Letters to the Editor: Nov 26, 2020

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Typhoid Mary

Dear Editor:

Typhoid Mary was a real person. She was not sick and did not have symptoms of typhoid. She spread the disease to many people. We all want the kids back in school and businesses to open. Everyone needs to do their part to stop the spread of this pandemic. Seriously, how hard is it to social distance and wear a mask in public? Nurses like my daughter do it 10 hours a shift and are being asked to cover more time. Please don’t be self-centered and remember all the others affected by this pandemic. Thank you.

Elaine Jordan

Waiting for a vaccine

Dear Editor:

News of progress toward a coronavirus vaccine is encouraging. Preliminary results from the Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna vaccine trials show remarkable efficacy with few side effects. That’s good news. It is very good news.

With no effective cure at present, poor compliance with public health recommendations, and a worsening pandemic, progress toward a vaccine provides a beacon of hope. Vaccine development has proceeded rapidly, but that’s only the start. A vaccine in a vial is worthless. People have to take the vaccine. There’s the challenge.

Even with the most optimistic distribution timetable, these two early vaccines probably won’t meet the safety and efficacy criteria for approval and enter the public health system until the end of December. Initial doses will be given to frontline health care workers, then to people most at risk, as in nursing homes, the elderly, and essential service workers (CDC, 2020). There won’t be enough vaccine in distribution for the general population until spring.

And then, if the vaccine is going to stop the pandemic, a high proportion of the community has to accept the vaccination. Current best estimate is that at least 70% of the population has to be vaccinated in order to prevent outbreaks. People will have to step up, not just for their personal protection but to protect neighbors who might be at risk. In this pandemic, that’s all of us.

As with previous vaccine development, we won’t know for certain the full incidence of side effects or adverse health effects of these vaccines until they have been in use for months to years. What we do know is that the companies are proceeding with the well-established, rigorous protocols of vaccine testing and authorization. When a vaccine is released, it will be as safe and effective as humanly possible.

There is no other safe route, other than a vaccine, to establish general immune protection in the population. The misguided notions to establish “herd immunity” by letting the virus run wild are terribly dangerous (Aschwander, 2020).

For three years, 40-some years ago, I volunteered as an instructor in the medical training programs in Kenya, East Africa, training doctors to run medical clinics in the African bush. We saw the end of smallpox; the last cases were reported out of Somalia. Smallpox used to cause untold death and suffering. It was eliminated through a massive vaccination effort led by the World Health Organization.

Smallpox was gone from Kenya, but I witnessed the ravages of measles. Measles still led among the childhood killers in East Africa, with a 10% mortality rate, and the pediatrics wards were filled with its victims. In my seven years of medical training in the U.S. I had seen just one case of measles. It was considered so unusual that all the residents in training were notified. It had, by then, been essentially eradicated in the U.S. by the MMR vaccine.

The same is true for many other infectious diseases. Diphtheria, polio, tetanus: historical killers that are now essentially unheard of in countries with established vaccination programs. Malaria remains the outstanding target for an effective vaccine. Malaria and the emerging viruses that will follow SARS-COV-2, our current scourge. Vaccination saves lives. Vaccines protect individuals. Vaccines protect populations.

We don’t know yet whether the two doses of the likely coronavirus vaccine regimen will provide lifelong immunity (probably not) or whether we’ll need yearly vaccination as with influenza (most likely, by current evidence). That will be determined as we gain more understanding of the coronavirus and our immune systems. What is absolutely clear right now is this: vaccinations save lives and prevent suffering. The research reports on coronavirus vaccines appear much more encouraging than anticipated. Plan to get yours when it becomes available. (And get vaccinated for influenza, if you haven’t already done so.)

Meantime, and continuing beyond the time when the vaccine becomes available, wear a mask, stay a distance, wash your hands, and avoid large gatherings, especially indoors. There is no doubt that those measures save lives. If everyone complied, we could reverse the pandemic even before the vaccine.

Aschwanden, Christie. The false promise of herd immunity for COVID-19. Nature. Oct. 21, 2020. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02948-4
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. COVID-19 vaccination program. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/downloads/COVID-19-Vaccination-Program-Interim_Playbook.pdf

Bob Dorsett, MD

We need a ‘Great Rio Blanco COVID-19 plan’ with input from all sources

Dear Editor:

The communities of Meeker, Rangely and Dinosaur are informed that a COVID-19 vaccine may be approved by the Food & Drug Agency (FDA) as early as December 2020 because of Warp Speed. Upon such federal approval, it will be distributed to all states and other entities including counties. This is a massive undertaking and will generate millions of syringes, doses, packaging, and forms, and paperwork. Does Rio Blanco County have written plans and procedures and contact information in place to receive its share of these medical vaccines ASAP and stand ready to show others how it can be done? We have the talents to plan. Let’s begin.

No. 1. How will we receive these materials? Will they be delivered by Fed Express, UPS, Military, law enforcement, or private source? Does it come by car, truck. bus, train or air or by a combination?

No. 2. Does Rio Blanco have detailed contact information on the sources, its transportation, and its transfer sites? Its needed storage locations? do we have dependable cold storage facilities available for the next year. Do we need dry ice? How much? Where are all the local and out of state sources? Do we need high grade freezers? Should Rio Blanco send our own team to pick up our supplies and guard/watch over it? If there is a second dose, what are the plans? if a person declines the dose, what are the consequences? Time to reconsider? Go to the end of the line?

No. 3. Who is in charge of the Great Rio Blanco COVID-19 Plan? This will be the true test of leadership.

No. 4. Politicians? county or state, local law enforcement? State or local medical, the public health nurse? MD’s, PHD’s, Do the leaders have the resources, communications, funding and staff that they need for this undertaking? Contact information?

No. 5. The priceless value of these dose kits? If one was going to ship a crate of legal cash, or gold or diamonds or illegal cocaine or meth, there has to be high security and accountability. There is always a black market value on life-saving medicines that are in short supply. The Rio Blanco Plan competes with the Eastern slope of Colorado, and every other county in every other state. In sum, we need a GREAT RIO BLANCO COVID-19 VACCINE PLAN.

No. 6. How do we distribute the dose kits under the Rio Blanco Plan? Hospital, EMT, firefighters, local law enforcement? By industry — electricity, telephone, radio, road and bridge, water, power, and their families? By age, health? Pregnant? Teenagers, children, babies? Make a list and stick to it.

No. 7. Start with three large binders, three dividers: Meeker, Rangely, Dinosaur with 30 tabs for each community and start collecting contact information. for example tab (a) maps, tab (b) contacts: medical contact personnel, law enforcement personnel, elected officers, airports, college, schools, computer support, fire, EMS, coroner, grocery stores, Meeker Streaker or public transportation, how many school buses?

We have the talents and resources to meet this logistic crisis. We can figure out a way to make this vaccine locally in Colorado. Let’s contact these vaccine manufacturers directly. What equipment is required? get a list. We have a college by an airport that can change its course load to instruct the new generation of Colorado vaccine makers. Now we must stand in line with many other Americans.

Joe Fennessy

Thoughts expressed on opinion pages are exclusively those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Times.

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