PORTSMOUTH — Promising medical reports have surfaced recently regarding the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines, news of which may have impact on the work by the Portsmouth City Health Department.
While taking two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is the best form of protection from the virus, the New England Journal of Medicine reported last week that one dose still provides a high efficacy rate. Their report found efficacy rates of more than 92% for both vaccines two weeks after the first dose has been received, where the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine increases to nearly 95% seven days after the second dose.
Expressing caution as this data is in very early stages, Health Commissioner Chris Smith and Southern Ohio Medical Center Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. David Byers say the health department plans on staying the course and encourage and schedule for both doses.
“This is preliminary data from a small portion of patients,” said Byers in a Monday phone interview. “The real question is how does that efficacy hold as you go out one, two, three and four months.”
In response to the study, Drs. Danuta M. Skowronski and Gaston De Serres promoted “deferring second doses until all priority group members are offered at least one dose,” an action they move would save lives.
“Given the current vaccine shortage, postponement of the second dose is a matter of national security that, if ignored, will certainly result in thousands of COVID-19–related hospitalizations and deaths this winter in the United States — hospitalizations and deaths that would have been prevented with a first dose of vaccine,” they wrote in a letter to the editor.
The common belief among the medical community at this time however Byers said is people are optimally protected two weeks after their second dose, basing that off studies that led to the Food and Drug Administration approvals of both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
“The last thing we want to do as a society is say because we are not doing the hard things to ramp up supply and distribute the vaccine that we are going to give people a less than optimal dosage strategy to make up for that lack of supply and distribution,” he said. “At this point, our goal with the health department is to get everyone their second dose.”
Both vaccines are present in Scioto County, although Smith said PCHD has only received Moderna despite having the freezer capabilities to store Pfizer doses at SOMC. The Scioto County Health Department has been inoculating with both said Byers.
Getting that first and second dose has proven difficult with low supplies and last week’s weather causing delays in its shipments. Scioto led the state previously in terms of those started on the vaccine, but these factors have led to a slower pace.
Still above the state average of 12.4% reported by the Ohio Department of Health, nearly 13% or 9,760 have received the first dose in the county as of Monday. This share of its population now trails 13 counties including Hamilton and Lucas, home of Toledo.
“Our biggest problem is not the weather, our biggest problem has been there is still not enough supply,” said Smith, this week receiving two times as many doses to make up for last week. Given that supply, Byers and Smith both said the multiple players involved in the local rollout would be prepared for large-scale vaccinations.
Some progress however could be made this week, where PCHD reports 400 doses are now available for city residents above the age of 65 and those with qualifying medical conditions. Of that age demographic, over 5,400 people have begun that process which lags the goals Smith and Byers have in mind.
“The vaccine remains safer and a much better option than getting COVID,” said Byers, promoting its effectiveness in preventing disease, hospitalizations and deaths. “My parents are both over the age of 65 and I have made sure that they have taken it.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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