrong, the most I’m out is the inconvenience of wearing a piece of fabric on my face.”

Therefore, between now and the time the vaccines will be subject to mass distribution, lets mask up, social distance, and avoid large crowds whenever necessary.