The vaccines are here, but it will be a long time before life returns to February 2020

Posted at 9:21 AM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-20 07:37:00-05

CLEVELAND — It may be gloomy in Northeast Ohio, but the future is looking bright. Hundreds of frontline workers from MetroHealth, the Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland V.A. received their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. While the arrival of vaccines is certainly a good sign, it's still a long road ahead before we return to what life was like before the pandemic.

MetroHealth Dr. Sherrie Williams knows all too well the big impact of the small vial of vaccine.

“If I ever had a doubt or a moment of fear about doing this vaccine, all I had to do was think about the people that I’ve lost, young people, old people, people that I’m just now meeting and watching their families be devastated,” she said.

MetroHealth’s police chief Frank Bova also received his vaccine.

“All of us are tired of social distancing, the mask-wearing. I’m ready to get back to normal life so if we could get there, that would be a blessing,” he said.

But what needs to happen in order for us to get back to normal life?

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine professor Mark Cameron said what we need is time. Time to produce more vaccines to roll out to the general public as health care workers, nursing home residents and staff are among some of the first critical groups to receive it.

“This could be a spring or summer type of roll-out, really, what we have to see is that the supply holds up, the delivery and distribution holds up and gets the vaccine across the country to those individuals,” he said.

As more receive the vaccine, officials will also need time to study how well it's combatting COVID-19 surges.

“What we're hoping to see is an impact on our overall case rates in the U.S., or even regionally within a county or state, and then turn that data into knowledge about how well the vaccine is working, how long it is taking to establish herd immunity, and then how quickly we'll be able to take off some of these public health restrictions that we've been living with for so long,” said Cameron.

Cameron said herd immunity can only be established if about 70% of the population has immunity.

“We have to establish herd immunity, getting the vaccine into three-quarters of the U.S. population definitely helps that,” he said.

But even then, scientists just aren’t sure how long immunity will last from the vaccine or after people have recovered from the virus.

“There are a number of unknowns here, and these unknowns will influence whether or not we can stop these surges of COVID-19,” he said. “People will have to be receptive to changes and recommendations in terms of the measures we have to keep up in our day to day activities.”

He said while the efficacy rate of the vaccine is promising, we are not returning to our old, mask-less way of life any time soon.

“I think by the next cold and flu season at the fall of 2021, we will have some of these answers in terms of returning to normal in a stepwise fashion over this year," Cameron said.

In addition to MetroHealth and the Cleveland Clinic, six other hospitals throughout Ohio received the Pfizer vaccine early this week. University Hospitals will receive its delivery around Dec. 22.