What About Vaccines?

With educators set as the next group to be vaccinated in Tennessee and national trials underway for students, it may be that we are beginning to see the first indicators of the pandemic being something we can end.
Part of me, maybe most of me, is just glad that we can even be talking about vaccines less than a year into our COVID-19 adventure. Past that though, it’s easy to be frustrated by the supply chain challenges that pervade our national allocation system —reaching all the way to our daily experience at USN. With all the chatter stimulated by recently announced MNPS return to in-person plans, with attendant attention on vaccinations for teachers, my guess is that you’d be interested in what we’re hearing right now at 2000 Edgehill Avenue.
 
In the big sequence of who goes first, determined state by state, Tennessee educators occupy the 1b slot, trailing front line health care providers (1a1) and 75+ years old (1a2). In Davidson Co., there’s still a backlog of interest in the prior category and not an abundance of vaccine available to meet the need. In the strange logic of each county getting its own allocation by population regardless of demonstrated interest and need, other counties are correspondingly at different phases of the distribution progression. And we’re left to find our way through that mosaic in Tennessee. Hard to imagine that there’s not a better way.
 
With that backdrop, pressure continues to mount supporting equalization based on demonstrated need, so Nashville and other urban areas in the state can catch up. I’m making calls each day toward that end, as are many people in our sector, and my sense is that we’ll hear something soon — as in this month. We’re all waiting for the supply to increase in the aggregate, still not at the 1 million doses per day threshold for the United States and still not at 7% of the population vaccinated statewide in Tennessee.
 
What we’re not worried about are vaccine efficacy and how many USN faculty and staff choose vaccination. Each study our Medical Advisory Board reviews helps strengthen confidence in the science that developed the available medicines. And the benefit of wide adoption offers the promise, even at the current rate of vaccination, to get us to 70% of the population with at least one dose by September — in the range of partial herd immunity.
 
Trials are only just beginning for children ages 5 to 12, while one of the vaccines available is already recommended for anyone 16 and older. It may well be that our High Schoolers will have vaccine access before the new academic year. We’ve been on the lookout for trials locally in the event that there may be interest in the school community, and we’ll share that opportunity should it arise.
 
This is all to say that you may want to have that preliminary kitchen table conversation about your household commitment to vaccinations when each family member’s turn comes. We’ve seen this winter the colossal difference that collective efforts have made in limiting instances of influenza. Imagine what we can do together against COVID-19 when given the chance. Whether vaccination will come to be required as a societal norm remains to be determined over the next several months, but my preference is that we’ll all find the benefits of immunization compelling.
 
We’ll schedule informational town hall sessions with some of the neighborhood experts in advance of faculty and staff signing up for their 1b slots. I’m sure those same experts will be eager to offer similar meetings for the wider school community thereafter. For the moment, there’s plenty for us to do just keeping vigilant on all the fronts we’ve come to know so well. But maybe we’re at the very beginning of the end, and knowing that may strengthen our resolve to weather the chilly weeks ahead.
 
What each of us does affects all of us. Let’s keep pulling those community numbers down.
 
Grateful for all you’re doing,
Director
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    • Director Vince Durnan

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