The emergence of highly infectious variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have increased the need to be cautious regarding the vaccine protocol, since high infection rates will promote continued mutation of the coronavirus, said Monto, a professor of epidemiology and global public health with the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
“If we don’t get viral replication, we don’t get mutations,” Monto said. “So what we have to do is beat down the virus and virus transmission as our major goal.”
Admittedly, the vaccine supply shortage is the greatest problem with the U.S. rollout, Monto said.
“We wouldn’t have any problems in prioritizing if we had all the vaccine we needed for everybody,” Monto said. “Most of our problem now has dealt with who is to get the vaccine, whether people are jumping the queue, and none of this would be a problem if we had enough vaccine.”
Because of this, the United States needs to move past trying to convince vaccine-hesitant people to take the shot, and instead get two doses of the vaccine into the folks who really want it, Monto said.
“We have a majority of high-risk individuals who are eager to get the vaccine,” Monto said. “Given the shortages of vaccine, we really don’t have vaccine sitting on shelves, waiting to be given. Let’s vaccinate [those people], and then pick up and try to convince those who haven’t gotten vaccinated for one reason or another that this vaccine is safe and effective.”
By the time millions of eager people have been vaccinated, there will be tons of data available to provide an unassailable record regarding the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, Monto said.
“At time of vaccine approval, there was concern we only had data for two or three months from the rollout of the vaccines,” Monto said. “Now it’s going up and up, and we’ve got millions of people who’ve received the vaccine.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about COVID-19 vaccination.
SOURCES: Arnold Monto, MD, professor, epidemiology and global public health, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor; Ran Balicer, MD, MPH, director, Clalit Research Institute, Clalit Health Services, Israel; University of East Anglia, news release, Feb. 3, 2021; Anthony Fauci, MD, director, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, media briefing, Feb. 3, 2021