Full FDA approval, baked goods and other things you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

June 10, 2021
A line of four different glazed doughnuts
Krispy Kreme thinks it's pretty sweet if you get vaccinated. Photo by Najla Cam on Unsplash

Beer. Doughnuts. Lotteries.

There is no way that in 2019 you would have believed those words would be related to a vaccine. And yet, here we are. In the never-ending battle against vaccine hesitancy, states and employers are getting increasingly more creative (or desperate, depending on your viewpoint) in how they are looking to entice the roughly 55% of Americans who have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, California – states all across the country seem to be offering incentives. Even Krispy Kreme is even getting in on the action. And just last week, West Virginia announced it would be offering rewards ranging from cash to trucks to guns. 

Danielle Scheurer, M.D., MUSC Health System chief quality officer, who oversees all things vaccine for the hospital system, is impressed by the creativity people have been showing.

“It’s so interesting to see what people respond to,” she said. “I think in the end, you just have to figure out people’s currency.” 

With the vaccine landscape still in a state of flux, we are periodically checking in with Scheurer to ask her the most pertinent questions that are hanging in the balance.

Q. What is the most popular or effective way MUSC is providing vaccines right now?

A. It’s about half appointments, half walk-ups right now. Because of that, we’ve tried to completely decentralize. We’re moving away from the large sites and are more focused on giving people the opportunity to get vaccinated in more places. So right now, we offer the vaccine at virtually all MUSC locations. Meaning that if it’s an MUSC building, the odds are you can get a vaccine there, without an appointment. 

Q. How many people are we vaccinating a day right now? 

A. Somewhere around 1,000 a day if you combine all locations. The pace has really slowed down.

Q. President Biden wants 70% of Americans to be fully vaccinated by the July 4 holiday weekend. Do you think that’s possible for South Carolina?

A. If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll be about six months late for that deadline.

Q. So what kind of person isn’t getting vaccinated at this point? Is it anti-vaccine folks or is it still those who think it’s inconvenient?

A. I don’t think it’s a convenience thing anymore. There are ample opportunities to get vaccinated out there right now. It’s still a lot of younger folks in the 18 to 35 range who seem to think they don’t need it. On the bright side, the racial gap is closing. High-profile community and government leaders being vocal about how important it is to get vaccinated has a lot to do with that. And that’s happening both locally and nationally.

Q. Simple question: What do people who missed their second dose do?

A. They should still get in there and get their second dose. It doesn’t even matter if it’s been months since the first dose; you still go get it. The body still knows what to do.

Q. Any idea if or when a booster might be necessary and available?

A. We’re still in the “wait and see” phase. The manufacturers are saying yes, but they have obvious reasons why they feel that way. The science is still unknown. 

Q. There was a story in the NY Times talking about people who had COVID and got vaccinated – that they might not ever need a potential booster for the rest of their lives. First off, how do we know that and second, does that in a roundabout way indicate that natural immunity trumps vaccinated immunity?

A. I saw that too. To the first part, I think they had a large enough sample size and by looking at serum titers (blood tests that measure whether or not you are immune to a disease) in those who both got COVID and had the vaccine, they saw a ton of antibodies there. And to the second part of your question, if you look at what the risk of reinfection is amongst those who got COVID and those who got vaccinated, and it’s about the same. Where it’s tricky is some people mistakenly thought they got COVID and really didn’t. So it’s really just a matter of being better safe than sorry. We’re over a year into trial data, and we know these vaccines are crazy safe. And they’re effective. 

Q. Do you think full FDA approval of these vaccines will help with vaccine hesitancy?

A. I don’t think so. For the most part, that isn’t the reason people aren’t getting vaccinated. So directly speaking, I would be surprised if it sways a lot of people. That said, both OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) have said it is legal to mandate the vaccine. Now add in full FDA approval – which I suspect is coming in the next couple of weeks – and those employers who were on the fence might feel emboldened to make it mandatory. It’ll be super interesting to see how the employer thing shakes out. That might be the turning point to getting us to 70%. 

Q. When do we think children under the age of 12 will be able to be vaccinated? 

A. Last I heard they were thinking the end of summer. That seems pretty likely to me.

Q. This is basic and probably obvious to many by now, but just to be clear, what is safe for a vaccinated person to do in our state right now? 

A. I’ve tried to go along with the CDC. So if I’m outside, I don’t wear a mask, but if I’m inside I do. It’s just best to err on the side of wearing a mask. Some people have complicated family dynamics, and by doing so, they’re safeguarding them a little further. 

Q. Last question, where do we stand on a clinic for long-hauler COVID patients (those who still have lingering symptoms, such as loss of smell or taste)?

A. Our primary care team is putting together a clinic focused solely on them. Unfortunately right now, because there is still so much unknown about the long-term effects of this virus, it’s more focused on symptom management. But besides helping those with long-term complications, it will also help to screen out or identify people who might be suffering from something totally different than the effects of COVID.

**Have a question you'd like answered? Email it to donovanb@musc.edu with the subject line “Vaccine Q.”