COVID-19

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s small and distant

The winter COVID-19 spike appears to be ending in Indiana. With vaccines currently being administered, could that be a light we see at the end of this tunnel?

Source: https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2393.htm, February 15, 2021

Maybe it is, but that light is small and distant. The tunnel remains long.

The CDC recommends that vaccinated people continue to stay home as much as possible, and mask up and remain physically distanced otherwise, until enough people are vaccinated that we have herd immunity.

That made no sense to me at first. If you’re vaccinated, aren’t you immune? Can’t you go back to a normal life? But then I learned that we don’t have enough experience with the vaccines yet to know whether they keep you from catching the virus. We know for sure only that the vaccine makes you unlikely to become sick with it. After you’re vaccinated, you might still be able to carry and spread the virus! That’s why the CDC is telling us to continue to stay home as much as we can, and mask up and remain physically distanced when we can’t, until enough people are vaccinated that we have herd immunity.

I experienced this as a punch to the gut. I was dreaming about living life more freely after my vaccination. Specifically, I was looking forward to taking my wife out for dinner, and going to visit my kids in their homes!

I must continue to wait, as it will take considerable time to administer the vaccine to everyone. In Indiana, we’ve already taken care of people like healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents, police officers and firefighters, and the like. The state is now administering the vaccine by age, starting with the oldest first. People 80 and older went first, then people 70 to 79. They’re currently vaccinating people 65 to 69; people 60 to 64 are next. If this five-year grouping pattern holds, I’ll be in the second group to follow. Given the rate of vaccination, that could be a couple months yet, maybe more. I’ve heard optimistic estimates that all of Indiana could be vaccinated by midsummer, but I don’t share that optimism. Unless we’re able to dramatically ramp up the available doses and the infrastructure to deliver them, I think it will be late this year before the job is done. Perhaps then we can ease these restrictions and live a more normal life.

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40 thoughts on “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s small and distant

  1. Mike Kennedy says:

    I think you summarized the situation perfectly. It’s going to be a while yet before we reach “normal” again. I do think though if everyone in your household is vaccinated, you should be able to dine out together again. Although mask wearing and physical distancing practices would still apply.

    • If we could carry the virus and infect others not yet vaccinated, I think it’s wise to just stay out of restaurants. Perhaps we will learn more about the vaccine in the coming months that will change my mind on that!

  2. davepowell01 says:

    Wow. Indiana seems to be WAAAAAY ahead of Massachusetts. We’re still waiting to finish vaccinating people over 75. And at 72, I have no idea when I’ll get my first dose.

    • I don’t know that Indiana has waited to make sure all 80+, then 70-79, then 65-70, have been vaccinated before moving on to the next group. Once you gain eligibility, you can get the vaccine at any time. There are certainly people in earlier groups who haven’t been vaccinated yet. I don’t know what the state’s plan is to ensure they get the vaccine.

  3. I am lucky to live in a place that has the capacity to handle both vaccines and which also has a lot of healthcare workers. They are starting next week on people under 65 who have health issues that make them more at risk. Public Health here has been planning for the vaccine since June. I already have both vaccines.People can say what they want about government, however when it works well it is a real benefit
    I sure hope that by summer there will be some sign of getting an all clear for everyone. My biggest concern is that one of the variants might come along and set everything back. .

  4. Nancy Stewart says:

    We got our vaccininations yesterday here in Laporte county. We are in our 70’s. It was very well organized … in and out in around 30 minutes. Since it was the Moderna, we will get the second one in a month. No side effects except the usual sore arm where they poked us. We haven’t been out to eat since this thing began last year, and we plan on continuing with that policy until we know things are getting back to “normal”.

  5. The vaccine program in Hawaii has started the 65-70 age group so my best guess is I’ll be eligible in April or May. An aside here my wife and I took our dog for a walk in Waikiki this past weekend, not something we usually do. Forgetful me did not bring a mask and I was clearly in the minority of people without one. Locals and tourists alike were compliant and that was encouraging to see. The number of visitors are a quarter of Hawaii’s historical averages but it was nice to see people out and about.

      • I’ll admit it is nice having less visitors and there is a majority feeling among residents that the initial stay at home, from March to October, was good for the island and allowed it to “breathe.”

  6. Andy Umbo says:

    I’m in the 65 and older group, and in Wisconsin, you’re just supposed to contact your health care provider. I called multiple times, and they’d just say, “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. When I saw a story on the local news about my health care provider having an inoculation day for 65 and older, and I never got a call, I called them again, pretty mad…they gave me an appointment, so I’ve had my first of the Pfizer, then my next is supposed to be next week Wednesday…we’ll see…as sometimes they say “we ran out”.

    My sister, in no special group except 65 and older, is in Michigan, and they had a state sponsored sign-up site. She signed up with her birthday in the first week, and she got her inoculation by the third week, and the nurse made her second appointment on the spot, on an iPad! That’s the way it should work! There are all kinds of states that send you to a site, but it’s not birthday sorted, and then when you try to sign up, they tell you they don’t have any!! It’s not a rolling sign-up that keeps you in a queue! Then there’s states that you just go down and wait in line for 4-6 hours hoping you get it, and they turn you away after when they run out!

    This should have been a national plan, but of course, (put your disgust at the last administration here). It seems like if you had a smart state, with smart health care, all this was figured out! Milwaukee counties Health Dept, head quit and went back to Washington DC last fall because they wouldn’t let her plan for any of this…

    • There’s been a steady stream of government incompetence all my life, but now that same incompetence feels almost criminal. Get thy shit together, government!

    • tbm3fan says:

      Issue is State’s Rights. All the Feds can do is make a recommendation to the states but in the end the states decide how they will handle it much like local school boards handle education. Consequently some states get it, some muddle through, and others just drop the ball.

      I’m a healthcare professional over 65 years old. I haven’t even bothered to call in. When the state opened up their phone lines naturally 10 million people call the first day, eligible or not, and the lines crashed as one would expect. Since I had the virus between 11/30-12/10, with zero effect, I may have some current immunity and am taking my time at the moment since I don’t wait in lines.

  7. I’ve resigned myself to “normal” not returning until 2022, although I’m hoping some things will be back sooner than that. In particular, I’d like to send my kids to in-person schooling this fall. And I would really really like to take a vacation to …somewhere…anywhere… later this year. I don’t expect to travel for work at all this year, though.

    • Andy Umbo says:

      My health care people told me that the Pfizer shot I was getting was 94% efficacy after the second shot, but they said: “You’ll be wearing a mask for at least another year”, they don’t want you spreading it, or getting a weird variation, that might get you sick, but won’t kill you because you’ve got “some” safety for the shots you already got!

      I’ve already decided I might wear a mask in flu / cold season anyway, going forward, because I haven’t seemed to get the terrible cold I always get around Christmas! All those old Asian women I’ve been seeing wearing masks for the last 30 years I’ve been going to San Francisco seem to have the right idea!

    • I agree with you, Ben, it’s probably 2022 before full normal, and even then I think it could be a different normal because this virus will be with us forever, like the flu. But in that normal we’ll be able to have a beer with friends at the bar again, etc.

      Margaret and I had planned to visit Scotland this year. We’re hoping for 2022 now.

  8. DougD says:

    Well Jim, if it makes you feel any better the USA is vaccinating at five times the rate of Canada (adjusted for population). We lack the ability to manufacture vaccines so are dependent on USA and Belgium. Even my wife, who is a nurse practitioner working with immunocompromised patients isn’t expected to get it until March. They say we’ll all be done by September but based on the rollout so far I am not optimistic.

    From what we’ve been told about contact limits post vaccine it seems a bit like speed limits. They are setting the contact limit low, knowing that people will do more than what they say, which will result in a reasonable amount of risk. Just my thought.

  9. Andy Umbo says:

    Jim, I have to laugh when I’m reminded of the old joke, that sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train!

  10. There is still a way to go, and the success or failure of this will depend on the willingness of most people to receive the vaccine. My country has succeeded in eliminating the virus within our borders, which are closed, so apart from the odd occasion like this week when a community case is discovered and restrictions are applied, we are going about our lives normally. The first lot of vaccines have just arrived, and border and quarantine workers will be the first to be vaccinated. It will probably take the rest of the year for all of us to receive our shots, and then we may start to see a gradual reopening of international travel. Who would have imagined any of this a year ago???

  11. I think Andy is closer to the truth here. Unlike previous pandemics (1918 flu, etc..), this time it’s occurring during an epidemic of humans on the planet, in large part preoccupied with consumption enabled by insanely cost-obscured ‘cheap’ energy. I don’t think a ‘return to normal’ is in the cards, if ‘normal’ means living like we did in December 2019. A ‘new normal’ is what we should be looking for, perhaps one in which the world ‘gets larger’ again, with greater reliance on the local community in preference to a global community. Slowing the spread of contagions through natural physical distancing amongst strangers seems to be the only way that humans will survive the eventual near-fatal pandemic that this one foreshadows. That’s going to mean some pretty radical changes of expectations. In the meantime, keep clickin’.

  12. My wife and I, both 66, are waiting for the post-second-shot two week period to end, after which we’ll be “fully vaccinated”. How to live post-vaccination is something we’ve given serious thought to. We’ll follow local rules and we’ll mask because it’s become the polite thing to do. But we’re going to have the occasional restaurant meal again.

    Dr. Monica Gandhi (@MonicaGandhi9 on Twitter) has been a good source of information for us in deciding how to live going forward.

    Vaccine results are not being explained well. “95% efficacy” does not mean you have a 1 in 20 chance of getting sick. In the Pfizer trial about .01% of the vaccinated group tested positive after vaccination and, more to the point, nobody vaccinated in any of the major vaccine trials required hospitalization, much less died. There’s mounting evidence that the vaccines reduce transmissibility as well. They’re virtually miraculous.

    • I gave up Twitter — closed my account — last year because the signal to noise ratio was so bad. Looks like Dr. Gandhi’s account is high signal.

      It will be tremendous if the evidence lets us conclude that the vaccines largely eliminate transmissibility!

  13. I know what you mean about Twitter. I get around most of the disadvantages by using lists. Instead of “following” people and reading my timeline, I put people whose views that value to me in Twitter lists and look at those lists. As a result I don’t see all the responses, etc. Without lists I don’t think I could stand Twitter for long.

    If you want to hear the Dr. Gandhi has to say about vaccines, etc., see this video at about 6:10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypnRl7mQgvs (or search YouTube for “The New Vaccines, Attitudes Toward Vaccination, and the Biden Covid-19 Task Force”).

    I try to educate myself and make informed decisions since public health authority’s messaging is muddled and inconsistent and, I suspect, sometimes shaped by their calculation of how much “the public” can be relied on to process complicated information and their projection of how we’ll react to uncertainty.

  14. In New Jersey we’ve only just started on the elderly. I’m not in a high risk group so I’ll be lucky if I’m inoculated before December. You’re wise to keep living as before until a significant portion of your population is vaccinated. The vaccine protects you from COVID but you may be a carrier for the coronavirus.

    • I think those are the optimistic projections. I’m reading pessimistic projections that say herd immunity end of 2021 or early 2022. I’m betting the reality is in the middle!

  15. A writer in The Atlantic has an interesting take on the upcoming summer titled “A Quite Possibly Wonderful Summer” (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/02/summer-2021-pandemic/618088/).

    I’m not an epidemiologist but it only makes sense that the more that vulnerable people are vaccinated, the fewer deaths there will be. Vaccinated people have a lower chance of being infected and virtually no chance of going to the hospital or dying from covid. And there is more and more evidence (e.g. from Israel where Pfizer is working with the government to study the effects of the vaccine in large numbers of people in the “real world”) that vaccination DOES reduce transmission significantly, which means getting vaccinated protects you and others.

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