ST. LOUIS – A big change may be coming in the timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations in St. Louis. It would allow more of us to get at least one dose much sooner.
We’ve repeatedly heard it may be summer before most of us can get that first dose. Now, we’ve confirmed plans are discussed to make that happen perhaps by spring.
The new approach may be best, according to Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.
“I think, preferentially, I would like to get that first dose out as quickly as I can just because I think the benefit of that outweighs all the risks of imperfect immunity,” Garza said.
With the two vaccines currently available, it takes two doses to reach immunity. Under current plans, tens of millions of shots are to be reserved for second doses for those at highest risk: health care workers, nursing home residents, and first responders – group 1-A. The rest of us would wait for more vaccine production.
Just one dose may offer up to 80 percent immunity, Dr. Garza said.
“Certainly, getting any amount of immunity in the population is a good thing,” he said.
President-elect Biden is reportedly planning for 100 million shots to be administered in his first 100 days by releasing nearly all available doses when he takes office one week from Wednesday.
Having more people get at least one dose may be more effective than a much smaller number getting two, Garza said.
“You do build up some immunity in the population after that first dose. Maybe that is enough to prevent people from getting sick enough to have to go a hospital. It might still give you a low level of infection or not give you complete immunity but at least some immunity is better than none,” he said.
Health departments in St. Charles and St. Louis counties now have registries where people in select groups can sign up for shots. Something similar is being set up in the City of St. Louis.
This new approach could change all of that with widespread vaccinations at pharmacies or even large sites like school gyms, arenas, or stadiums.