KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The U.S. looks to take a step forward in its fight against COVID-19 this week. The realization comes as the country passed 500,000 deaths from the virus on Monday.
Health experts also warned about a new COVID-19 issue that would keep people masking up for the foreseeable future while impacting the country later this year.
A Food and Drug Administration committee is expected to meet later this week to vote on whether to grant Emergency-Use Authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The FDA doesn’t always follow the committee’s recommendation, but it did with both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The FDA granted EUAs for both vaccines just one day after the advisory committee made its recommendations late last year.
The J&J vaccine has been described as the COVID-19 vaccine that will “save the world.” It doesn’t need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, and people who receive the vaccine need just one dose. Experts believe the J&J vaccine is also the vaccine that could make it possible for people to get a vaccine during a doctor’s appointment.
Experts warn that although news of the J&J vaccine is progress, it’s not as much as they’d first hoped or expected.
“They’re only going to get 10 million doses out here in the first shipment. We were hoping for 100 million doses,” KU Health System’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Stites said during a Facebook Live Monday morning. “So that change means that our vaccination schedule is going to go on a lot slower.”
Health experts say they’re are also concerned about what could be coming in the next several months. Multiple variants have already been found across the U.S., and they aren’t sure exactly how they will impact us. Plus, Americans who suffered from COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic may soon lose much of their immunity to the virus.
“Remember that we think your immunogenicity will wane over sometime and we’re not sure how long that is. Let’s say it’s a year. Then people who originally had COVID-19 last summer by this fall probably will have lost protection from that and need to be vaccinated,” Stites said.
That means one-third of Americans who’ve already survived COVID-19 will need to be vaccinated in addition to millions of people who are still waiting to be vaccinated.
Another message that health experts want to make sure people hear is that people who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19. The shot is supposed to keep you from becoming severely sick from the virus. There are studies underway to determine how likely you are to spread the vaccine after a vaccination.
“I think the problem is our vaccine rollout is going slower than we hoped. We had talked about April we thought maybe we’d be able to open up and remove some of the tiering, but it appears now that’s going to be late May or June because of the delay getting all of the vaccine into the marketplace,” Stites said.
All of this means, at the very least, millions of Americans will wait longer than expected to get a vaccine, and we’ll all likely be wearing masks through another holiday season and into another new year in an effort to protect against the coronavirus.