Editorial: Key decisions lie ahead on vaccines

The Editorial Advisory Board
Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial

The vaccines are coming.

But the arguments are just beginning.

As miraculously effective vaccines for COVID-19 arrive in the next couple of weeks, Kansas officials and residents will be forced to navigate an unfamiliar maze. There will be questions of supply (how many doses have been received?) and distribution (where will they go and who will receive them?).

State officials have a plan. But it’s also an evolving document. We know that the first in line to receive the vaccine will be health care workers and those in long-term care facilities. That aligns with federal guidance.

The path after that becomes less clear. Clearly those over a certain age and those with pre-existing conditions should be vaccinated. But how do we balance the needs of those who may want the vaccine?

Does a 35-year-old with Type 2 diabetes receive the vaccine before a 65-year-old without other health conditions? Who makes the call? Who bears the responsibility? Does it come down to who gets in line first?

There’s no question that many will be unhappy whatever the responses.

Our state leaders and health officials are doing their best in trying times. Just think: Over the summer, there was no expectation that vaccines would even be ready before the end of the year, let alone vaccines that are over 90% effective in preventing infection.

In recent days, news reports suggested that initial allotments of vaccines bound for the states have changed because of manufacturing delays.

Atop this rapidly changing landscape, experts also have to grapple with those we euphemistically call vaccine skeptics. (You might have other names for them, but we choose not to get into that right now.) These folks, for the good of the rest of us, will need to be persuaded to vaccinate themselves and their loved ones.

That’s how broad-based immunity works; the more people in a community who are vaccinated, the stronger the protection against a virus.

What a daunting landscape. It’s full of hope, yes, but it’s going to be challenging.

So please be patient with those making these decisions in the months to come. No one will be happy with every call made, but public health in these times is about doing the best possible with the information at hand. That’s been true throughout the pandemic, and it’s not about to change now.