This weekend, a convoy of trucks rolled out of the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Portage, carrying the first doses of the freshly-FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine. As people watched this historic moment, hopes soared that this could be the beginning of the end of this deadly pandemic. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, was one of those people.
“Seeing those pictures of the trucks rolling out of the Pfizer plant, knowing that they were manufactured, the vaccines were manufactured right here in my home state of Michigan was simply amazing,” Khladun said. “I also got an opportunity to see the vaccines being delivered at the University of Michigan this morning, so I’m quite proud and also hopeful today.”
Some of the decisions about who should get vaccinated first are easy. But after hospital staff and nursing home residents are taken care of, there are a lot of other considerations. Khaldun said that Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services is following the guidelines and ethical procedures of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice.
Their order begins with frontline workers, medical staff who work on COVID floors, emergency rooms, ICUs, and also emergency medical service workers. Next up will be residents and employees at long term care facilities. Then will come other frontline workers, essential workers, and those who have health conditions that put them at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID. Khaldun says the general public should expect the vaccine by late spring.
“Everyone, every adult, every person age 16 and up should be planning right now for when they get the vaccine. You should expect that you should have to get two doses.” Khaldun says. “What you can also expect is that many people may get some very mild side effects of the vaccine.”
The mild side effects, like a sore arm, a low-grade fever, and fatigue, are a sign that your immune system is working. The vaccine uses mRNA or messenger RNA to make the “spike protein” found on the coronavirus in order for our bodies to recognize the virus and build up an immunity to it. Khaldun said researchers have been studying this specific type of vaccine for many years, which helped the coronavirus vaccines come together so quickly. While this is a record turnaround time for a vaccine, Khaldun wants people to know that it is safe and effective.
“Everyone has a right to have questions and to have their questions answered. I would say that it’s important that people got to credible sources for information,” Khaldun said. “The scientific process has not been skipped in any way for this vaccine.”
The current COVID-19 case count in Michigan is “still alarmingly high” according to Khaldun, but she said she is hopeful that the numbers will come down. As December holidays present an even greater pull to travel and see loved ones, Khaldun urges people to be safe and do their part to stop the spread of the virus.
“We all have a role to play, regardless of your political affiliation in ending this pandemic.” Khaldun said. “And the end of this pandemic is near.”
This article was written by Stateside production assistant Olive Scott