COVID-19 continues to rage in the USA. Over the next 4 weeks, 92k Americans will die due to cases and hospitalizations already in the queue.
Effective vaccines are available to slow the spread but distribution bottlenecks will likely delay herd immunity for many months. In the meantime, the government has changed its guidance today to permit people 65+ and those with pre-existing conditions to get the vaccine now to reduce hospitalizations and the overall case fatality rate (CFR = deaths/cases). This makes lots of sense.
The mRNA vaccines level the playing field for older Americans. It probably doesn’t reduce your chances of being infected by SARS-CoV-2, but if and when you do, you are more likely to be asymptomatic than without it. That means you are more likely to survive the infection and your likelihood of dying from COVID-19 could decrease by roughly 95%. This will reduce the extraordinary demand for hospital and health resources. In fact, the CFR for all age groups could fall below 2%. The strong caveat though is that SARS-CoV-2 and its variants will remain highly contagious until 80% of the population is vaccinated and herd immunity is achieved.
Demand for vaccines will outstrip supply for months so I would recommend that everyone who qualifies sign up for the vaccine sooner rather than later and avoid the Florida fiasco. Moreover, releasing vaccines reserved for second doses means that inventory and distribution management will have to be extremely well-tuned to avoid missing second doses at the recommended times. This is a well-studied problem in business supply chain and inventory management. However, given the government’s track record to date, this will not be a slam-dunk.