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Mom Is Eager for the COVID Vaccine



"My 79-year-old mother wants to be the first in line for the COVID vaccine. She heard on the news that one will be released by the end of the year, and that healthcare workers and then the elderly will be the first to receive it. My mother intends to be in line the minute she can. I am not so sure this is a good idea. I am very concerned about a vaccine that is rushed to market and worry that mom is throwing caution to the wind. What should I recommend to her?"



Your mother clearly is following the news closely as announcements about groups working on vaccines surface daily. Every country or group wants to be the first to release a vaccine. To receive credit for resolving the pandemic of our century would be a great accomplishment. Think of Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine. His name is burned into our memories--at least those of us in the healthcare world.

I do think that it should be a wait-and-see approach for the moment. While they are in testing stages for a vaccine, it is still the early days. Do know that in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve the release of a vaccine before it can be distributed to the general public. The FDA is frequently criticized for being slow to approve new medications or new uses for medications. You should have comfort, at a time like this, that the safety experts in our country are cautious. The safety of our citizens is their primary concern and the FDA has a long history of protecting our citizens and not releasing harmful medications. 

Now, could a vaccine be released that is not safe? Based on our history, it is unlikely that our FDA would approve too easily a vaccine with which they are not confident. Does that mean that other countries may have the vaccine before us? If I were a betting person, I would say yes. Often, drugs are in markets other than the US for some time before they are approved here.

With all of that said, I would wait patiently for now. Much more information will come out long before your mother will be able to stand in line for the vaccine. Imagine inoculating all of the healthcare workers in this country. By one count, there are 16 million of us. Vaccinating an entire nation takes time and the elderly are expected to be in the second tier. You and your mother will have time to decide about the vaccine and make a wise choice.

I wish you well on this shared journey.


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