As two pharmaceutical companies have recently announced the development of effective COVID-19 vaccines, Pastor Ronnie asked our church’s resident pharmacist, Dr. Nathan Rawls to provide our congregation with a COVID-19 update.

We have all been living through the COVID-19 pandemic and wishing it was over. This has been a new experience for Americans, since the most recent pandemic that had a major impact on our country was the 1918 pandemic. About 675,000 U.S. citizens lost their lives from that virus which remained active around the world until 1920. We are confronting a similar challenge that will require all of us to work together to prevent the devastation that the 1918 pandemic caused. COVID-19 is new and scientists and medical researchers are working to determine how best to defeat this virus and vaccines should prove vital in this effort.

The following information is taken from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.org). The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. Some early evidence – based on some people – seems to suggest that natural immunity may not last very long. Regarding vaccination, we won’t know how long immunity lasts until we have a vaccine and more data on how well it works. Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about, and the CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.

Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection – either from previous infection or vaccinatio – that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, everyone within the community is protected even if some people don’t have any protection themselves. The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following the CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Vaccines will prove important but we can’t wait to control COVID-19. This means we have to do the same things that our grandparents and great-grandparents did in 1918. We need to wear facemasks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings. The following is from the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.org):

  • Avoid close contact.This means avoiding close contact (within about 6 feet) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms. Also, keep distance between yourself and others. This is especially important if you have a higher risk of serious illness.
  • Wear cloth face coverings in public places.Cloth face coverings offer extra protection in places such as the grocery stores, where it’s difficult to avoid close contact with others. Surgical masks may be used if available. N95 respirators should be reserved for health care providers.
  • Practice good hygiene.Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick, unless you’re going to get medical care.

If we all follow these guidelines there should be less illness and death as we wait for an effective vaccine. It’s worth remembering that a vaccine should prevent an infection but will not cure an illness. Just refusing to accept that there is a pandemic will not make it go away because COVID-19 doesn’t care what we think. As a nation, we are smart enough and strong enough to do whatever it takes to successfully eliminate COVID-19 and be prepared for any future pandemics. As Christians we should be doing everything we can to ease the suffering of our neighbors and those people in distant lands, and this pandemic should be a chance to be witnesses to our faith.

Nathan Rawls