The number of potential coronavirus vaccines has increased to three with Oxford/AstraZeneca announcing on Monday that that their technology is potentially 62% effective with two full doses and 90% effective if one gets a half a dose followed by a full dose.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be distributed and stored at normal temperatures.
Moreover, the vaccine requires distribution and storage at normal temperatures, which will be critical to reach places where distribution at frozen temperatures – as other vaccines require to varying degrees – is difficult to near impossible. This is another step closer to the beginning of the end of the global pandemic.
The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna should be available for health care providers in December, so mass distribution of a vaccine should be possible by the late spring. Yet none of the vaccines have been peer reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so there is still some ways to go before the all-clear can be sounded and normal social and economic interaction can resume.
As of the weekend before Thanksgiving, coronavirus infections are increasing at an average rate of 173,000 per day. That’s 1.5 times greater than the summer peak of 69,000 cases per day, and 4.3 times greater than the initial peak of 32,600 per day when the virus attacked the coastal cities in April.
The enormity of the second wave of infections suggests that a large segment of society either remains oblivious to the danger of the disease – and has ignored the pleadings of the doctors and nurses who care for its victims – or has simply grown tired and let its guard down.
The results of this nonchalance are showing up in the case numbers. There have been more than 12.6 million coronavirus infections since the initial outbreak in February, according to the Worldometer database.
At the current rate of growth and unless the public quickly adopts social-distancing practices, our model indicates that the cumulative number of newly reported cases could surpass 15 million by the first week of December. The number of infected and asymptomatic people will remain a danger to their families and friends and to the rest of the public for the next several months or years.
There have been more than 262,000 deaths, with about 1,500 people dying each day – higher than the summer peak of 1,100 per day. The spike in cases has left 4.8 million people currently infected, which implies that 1.5% of the population is likely to be fighting the myriad respiratory, liver, heart and cognitive effects of the disease.
According to the COVID Tracking Program, current hospitalizations are pushing past 83,800. That leaves little room for treating patients who do not have the virus.
So we have a long way to go before we can declare victory.
Roadblocks to the rollout
There are bound to be logistical roadblocks to a seamless rollout and distribution of the vaccines, including the requirement that Pfizer’s version be kept at extremely cold temperatures. But there are also political and financial decisions that are percolating, as well as ethical considerations and challenges.
Along with logistical roadblocks, there are political decisions in rolling out the vaccines.
First is the rising number of vaccines being developed, both here and abroad. Deciding if the distribution of multiple vaccines would be more effective in containing the spread of the coronavirus than picking just one is likely to become a contentious topic.
If 25 million vaccinations are administered per month, and each person will need two injections, that implies a year or more of the pandemic, and probably more if the world is to be vaccinated.
If manufacturing and distributing multiple vaccines were to conceivably reduce that time, and if using the results from the different vaccines could determine which one works best for different age and ethnic groups, then a multiple-vaccine strategy seems preferable to choosing just one. That decision belongs to the medical community and the public health authorities.
That brings up the second roadblock. It seems logical that we track each and every vaccination. Americans have long rejected the concept of a national ID card, yet we gladly accept a unique Social Security number. So what would happen if fighting the coronavirus were to require the notion that the federal government begin compiling our health records?
And that brings up the third roadblock – those who oppose vaccinations teaming up with the hoaxers and conspiracy theorists. If not everyone can tolerate a vaccine, then it’s up to the rest of us to protect them from infection. We can only do this by being vaccinated.
The best example is measles, which has had a resurgence in recent years. And as we’ve said before, the resentment of scientific authority is an insufficient excuse for putting a child at risk.
The first figure below shows the spread of the infections among the six states with major metropolitan areas (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California) where the initial outbreak peaked in April. The recent rise in cases in those states is attributed to increased social interaction, as people let down their guard while enjoying family gatherings, and attending colleges and other institutions.
The second chart shows the spread of the virus across all the other states, where infections peaked across the South and Southwest in the weeks after the July 4 weekend. That spread has since moved into the Midwest and across the northern tier, with new cases in those states surpassing their summer peak.
Infections in the six states with major metropolitan centers are rising at a rate of more than 41,100 new cases per day as of Nov. 22, which far exceeds the 20,000 per day in the initial outbreak. Infections in all other states are rising at a rate of 127,800 per day.
Deaths attributed to the coronavirus have increased to 360 per day in the six major metropolitan states, and 1,130 deaths per day in all other states.
Average weekly growth rate
In the following table, we show the state-by-state weekly growth rate of infections since Sept. 12, which was the low point for infections in the days after the Labor Day weekend and which signaled the unofficial start of indoor activity and social interaction.
Note that because of the inconsistency of reporting by states and the haphazard spread of the virus, we are looking at the average rate of infection in the several weeks since the onset of cooler weather.
The blue highlights indicate the six states with major metropolitan areas that were initially affected by the virus. After much progress over the summer, each of those states is reporting increasing numbers of cases since Labor Day.
New York is the only state reporting fewer cases now than at the initial peak of infections at the end of April. Hawaii is the only state reporting fewer cases now than during the late summer peak of infections.
For more information on how the coronavirus is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.