Use of face masks, social distancing, isolation and staying at home has been the common phrases that served as a campaign to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a virus that has claimed millions of lives since the first quarter of the year and has also largely affected the Latino community in Omaha.
Beyond the preventative measures already known and reiterated by various media outlets, on November 18th six health experts in Omaha, five of them Spanish speakers, put on the table the issue that is now of concern: the vaccine against the new coronavirus.
In September of this year, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which we’re developing a vaccine, had to suspend trials because volunteers suffered serious side effects and “unexplained diseases.” However, other pharmaceutical companies continued their studies and are now in phase III. They’re all fighting over the “Eureka!” vaccine.
This sense of uncertainty also alerted the Latino community, whom we are approaching to learn more about their impressions on this issue.
On the one hand, there are those who have suffered from COVID-19 and consider that this to be the solution to avoid further contagion, while others prefer to abstain and wait to see what happens.
Giovanni Barcenas has hopes for the vaccine and did not hesitate to answer that he would wear it because he deems it necessary. “It’s a help, I suffered from COVID, and how nice it would be if there was a vaccine to take this plague off now,” he said.
For her part, Esmeralda Rodríguez, who also had COVID-19, said that she does not want to relive that episode and that she does not want any of her close friends to live it so she said she would wear it, but “I would wait for a little to see the side effects in others, then I could get vaccinated.”
María Mendoza said she would have no problem getting the vaccine distributed to everyone. “With the vaccine, we would all benefit. People talk about the side effects of the vaccine, but worse are the effects of COVID-19 when you have it,” she said.
In the meantime, Salvador Alba felt it was important to learn more about the vaccines. “I wouldn’t wear it because there’s not much information about it. You have to know what it contains, what benefits you and what hurts you. I’ve heard from specialists who have claimed that patients have problems. It can help you but in the long run, it brings health problems,” he said.
For Salvador, the best vaccine is to eat healthily and take care of natural products and follow the rules that have already been implemented.
Finally, Eleazar Moreno does not trust the vaccine to be a solution to counteract COVID-19. “I wouldn’t wear it for the first time. I need to have more information and the effects it may have. We don’t have much information and we have to be careful. However, if there’s no alternative and they ask for it, there’s no other way, but we don’t know the side effects,” he said.
Doctors answered questions from the community
Dr Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Department of Health, participated in a virtual conference aimed at the Hispanic community to discuss this issue along with doctors: Armando De Alba Rosales (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Sara Hurtado Bares (University of Nebraska Medical Center), Shirley F.Delair (Children’s Hospital Infectious Diseases Pediatrician and Medical Center), Alhelí Gastelum (internist Creighton Medical University) and Eduardo Herrera Lirio (gynaecologist and obstetrician at CHI Health Clinic).
The conference was held on November 18th at noon through the Zoom platform and broadcasted on social media. There, Dr. Pour recalled that the first case of COVID-19 known in Omaha was due to a person who had travelled to Britain, where the virus was already spread.
Outbreaks were known in the food processing industries in Nebraska, especially in southern Omaha. “The environment in these industries made the transmission of the virus very easy, many people working shoulder to shoulder in an enclosed space with little or no protective equipment and no good infection control measures,” she added.
In the face of alerts and recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), coupled with a climate of political tension, strict measures are taken to prevent further contagion.
“The effectiveness of these measures resulted in a significant decrease in cases in South Omaha. There were several weeks in June when the burden of infection disproportionately affected the Hispanic community and 54% of all cases in Douglas County were Hispanic. Of course, the Hispanic population makes up 13% of the population of this county. It was at the time that we tried to make sure there was enough availability of evidence in South Omaha,” which said at the start of the conference.
In addition, he said that during the last 2 weeks of November, 16.9% of all cases of COVID-19 are in the Hispanic population.
The vaccine is not a switch
During his speech, Dr Armando De Alba Rosales saw with optimism the taking of the vaccine. However, he warned that the vaccine is not a switch that makes everything go away: “You have to keep the same prevention measures until they have been taken to continue avoiding contagion,” he said.
For her part, Dr Pour said that the Pfizer and Moderna companies are developing these COVID-19 immunizers for the United States and said they have already been tested for safety and efficacy: “both are very promising with 95% and 94.5% effectiveness,” she said.
In addition, she reported that by the end of December it would be ready to be distributed and this would be done in two phases. “This first stage will define two other phases: 1A and 1B. The 1A will be intended for health workers who are at high risk given their direct contact with COVID patients in hospitals,” she said.
She added that phase 1B would extend to people with some underlying conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and also to people over the age of 65. In addition, essential workers such as firefighters, first aid, teachers and correctional personnel would be added to this group.
This group would include food processing workers, Native Americans, and the coloured community (black and Latino). Meanwhile, phase 2 would be directed and extended to the general population.
For her part, specialist Shirley F.Delair clarified that in order for Pfizer and Moderna companies to distribute the vaccine, they must have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration(FDA). Both pharmacists will need to submit the necessary documentation to the FDA in order to introduce the vaccine in a certain state of the country.
Meanwhile, Sara Hurtado Bares, a UMNC specialist, spoke of the importance of the population taking into account that very strict controls are being carried out in the United States for a vaccine to be approved and distributed to the population: “none of the steps or controls has been skipped,” she said.
Cost of the vaccine
Pharmaceutical transactional have claimed that vaccines go through Phase III, i.e. the last of the trial stages that have been done in some states of the country such as Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee. After this phase would come to a distribution process to other states in which is not yet specified what it will be like.
It is worth noting that the Pfizer vaccine requires transport and storage at a temperature of -70 degrees Celsius (-94°F), well below the standard average of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36-46°F) of other vaccines. While Moderna expects the distribution to be stable at standard refrigerator temperatures from 2° to 8° for 30 days and can be stored up to 6 months at -20°.
At a conference call for CNN, Moderna’s executive chairman, Stéphane Bancel, said he is remembering the world’s governments and will be responsible for prices, adding that the price in small amounts of the vaccine so far has cost between $32 and $37 per dose and that Moderna would charge lower prices for higher volumes of the mRNA-1273 vaccine.
As studies progress, our pandemic situation can become endemic, as WHO warned that SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, could become an endemic virus. This means COVID-19 would become part of our day-to-day life as common flu, cold, HIV, chickenpox and many can be. Each of these endemics has a vaccine except for the case of HIV that is still developing.