COVID-19 Vaccine … What Now?


Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have all been anxiously awaiting a “return to normal”. In reality, I suspect that there is going to be a new normal as infections like Covid19 continue to infiltrate our global community. Like it or not, what happens in one country will invariably effect another.

Health experts have been touting a vaccine as a way to induce “herd immunity”, thereby protecting the bulk of the population from this infection. Chinese scientists released the sequence of the genome on 1/11/2020 to allow scientists around the world to begin the process.

As of this writing, we have “emergency use authorization” for two vaccines in the US. Production and distribution are well behind projections. Just under 5 million of the 328 US citizens have received the first dose. According to Bloomberg News, 13 million doses have been given world-wide. It’s a start.

We are told that this is our ticket to “normalcy.” yet many struggle with the decision. We have genuine concerns about the potential issues that might come with the vaccine. Concern that adequate long term safety studies have not been completed, genetic code effects and the chain of custody may have been breached thereby spoiling the medicine are a few. After all, how many of our medicines have to be kept at ultra-low temperatures?

These are legitimate concerns. Further, we live in a deeply divided nation that has gone so far as to politicize wearing masks during a pandemic. There are those who mistrust government agencies and those that mistrust the capitalistic health care system. Belief in conspiracy theories caused a pharmacist to destroy 500 doses of the vaccine. What if instead, he simply let them spoil and then allowed them to be administered?

Dignity Health recently began vaccinating front line health workers. Dr. Bruce Bartlow of Shasta Critical Care was the first to receive the vaccine and feels fine. “All data so far on the vaccines to date shows it is extremely safe. Of course, like any medication (or herbal) there will be some ill effects. But the ill effect of not taking them is additional years of masks, separation, shutdowns and economic calamity.”

For a sparse few who refuse the vaccines there may be valid reasons – allergy to components the only one I can imagine. For all the rest the message is the same as that of not wearing a mask or distancing: “I have absolutely no concern for my health or that of my neighbors, my community, and my society,” “Bartlow said.

“I did not have any reaction to the flu vaccine, but I ran a low grade fever and was exhausted following the Covid vaccine. I went to bed at 8:30, but by the next day I felt fine,” said one recipient. This is expected according to the distributors and shows that your body’s immune system is reacting.

There have been a very few serious adverse reactions, including anaphylactic shock, which has changed the protocol to require a 30 minute observation after delivery.

One local physician who cautions his patients about the disclosure inserts in most prescriptions says, “If you read the insert, you will be convinced I am trying to kill you.” We are likely accustomed to all the warnings we hear on TV ads and might even make fun of them. But that doesn’t eliminate our concerns. So like any risk/reward calculation, we must decide, “Will I take it?”

The next questions are “What is the cost, which vaccine, what is the difference?”

The ACA (Affordable Care Act) is the only existing pathway whereby a national mandate for coverage can be effected. The ACA mandates free preventive care for all qualifying plans and has been expanded to include Covid vaccines. Medicare has agreed to cover this at 100%.

The government’s contract with Pfizer prices the vaccine at $20 per dose and $15 for Moderna’s. AstraZeneca has a $1.2 billion agreement with the U.S. government that brings the cost to $4 per dose. Theirs is expected to be 70-90% effective based on dosing, but not yet been approved for emergency use in the US. The cost is small relative to the effect on our economy and health care system, estimated to be $16 Trillion by one economist.

At the current pace, it will likely be months before wide-spread access is available. Take this time to research past Facebook, Parler and QAnonsense posts to deeper sources to help make your decision. Here are a couple of links to start:

https://www.vizientinc.com/-/media/documents/sitecorepublishingdocuments/public/covid19_sidebyside_vaccinecompare.pdf; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html. As more people are vaccinated, more information will become available. Stay informed.

Margaret R. Beck

Margaret Beck CLU, ChFC, CEBS started her insurance practice in Redding in 1978. She founded Affiliated Benefit Services.

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