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How the COVID-19 vaccines are transforming life and science in 2021

Insight Article - March 23, 2021

Patient Access

Patient Engagement

Population Health

Andy Stonehouse MA
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continues at a rapid pace in both the United States and around the world, a vital step in helping to stem the spread of the year-old global pandemic.

To Rich Parker, MD, chief medical officer, Arcadia, the fast development and distribution of the vaccines is a testament to modern medical science and positive proof of years of vaccine research. 

Now, he says, we must do everything possible to make sure the majority of Americans feel comfortable about receiving the vaccine as quickly as possible.  
 
“The take-home point I would definitely want to give your listeners is that it is 95% effective and almost 100% safe,” Parker said on a late January episode of the MGMA Insights podcast. “There’s a high percentage of mild side effects, but I would say that a sore arm or feeling tired is a really small price to pay for avoiding COVID-19 infection.”

On the up and up

Parker said the critical mission in 2021 has been widespread vaccination, which has accelerated since Johnson & Johnson became the country’s third approved vaccine following Pfizer’s and Moderna’s approvals in December 2020. The Biden administration met its goal of administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days well ahead of schedule, and the average number of doses administered per day in the U.S. was almost 2.5 million by publication of this article on March 23. 

“This is a time for optimism, but it’s not a time for relaxation,” Biden said in a late-March address. “I need all Americans; I need all of you to do your part. Wash your hands, stay socially distanced, keep masking up as recommended by the CDC and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.” 

A long time coming

While there has been some public pushback regarding the vaccines’ quick development and approval, Parker said that is really a tribute to still-emerging medical technology.

“A lot of people don’t realize that research on mRNA vaccines has been going on for probably 20 years,” he said. “There was a long wind-up to get this vaccine ready. They didn’t just start working on it yesterday. When you run a vaccine trial, the trial goes faster or slower depending upon the prevalence of the disease. With COVID-19, it’s extremely prevalent. It doesn’t take very many months to run a trial with 30,000 people. Whereas if you’re looking at a more rare infection, it could take a couple of years to figure it out.” 

Spreading the word

Parker said communication is also key to the vaccination effort, and companies such as Arcadia have been reviewing what methods work best for spreading the word about the benefits of the vaccine.

“What we’ve learned is that text outreach, sending texts out to peoples’ personal mobile phones, is the best method of communication,” he said. “It’s not calling them on the phone. It’s not sending them a letter. It’s not doing a public service announcement. It’s sending a text to their phone. And for the customers that have allowed us to do that, we’ve been really effective.” 

Facts > fiction

To convince vaccine naysayers and skeptics, Parker said the medical community also needs to enlist role models to change behavior – or to serve as role models themselves. 

“We have to fight fiction with facts. We have to let science take the front of the stage,” he said. “I personally love it when celebrities – whether they’re sports figures, musicians, pop artists – roll their sleeves up, get the shot on TV and use social media. The more prominent people get the shot publicly, the better that modeling.”

‘A miracle of science’

Parker, for one, did not need any convincing to receive the shot and has no qualms encouraging others to do the same. 

“When I was getting my vaccine yesterday, and I looked at that syringe with the clear, little bit of liquid in it, I thought, this is really miraculous that this little bit of fluid is going to give my body the antibodies and the T cells that I need to avoid this potentially fatal infection,” he said. “It’s just a miracle of science. I hope that people will appreciate the incredible opportunity … and I want everyone to be able to take advantage of it. Remember that by getting the vaccine, you might be saving someone else’s life in addition to your own.”

Hear more from Parker on COVID-19 vaccination in this episode of the MGMA Insights podcast:
 


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About the Author

Andy Stonehouse MA
Freelance Writer and Educator Colorado

Andy Stonehouse, MA, is a Colorado-based freelance writer and educator. His professional credits include serving as editor of Employee Benefit News and a variety of financial and insurance publications, in addition to work in the recreation and transportation fields.
 

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