In March 2020, the United States was in the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We shut down the entire country and ground the economy to a halt to slow the spread of the virus. Think back to March and how much uncertainty we were living under.
Nine months later, the FDA approved 2 COVID-19 vaccines under emergency authorization. Before New Year’s Day, millions of Americans had received the vaccine, including frontline physicians and health care providers and nursing home patients, our most vulnerable citizens.
Nine months. Take a moment to let that sink in.
The mainstream media has crafted a narrative about the COVID-19 pandemic that’s almost entirely negative. For the purpose of ratings, they have described the US response to the pandemic as blundering from 1 mistake to the next. This narrative is false.
There is another way—a more accurate and underappreciated way—to tell the story of the past 9 months. It is a story of heroism, innovation, and precise science, performed under unbelievable pressure. It is the story of physicians, like Jennifer Frontera, MD, neurointensivist, NYU Langone, and David Langer, MD, chair of neurosurgery, Lenox Hill Hospital, answering the call and stepping into converted hospital settings, like the Javits Center, to care for patients. It’s the story of medical organizations, like the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC), building resources and tools to help physicians stay up to date on the best care practices during such a difficult time.
In the neurology community, clinicians made adjustments, including new strategies for clinical care, to ensure medicine supply lines remained unburdened for patients with conditions like epilepsy. They also adjusted to massive shifts toward telemedicine and televisits, with experts like Jessica Zwerling, MD, MS, offering their best practices on the use of these tools in different patient populations. As well, organizations like the American Stroke Association and American Headache Society established guidelines and members published viewpoints sharing their expertise.
Let’s not mince words: The US and the world must appreciate the role of the pharmaceutical industry—the investigators, physicians, and business leaders—who are rescuing the world from COVID-19. It’s the medical breakthrough of our lifetime.
Instead of dwelling on why many in the media are ignoring this, let’s review some facts.
The next step of the process—distribution of the vaccine—will be as challenging as the development phase, if not more so. But again, the pharmaceutical industry is rising to the occasion. Factories worldwide are working overdrive to produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses. Less than a month after the Pfizer vaccine was approved, more than 15.4 million doses of vaccine have been distributed throughout the country, and more than 4.6 million individuals have received their first dose, according to CDC data. Many patients are already receiving their second dose.
Although 15.4 million doses are impressive, some expected 20 million doses. But that is moving the goal line, as 6 months ago many observers didn’t think a vaccine would be available until 2021.
Members of our COVID Coalition told us that the holidays slowed the rollout considerably. Nancy Messonnier, MD, a physician with the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, expects a rapid increase in administered vaccines during the first few days of 2021.
Every day, more people will be vaccinated. After health care workers and our most vulnerable citizens, other frontline workers will be next. Teachers will be vaccinated so our children can return to school. And soon, all Americans will be able to receive the vaccine at their doctor’s office or at a CVS or Walgreens.
Remember, we accomplished this in 9 months, with the help, dedication, and expertise of our pharmaceutical industry heroes. Next time you turn on the TV and see negativity, turn it off and imagine instead where we will be in 9 months.
Mike Hennessy Sr is the founder and chairman of MJH Life Sciences.