Hang in there, Guam; vaccine sent to FDA for approval

VACCINE: Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech applied Friday for emergency authorization of their coronavirus vaccine. Washington Post video screenshot

It seems the distribution of a vaccine can soon be expected in Guam and around the world now that Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for FDA approval of their vaccine.

According to the Washington Post, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech applied Friday for emergency authorization of their coronavirus vaccine.

The news, certainly one that’s welcomed by jurisdictions around the world hoping to protect the health of its citizens and reinvigorate flagging economies, is tempered with some grim realities.

The vaccine, if approved, could be available by late December. Mass production and distribution will take months. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, in a recent meeting with Guam Rotarians, said a vaccine could be here by first quarter of 2021.

That’s too late to help many, including Guamanians, who already are struggling with compliance fatigue – and particularly with the holiday season upon us.

There’s Thanksgiving with the tradition family gatherings, followed quickly by Christmas shopping and a holiday with traditions that include Mass and special services at churches of various denominations – and more family gatherings. Then there’s the parties associated with New Year’s Eve.

Officials, national and local, are concerned that the holiday traditions could seed an increase in COVID-19 illnesses.

That would be a huge step backwards for Guam. Officials have reported decreasing numbers of new daily cases. Additionally, there are fewer patients being hospitalized - as of Friday, there were 56 people in local hospitals with COVID-19. That’s a decrease from previous weeks when hospitalizations rose to about 90.

Even with the numbers improving, to say many will struggle with the temptation to disregard COVID-19 guidelines and safer-at-home directives would be an understatement, particularly as news of a vaccine is released.

Local and national officials continue to urge everyone to follow pandemic guidelines – wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and avoid gatherings.

The governor has challenged Guamanians with the Strive for Five campaign. She said if Guam’s COVID Area Risk Score falls to 5.0 or below, which is the ideal, she would ease restrictions on social gatherings for Christmas. Just two weeks ago it was beyond 40, as of Friday, the CAR Score was 15.7.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, on Thursday, also voiced encouragement to follow guidelines.

"My message to the American people is to hang in there with us,” he said. “Take the simple steps that the doctors have talked about today because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This isn't forever.”

And yes, many who have followed the guidelines since March will say it feels like it’s been forever already. But with news of the vaccine and Guam health officials making preparations its distribution locally, there’s light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

And as U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during a conference with local officials: “Once we get a vaccine, we should be able to go out, get people vaccinated and really put a stop to this disease between vaccination and testing… I say that because I want you to know we are almost to the finish line. We just got to hang in there.”

While we don't have much of a say in when the vaccine will come to Guam, we can do our part by adhering to guidelines and, as officials reiterated, hang in there. 

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