The early results of trials of two COVID-19 vaccines are certainly encouraging. But there is plenty of reason for caution,
not the least of which is that the trial results haven’t been published or peer-reviewed. Nor has the FDA approved them.
The news about two seemingly successful trials of vaccines to fight COVID-19 couldn’t have come at a better time: during what may be the worst days of the pandemic with an average of more than 150,000 new cases each day over the last week, including an average of about 12,000 daily in Illinois.
The number of deaths is also on the rise, by more than 100 percent in Illinois this month, and about 40 percent nationally. ICU use also is at troubling levels in many parts of the country.
Amid that bad news, the temptation is to treat word of the preliminary analysis of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as a welcome cure at the end of a dismal year. It may be, but it’s too soon to draw that conclusion.
In reality, all we have are press releases from pharmaceutical companies about preliminary results. Neither of the trials has been completed, neither has been published in scientific journals or peer-reviewed and neither has been advanced to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization.
Even if the vaccines get FDA approval in December and are put into limited use by the end of the year — the most optimistic outcome — questions linger: How long does the protection last? Is it equally applicable to all groups, such as young children and older adults? Are there any long-term side effects?
Ideally, as many as 20 million
people could be vaccinated by the end of this year with large-scale distribution of the two-dose treatment beginning in the spring.
That means, though, that nearly all of us will remain at risk of contracting the coronavirus this winter. That also means keeping our guard up: Avoid large indoor gatherings, keep that 6-foot distance in public spaces, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently.
By this time next year, we may have a much sturdier defense. For now and through the holidays, though, all we have is old-fashioned caution and common sense. Let that be your vaccine.