With the Covid-19 vaccine being deployed in more and more people’s arms, some people are asking when are we going to get back to ‘normal’? The President’s Chief Medical Advisory, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently said we have a chance to get back to normal by the end of this year. Yet, there are many factors involved in reaching that state.
The first key factor is reaching herd immunity across the nation, meaning at least 70 to 85 percent of people fully vaccinated against the virus. As of mid-February, over 57 million vaccines had been administered nationwide according to the Center of Disease Control Covid Data Tracker. In Washington state, over 1.2 million doses had been administered with over 300,000 people receiving their second shot to be fully vaccinated. There are 7.6 million residents in the state.
In Snohomish County, over 87,000 had received their first shot and over 47,000, their second shot according to the Washington State Dept of Health Covid-19 Data Dashboard. In Skagit County, over 21,000 had their first shot with over 5200 fully vaccinated, while Island County had over 14,000 with their first shot and over 2600 having received their second shot.
Demand for the vaccine still outstrips supply, yet the volume of available vaccine continues to improve. The number of people getting the vaccine each day has climbed to over 26,000 per day, almost double the number from a month ago. The goal is to reach 45,000 vaccine shots per day. Unfortunately, adverse winter weather across the nation has stalled recent vaccine distribution, yet the accumulated supply of over 6 million doses will provide a welcome surge of vaccine within the next week.
Overall, the good news is the vaccine supply continues to rise. The federal government has acquired and is distributing more vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna each week nationwide. In addition, over 500 hundred million more doses have been procured by the federal government and will be available by summer.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to be approved by the FDA by the end of this month. The J&J vaccine also involves only a single dose. The AstraZeneca vaccine will also be available soon. These additional vaccine suppliers add a great deal to the available vaccine stock.
With the improving vaccine supply and more vaccination sites, the goal in Washington state is to have a majority of residents vaccinated by Labor Day Weekend this year. The state Department of Health continues to update their Covid-19 website as conditions evolve. Right now, those eligible for vaccinations include those in Phase 1A and 1B.
Phase 1A – Health care workers at high risk for COVID-19 infection, first responders, people who live or work in long-term care facilities, and all other workers in health settings who are at risk of COVID-19.
Phase 1B – The vaccine is available to anyone 65 and older, and all people 50 and older who also live in a multigenerational household.
Those in Phase 2B are expected to be next in line for the vaccine soon. Phase 2B includes those 50 and older who work in more crowded settings such as the agricultural industry, grocery stores, and teachers. This step will permit more and more in-person schooling in the coming months. By fall, most schools should be open once again.
As the calendar moves into spring and summer, more and more people will be eligible for the vaccine. By fall, we should be getting close to herd immunity.
Yet, there are many unknowns and potential issues. The big one is the virus variants. This is a race to get people vaccinated to help slow or stop the virus spread, particularly the more contagious variants.
Another means to beat the virus spread is to continue to practice virus safety measures such as wearing masks, maintaining at least six feet of separation particularly indoors, wash your hands, sanitize commons surfaces, and avoid large groups especially indoors. With the days getting longer and many suffering pandemic fatigue, maintaining virus safety is tough but must be achieved.
The Washington State Health Department has a helpful phase finder tool to help you determine when you will be able to get your shots. The website has been busy, so state health has a couple of phone numbers to also help at 800-525-0127 (press #) and 888-856-5816. Your primary care provider can also assist you. In addition, Snohomish County has a Covid Hotline at 425-339-5278.
The state health website also has a link to the ever changing list of vaccination sites to help you find a place to get your shots. The website is an ongoing work in progress as it attempts to keep up to date on evolving vaccination site locations and availability of vaccine. Making an appointment has been a challenge as well thanks to the high demand. People have found the best online results have been during non-peak hours like overnight or early morning hours.
After you get your first shot, continue to wear your mask and all other virus safety measures. Depending on the vaccine, you will get your second shot in three or four weeks. Full protection will not kick in a few weeks after the second shot.
Even when fully vaccinated, it is still unknown whether a person can still spread the virus, even if they do not feel sick. Scientists are working to learn if the vaccine protects against infection or only against illness. In addition, other scientists indicate Covid-19 vaccines will likely need periodic boosters, similar to the annual flu shot in order to deliver a boost of immunity tailored to closely match emerging variants.
Addressing this Covid-19 virus is an evolving situation. Monitor the state health website and other health oriented websites such as Snohomish County Health and the Snohomish County Covid Vaccine website for the latest information. As more people get vaccinated, we will get closer to returning to ‘normal’.