Rounding the Corner

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Rounding the Corner
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By Sonia Fernandez, UC Santa Barbara

The emergency use authorizations granted last month to Pfizer and Moderna for their COVID-19 vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration pave the way toward Santa Barbara County’s economic recovery, according to UC Santa Barbara economics professor Peter Rupert.

“The vaccines play a crucial role in getting our lives back together,” said Rupert, who is the director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project. As in the rest of the country, the COVID-related lockdowns have wrought havoc on the local economy, straining local business and causing massive job loss.

That said, it will still take months and widespread cooperation to protect the community and get things back to normal, according to Van Do-Reynoso, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department director and Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, Cottage Health Systems’ infectious disease specialist, Rupert’s guests in the latest EFP Informs webinar. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently being distributed locally, initially to highest-risk frontline healthcare workers as part of the state’s “Tier 1” of the first phase of vaccine administration.

“We’ve received nuanced direction from the California Department of Public Health which is if we’ve done our due diligence in providing vaccines to Tier 1, that we can proceed on to Tier 2 and Tier 3,” Van Do-Reynoso said. Other healthcare workers, high-risk individuals and essential workers are next in line to receive vaccinations, with the rest of the community to be inoculated starting in late spring. (Updates on SBCPHD’s vaccination efforts can be found here, and general inquiries can be sent to [email protected].)

Help can’t come soon enough. Now in its 10th month dealing with COVID-19, the local economy remains shaky, according to Rupert’s report. Jobless claims continue to be elevated and the county remains under stay-at-home orders as the number of cases skyrockets, pushing local hospitals to devote diminishing ICU space to acute coronavirus patients.

“That does not mean if we drop below 0% that the doors close, no one gets into the ICU or into the emergency room,” said Fitzgibbons. “What it really means is that beyond that capacity, we’re going to have to take care of patients with less staff, with less resources, possibly with less physical beds…and that’s what we’re starting to see.” Approximately 80% of the county’s ICU patients are being treated for COVID, she added.

Shooting the Messenger (RNA)
The new vaccines won’t help with the ongoing surge, but they could prevent future spikes.

“Vaccines are a way for the community to prepare to be well-protected. It is not protection at this very moment at a community level,” Fitzgibbons said, urging the audience to remain vigilant about keeping the spread under control.

Unlike conventional vaccines, which rely on a weakened form of the virus, those developed by Pfizer and Moderna rely on mRNA technology, which introduces genetic instructions into our cells to create certain proteins.

“The protein in this case is the virus’s protein, called the spike protein,” Fitzgibbons explained. Those spikes, which give the coronavirus its recognizable pin cushion-like appearance, are also how the virus attaches to its host and delivers its payload. The presence of those proteins will trigger our bodies’ immune response.

“We make antibodies, we make memory T cells and our immune system is basically primed to handle that spike protein if or when we ever bump into, inhale, or are otherwise exposed to that protein on the actual virus in the future,” she continued.

The vaccines appear to be effective against emerging variants, though they can be adjusted to new mutations in the spike protein as needed. They are 95% effective — what Fitzgibbons called “an incredible protection,” comparing it to the 50-60% effectiveness of the best flu vaccines.

Local and systemic reactions (swelling, pain, fever, headache) are mostly mild to moderate and short-lived. Very rare severe reactions (anaphylaxis) were not observed during clinical trials but have been observed outside of clinical trials, underscoring the need to perform these inoculations in facilities that can handle allergic reactions, Fitzgibbons said.

Vaccine recipients are given two doses, weeks apart, the second one to “train the immune system” to be on guard for the COVID-19 spike protein.

What remains to be seen as we round the corner on this pandemic is how long the protection will last, whether there will be any latent side effects, and how effective this version of the vaccine will be to emerging variants. Additionally, how much protection does it provide against asymptomatic infection, which is thought to be the source of almost half of all COVID infections?

“That’s a critical piece we still don’t know,” Fitzgibbons said, and one that will need to be examined before relaxing any mask- or social distancing public health measures.

Meanwhile, herd immunity remains a distant dream. To achieve this type of immunity, a significant fraction of the population must be protected — enough to put the brakes on any outbreak. The World Health Organization predicts that this won’t occur in 2021.

But, the vaccines are an encouraging start, the panelists said. With some effort and education, it’s possible begin on a path toward regaining economic footing, according to Rupert.

“We have to encourage everyone to understand that we all have a responsibility to end this viral war,” he said.

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a-1610797681 Jan 16, 2021 03:48 AM
Rounding the Corner

Amazing headline, as it follows "SB County Has Highest Covid-19 Spread in CA"

shorebird Jan 15, 2021 06:00 PM
Rounding the Corner

If “Rounding the Corner” means that record numbers of people are heading to the morgue, then it’s a correct characterization. They are certainly rounding their last corner.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 15, 2021 03:41 PM
Rounding the Corner

On the eve of the vaccine release Trump said, "I mean, you look at what's going on and we're rounding the turn. We're rounding the corner. We're rounding the corner beautifully," Are people now admitting that Trump was correct on where we stand with the pandemic???

Alexblue Jan 17, 2021 09:03 AM
Rounding the Corner

VOR, when it comes to the Presidency no one comes close to Donald Trump. He was born with a lie in his mouth and he has lived and will die that way.

a-1610857480 Jan 16, 2021 08:24 PM
Rounding the Corner

8:06 PM - By all appearances that holds for the Republican party and the mixed bag of egotarian padded cell dwellers even farther to the right. Maybe you should broaden your horizon of association once the pandemic is over, and see what normal people are like.

Voice of Reason Jan 16, 2021 08:06 PM
Rounding the Corner

Alex, most high level politicians, especially presidential contenders, are sociopaths and congenital liars. With our current system that is the only way to rise to that level in politics. This includes the pair about to occupy the White House. If you think anything meaningful will change it won’t, the media will just report on something else, and within the year, will create a new controversy to get viewers/readers to increase their ad revenue.

a-1610854068 Jan 16, 2021 07:27 PM
Rounding the Corner

Oh, I'm not sure that's much of a worry. Up to now, over 50% used to be considered good performance for a vaccine, and theirs is much cheaper and easier to store and distribute, which is a real consideration for poorer countries that are in as much need of a vaccine as we are.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 16, 2021 06:57 PM
Rounding the Corner

Yes, the US is falling behind when it comes to investing in research. Despite that, we're still the best, which is why there's so much theft. China can flood the market with all kinds of IP, but that doesn't make it any good. Take the Chinese COVID vaccine for example. Not for all the tea in China, as the saying goes. I feel bad for people who are getting injected with that stuff.

a-1610850384 Jan 16, 2021 06:26 PM
Rounding the Corner

China has not cut back on R & D spending the way the US has, so there will be a lot of their IP out there in the future. Get used to it.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 16, 2021 06:12 PM
Rounding the Corner

Alex, I very much agree about the IP issue. Additionally, I'm concerned about our telecom hardware (5G or other) being manufactured by any companies with ties to ANY foreign governments, particularly governments hostile to our interests.

Alexblue Jan 16, 2021 05:50 PM
Rounding the Corner

VOR, ha, yeah that's what extremists like to think. Personally, I recognize that Trump is a sociopath and congenital liar, but I also think that he was right on cracking down on China's constantly stealing our IP.


a-1610762415 Jan 15, 2021 06:00 PM
Rounding the Corner

3:41 PM Only sees what he wants to see.

Alexblue Jan 15, 2021 05:19 PM
Rounding the Corner

Freak, he also said that no one would be talking about the virus after the election, because you know, a Democratic hoax to hurt him, and he also said we'd have people going to church for Easter, uhm, about eight months ago, oh, he said so many things about Coronavirus that were false

You're a genius scientist, so why don't you start by defining your terms; at exactly what point in the trajectory of the pandemic will you consider us to be "rounding the corner"? Half way through? Two thirds of the way through? Ninety percent of the way through? For a "scientist" you certainly have a lot of trouble with specificity in your language.

Voice of Reason Jan 15, 2021 03:47 PM
Rounding the Corner

Ha. With this crowd, good luck. Many would rather skip the vaccine than admit Trump was correct on anything.

sblocal1967 Jan 15, 2021 02:04 PM
Rounding the Corner

PSTARSR - that is my point. The people who abide by a lock down are the same people who use common sense and will not do stupid things. The people who don't abide by a lock are idiots and will do what they want regardless. My opinion is that human nature is a funny thing - you tell people what to do and they will find ways on why they shouldn't. You tell people they are empowered to do the right thing and most will. Idiots will be idiots regardless. They will drive too fast, cut in lines, eat shitting food, put things in there body they shouldn't - regardless of how much government tells them otherwise. I think from day one we have to assume how humans will behave (pretty much the same way Japan dealt with the virus) and put in place specific risk mitigations that can be properly administered and make sense. Like PROTECT the elderly homes, make sure schools can re-open, make sure businesses can stay open, etc... Non-idiots will take the proper pre-cautions to minimize risk - idiots will not. I assume everyone is an idiot and make sure not to put myself or others at risk - by doing common sense things. But by locking down everything for such long periods off time and seeing hypocrisy happening all the time you are forcing non-idiots to start to behave irrationally.

pstarSR Jan 15, 2021 02:31 PM
Rounding the Corner

1. why is this a new post. just reply to your other post, where I posted my reply. 2. so just give up then? sorry but no dice. thats not how this works.

sblocal1967 Jan 15, 2021 12:20 PM
Rounding the Corner

Everything is shut down - yet there is still a spike and old people are still getting it . How might you ask? It appears the lock down is having the opposite effect. Idiots do not care about lock downs - because they are idiots - they will continue to do stupid things and infect the people around them who in many cases are just as complicit by exposing themselves to these idiots. The fact that the majority of our society which is not idiots have to be locked down is government at its worse. No one is addressing the root cause and dealing with specifics. If a specific subset of the population is doing stupid things, then find out what they are doing and control them. Covid is is huge booming business for the government - they have no incentive to make things better. Government is about getting more people to rely on them and telling people what to do. So they like Covid - it gives them more power. The fact that the gov't cant figure out an efficient way to dole at vaccines is just another example of their incompetence. Van Do-Reynoso - get your act together.

a-1610762608 Jan 15, 2021 06:03 PM
Rounding the Corner

4:31 PM - Wishful thinking, but still baloney.

LooseCannon Jan 15, 2021 04:31 PM
Rounding the Corner

PSTARSR "then you need to go outside..."

Uh, no, people going maskless outdoors aren't the ones responsible for the spread. Thanks to Brownian motion, dilution caused by air circulation, the virus is quickly rendered harmless outside. It simply isn't possible to get a lethal viral dose outside, unless someone literally sneezes in your face.

The cause is almost entirely spread indoors. Period.

GeneralTree Jan 15, 2021 02:43 PM
Rounding the Corner

I agree with PSSTAR - where are these lockdowns other than restaurants? I've seen numerous stores open that aren't restricting capacity at all. When we had our initial lock down last year - you could hear a pin drop, the freeways were empty. And now, traffic is everywhere, mall parking is full. People had Halloween,Thanksgiving,Christmas and New Years gatherings. So what is this lockdown everyone is talking about?

pstarSR Jan 15, 2021 01:09 PM
Rounding the Corner

sorry but I went to the break water last week to do some work on a boat. If you think "we have been locked down..." then you need to go outside. go to the beach, or the break water. I have not seen that many unmasked, close proximity groups in almost an entire year. We are not locked down how we should, because there are people out there that are NOT following the rules. So should we blame the lockdown that this isnt working? point the blame in the right spot.

SBTownie Jan 15, 2021 12:23 PM
Rounding the Corner

SBLocal - I agree the shutdown is not working WELL. But to state the lockdown is having the "opposite effect" - in other words, driving infection - demonstrates a failure on your part to logically assess this. Are you actually claiming if we had no "lock down" that we would have fewer infections? Others on this board are, which just boggles the mind. Just because the shutdown does not work well because as we agree many people are selfishly flouting the rules, does not mean that with no shutdown we would not be faring fare worse (which is the logical and likely outcome).

SBTownie Jan 15, 2021 12:08 PM
Rounding the Corner

Rounding the corner? Oh come on. We've been vaccinating for a month and we've only done a few thousand people. PHD claims we can't open it up to those over 65 or those with preexisting conditions because we don't have supply. We are going at a snail's pace. This is a failure on all levels. Last night Do Reynoso admitted the county hadn't been ordering its full allotment! In fact, they had been ordering far less than we were entitled to until now... We'll be rounding the corner a year or two from now at this rate. Ridiculous.

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