December 29, 2020
Covid-19 vaccines are arriving, but what does that mean for your patients?
Two vaccines have now been authorized for emergency use by the FDA for the prevention of Covid-19 and they are already rolling out across the country. The initial supplies are allocated to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. These ‘first wave’ populations represent about 17.6 million individuals. But what about your patients, who likely have complex or chronic health conditions?
First off, let’s take a moment to celebrate the very good news that both of the currently available Covid-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are based on mRNA technology which has been shown in cancer patients to generate an immune response, which means these type of vaccines should be particularly well-suited for cancer patients. Future vaccines, if they are based on inactivated or attenuated coronavirus, may not be a match for use in cancer or immunocompromised patients.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices continues to outline the order in which vaccines are recommended to be distributed. Current estimates anticipate enough doses to immunize 100 million people in the U.S. by the end of February 2021. After the healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents, the next phase calls for people 75+ years old and frontline essential workers to be next in line to get the Covid-19 vaccines. Then, it’ll be 65+ year old folks and people with underlying medical conditions. And, yes, people with compromised immune systems and cancer should get the mRNA-based vaccine as soon as it is available to them.
Your patients are likely anxious to know exactly when they’ll be able to get this vaccine, but the answer to that question is a bit of a moving target. In part, it depends on where your patients live. The CDC has left some of the final details of vaccination programs up to each state in the phased allocation process.
There might be a bit of ‘self-advocacy’ needed by patients to ensure they can get vaccinated in the phase of those with underlying medical conditions. For example, they might need to bring proof of their diagnosis (and/or age) to a vaccination center.
Of course, even as the Covid-19 vaccines reach more Americans, it’s important to caution your patients to continue taking sensible precautions even after a first-dose vaccination, such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and handwashing.
As 2020 comes to a close, there is great hope in sight for a healthier 2021!