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Even with COVID-19 vaccines in sight, former FDA leader says states can slow spread now

Even with COVID-19 vaccines in sight, former FDA leader says states can slow spread now
Individual states can do a lot to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. A former Food and Drug Administration official, now with Duke University, has some advice. (Photo credit: WLOS)

Individual states can do a lot to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. A former Food and Drug Administration official, now with Duke University, has some advice.

Mark McClellan says with coronavirus vaccines being developed with more than 90% effectiveness, states will have an increasingly important role to play in the distribution of those vaccines early in 2021.

“Ways to get access to the vaccine conveniently in all neighborhoods and all communities around the state, particularly areas that are typically underserved,” says McClellan, a physician and economist who directs the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.

He knows COVID-19 is spreading.

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“We are not in control in any part of the country,” he says.

He says encouraging masks and distancing is vital and it's time for further steps to be taken from states, on the local, and even the federal level. He says he knows President-elect Joe Biden has even talked about a national mask mandate, although he says there are limits on a president’s authority.

“But I do think it’s time for every state and every mayor to be thinking about whether they’ve reached a level of lack of containment in their community where they have to pull back,” McClellan says.

The physician says now is the time to limit interacting with groups, even with the upcoming holidays.

Vaccines and antibody treatments, he says are promising, but it will still take time to implement.

“The months ahead are going to look better than the weeks ahead,” he says.

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He says the first vaccines will go to high risk groups, like health care workers, nursing homes and seniors with preexisting conditions. McClellan says by the second half of 2021, there will be availability to most Americans.

For the time being, McClellan says states have a lot of influence. He says a limited and focused effort can avoid broad lockdowns.

“There are a lot of states that are taking important steps starting with mask mandates. That's very important and proven to work and varying levels of distancing requirements,” he says. “These restrictions do help slow the spread.”

“I think the whole thing is a mess. But we got to use common sense, whoever we are and wherever we're at,” says local resident Ray Sharp.

McClellan says states legislatures will also have a key role to play helping businesses hard hit by the pandemic financially.

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