By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
Moderna’s announcement Monday that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 94.5 percent effective is raising hope in New Hampshire as the number of confirmed cases across the state continued to skyrocket over the weekend.
It’s the second very promising vaccine to come forward after drug-maker Pfizer announced last week its candidate is 90 percent effective.
“Now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, Fauci said he is projecting that by the end of December vaccines will be available for people in high-risk categories from both companies and likely more companies will come forward that are currently engaged in vaccine research. At first, the doses will be limited so states are prioritizing who will get them first.
In New Hampshire, the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a draft policy that the first phase to get the vaccine will include older adults living in residential care settings like nursing homes and assisted living facilities, first responders and high-risk workers in health-care facilities.
Other older adults in congregate settings such as those in senior living complexes will be included in Phase 1b.
“Decisions regarding allocation of vaccine for phases beyond 1a have not yet been firmly established, however, these decisions will be informed by the national guidance and the general approach outlined in the figure above, with some modifications for local circumstances,” the draft stated.
Fauci cautioned against sitting back and waiting for the vaccine. Instead people should double-down on their efforts to avoid becoming infected such as universally wearing masks, socially distancing, hand washing and avoiding social gatherings.
“The virus is not going to stop and call a time out,” Fauci said.
He said the spread is still very serious and acknowledged that people are suffering from “COVID-fatigue.”
“We don’t have to accept major surges,” Fauci said. “We can blunt them.”
In fact, on Friday, Vermont announced that it was closing bars, banning multi-household social gatherings and recreational sports
Over the weekend, Michigan and Washington state announced strict measures to try and curb the spread of the virus. On Sunday, Michigan ordered high schools and colleges to stop onsite teaching and indoor restaurant dining is prohibited.
https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98158-545138–,00.html Washington state also prohibited indoor dining and ordered theatres, gyms and museums to close.
From Friday through Sunday, New Hampshire’s new cases reached a staggering 1,207 with four new deaths of elderly people.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu hasn’t responded to questions about Vermont’s emergency orders, but on Thursday at his regular news conference, he indicated New Hampshire doesn’t now need a statewide mask mandate as all the other New England states have.
On Friday, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, also a Republican, announced the reopening its first field hospital with 240 beds at the DCU Center in Worcester.
The current distribution plan in New Hampshire includes starting each phase of vaccination in geographic areas with the highest COVID-19 disease case count. Ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 is central to New Hampshire’s vaccine planning efforts.
Some populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are at increased risk for infection, severe illness, and death. Data is being gathered from multiple sources to determine accurate numbers for distribution planning.