After last Saturday night’s announcement that the FDA had authorized a third vaccine for emergency use, this week’s vaccine news just kept getting better.On Tuesday night, President Biden told the country in a speech that there will be enough vaccines for every adult in America by the end of May. But each new phase of this pandemic world raises new questions, too. As more and more people in the US are getting vaccinated every day, many are asking what vaccinated people can and can’t do. Is normality on the horizon? Here’s everything you need to know this week.
President Biden announced this week that enough vaccines will be available for all US residents by May. That doesn’t mean you should start making Memorial Day Weekend plans.
Speaking from the White House on Tuesday night, President Biden announced that we were on track to have enough vaccines for all residents by the end of May. This affirmation is mainly the result of the third vaccine getting approved as well as a new agreement between pharmaceutical rivals Merck and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in which Merck has agreed to manufacture some of J&J’s newly-authorized vaccine candidate to increase production. While typically a competitor to J&J, Merck is also a pharma-giant and the world’s second largest vaccine manufacturer (its own attempt at creating a vaccine against the novel coronavirus fizzled out in January.)
As promising as this news is, it does come with a few caveats. As the past few months have shown, having a certain number of doses available doesn’t guarantee a speedy vaccination process. So even if vaccines are available by the end of May, it’s highly unlikely that everyone will be able to get vaccinated by the end of that month. It’s more likely that the rollout will continue through the summer.
Until herd immunity is reached, whenever that may be, we must remain cautious and continue practicing social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks. And, sadly, we can’t start making any grand plans for the official start to summer—Memorial Day Weekend. However, the fact that there will be enough vaccines for everyone is a sweet relief indeed.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is even better than you might think. Here’s why.
News that the J&J vaccine has been authorized has been met with both rejoice and reservation. Some folks have questioned just how good the new vaccine is and how it stacks up to the already authored mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer. We break all that down in detail here, but there are a few key points to highlight.
It is true that the overall efficacy—meaning the vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19 completely—found in clinical trials for J&J’s vaccine was 72 percent in the US, which is lower that the 94 percent efficacy for Moderna and the 95 percent efficacy for Pfizer. However, that single statistics fails to take into account other measures of success.
COVID-19 is scary because it can cause severe cases that can result in death or other debilitating, long term conditions. In the clinical trials for J&J’s vaccine’s (as well as for Moderna’s and Pfizer’s) no one was hospitalized or died from COVID-19, so getting any of the three available vaccines will likely provide you with a high level of protection against the deadliest effects of COVID-19.
While it could be the case that the Johnson & Johnson shot will allow for more mild cases, it will be highly effective at keeping the disease from becoming deadly. Further, because Johnson & Johnson is one shot, there are many experts that believe the vaccine will be even more effective with a booster shot, something that J&J is testing right now in late-stage trials. If the results show an improved efficacy with two shots, people could likely get a booster shot of that vaccine.
What vaccinated people can—and can’t do—depends on who they are with
Each week, more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, and as states open up vaccine eligibility to more groups of people, folks will continue to wonder: What can I do now that I am vaccinated?
In a White House briefing earlier this week, Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that those fully vaccinated (meaning that if the vaccine requires two shots, they would need both) can meet indoors, unmasked, with other fully vaccinated people only. Aside from that one small scenario, it’s important for fully vaccinated people to still follow proper public health measures, especially wearing masks and social distancing, until the country reaches herd immunity.
The CDC is set to release updated guidelines for vaccinated people shortly that will likely reflect these precautions. While it might still be ways before daily life is back up and running, it is a small step in the right direction.
Great Apes got their first coronavirus vaccines this week
Karen the orangutan, who has already had her share of medical firsts (she was the first ape to have open-heart surgery back in 1994) has done it again, becoming the first ape to receive an experimental coronavirus vaccine specifically designed for animals, according to National Geographic.
In addition to Karen, three other orangutans as well as five bonobos have received the vaccine, which comes in two doses.
The novel coronavirus has infected a number of other animals including minks, dogs, cats, and apes. And conservationists are particularly concerned about apes given their endangered status.
The vaccine was developed by Zoetis, which specializes in veterinary health. If all goes well, it’s likely the drug will be expanded for use in other zoos and potentially other animals that are also at risk.