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COVID-19: Time to Call an Audible on Two-Shot Vaccination Regimen

This per Dr. Michael Osterholm on 'Meet the Press.'

(Sunday, Jan. 31)

Michael Osterholm is one of the best-known epidemiologists here in the United States. I've shared different things from him in this blog in the past. Today, he appeared on "Meet the Press." His "breaking news" announcement is that, in his opinion, it is time to "call an audible" and ditch the two-shot vaccine regimen that is part of the Monderna and Pfizer vaccination process.

He sees our nation in a race with time between getting people vaccinated and the new variants of the virus now populating across America. He noted that in England they have now had twice as many people hospitalized at one time as we have in our nation. We have five times the population of England. The term "deep dodo" comes to mind. If we thought it was bad before, just wait...

The efficacy of the current vaccines in use now (or coming soonish in the case of Johnson & Johnson) is listed below. This is with just one dose, which of course the JJ vaccine is only one shot to begin with. He thinks these levels of protection are much better than protecting fewer people. 

One-Shot Efficacy

  • Moderna: 80 percent
  • Pfizer: 52 percent
  • Johnson & Johnson: 72 percent
What is the ability of the science community to "reverse course" and call an audible? For anyone who is not into football, here is the definition of an audible.

I think it will be incredibly hard for scientists to reverse course. On the football team, calling an audible is performed by one person, the quarterback. There is no discussion in the huddle about if and when there will be an audible called. The offense lines up at the line of scrimmage and the quarterback looks over the defense and how they are set up — it is then, likely in the about a 10-second time frame, that he can tell his teammates that he is changing up the play because what was planned only seconds ago won't work. 

There is no single "quarterback" in the vaccine football game. Therefore, all plays are called in the huddle with "much discussion" and the pros and cons are debated — likely endlessly. What is said about engineers could be applied to scientists: "You can always tell an engineer from a long way off, but up close you can't tell them a damn thing."

It is one thing for Osterholm to advocate for that course of action, but he is one voice among many. Not knowing the ins and outs of the vaccine world, I'm not sure where a decision like this to change up things would be made: FDA, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), CDC, White House? Do the companies themselves have a say in the matter? Contact the attorneys! 

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.
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