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For the vaccine rollout to have not been planned is a massive failure of leadership at every level of gov’t: Emergency Medicine Physician

Dr. Jeremy Faust, Emergency Medicine Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel with the latest on COVID-19 vaccine distrubution.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." As we've been tracking the unfortunate numbers here in the coronavirus pandemic, yesterday's death tally crossing 4,400 daily deaths, as we continue to see that number rise. And here in this nation, we are continuing to await the approval here of another vaccine. Johnson & Johnson also reportedly facing issues, potentially two months behind in rolling that out as we await the upcoming statistics through that trial, which could come in the next couple of weeks here according to "The New York Times."

I want to bring in our next guest who has been looking at the death tallies and potentially seeing a comparison worthwhile to what we saw back in 1918 with the Spanish flu. Let's welcome Dr. Jeremy Faust, Emergency Medicine Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital. And Dr. Faust, it's good to be chatting with you again. I mean, obviously comparisons to the flu have been kind of there throughout this. Of course, people rightfully pointed out that this is not just another flu. But when you go back and compare it to the last pandemic that we saw here in the US on this scale, how close is it, the comparisons to what happened back in 1918?

JEREMY FAUST: We are just beginning to understand that, because right now we're kind of reaching what we now understand is the real peak, which echoes what happened in 1918 actually. In 1918, there was a spring surge that was pretty bad, and then things got better over the summer. Quite frankly, I think this summer was better than the 1918 summer. And then-- or-- the other way around, excuse me. And then this fall, now it's like, OK, let's compare October, November of 1918 to what we're going through right now.

And quite honestly, when you think about the fact you have 3,000, 4,000 Americans dying per day of coronavirus, if that keeps up for any period of time, then we're looking at similar numbers. It just can't be sustained without reaching the numbers. When you think about-- I think it's 700,000 people roughly were said to have died from Spanish flu during that pandemic. But that also was not all in one year, that was spread out over a couple of years. So if we keep adding numbers like this, even adjusting for our population, it's going to be a situation where, at some point, they're pretty similar. Now we're not there yet in many parts of the country, but in New York, the spring, we were there. So it's certainly in the ballpark.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah. That's a pretty sobering statement there sort of laying out the reality of what we're facing. I know you're about to get your second dose today of the coronavirus vaccine. There's a lot of questions about how the strategy nationally should be pivoted to ensure that more people are getting vaccinated at a time when we're hearing stories about vaccines being left on the shelves. Here in the state of New York, we had the state come out yesterday and say that those who are 65 and older can begin getting that as well. Do you think other states should be following that lead?

JEREMY FAUST: What I think should be happening is that we should have a plan that's not being thrown together at the last minute. Obviously that can't happen. We're living in the moment that we are living in. But it's unbelievable to me that there's not a plan for this when it was pretty obvious in the summer and the fall that there was a high likelihood that we'd have a vaccine rollout. So for this to not have been planned is a massive failure of leadership at every level of government. It's appalling. And, yeah, whatever it takes to get the vaccine into more arms. And the policy today announced by the Trump administration to release the more doses follows the Biden transition team's proposal to do the same.

And I want to be very clear on this-- this is not to say that people should skip the second dose. They're not saying, OK, it's fine to have one dose and then move on and give more people the first dose. That's not what's being said, that's not what was studied. Although there have been models that have suggested that doing so could save some lives here and there, it just hasn't really been studied. And the vaccines weren't developed, because we don't know how long the immunity would last. That's the biggest problem that you can't run into that. So what I think is really important is that that's not what's being suggested, to go to a one-dose regimen. What's being said is, if they release more now, they're confident in the production lines that everyone would have their second dose in time, kind of in a sense that we know it's coming even if it's not physically present.

I think that sounds like a good idea if that ends up being the case. The biggest issue, though, is we've vaccinated nine million people so far. And we're going to have to do 2,000 times more than that, right? We're going to have to get a 2000-time increase, right? We're going to have to get from nine million to over 200 million, right? That would be a 2000% increase over 9 million, right? And to do that, you have to really expand quickly, and you can't just use the systems we have in place. So we're talking about using pharmacies, and we think that maybe even things like fire stations and EMS might be a good way to go.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. And on that front too, I mean, we saw the report here from "The New York Times" that J&J might be running about two months behind in rolling out that next vaccine. Of course, there's going to be constraint issues. We saw that with Pfizer and Moderna being the only two, the hope that a third one could come in behind. But there's another issue here that I don't think we've talked about enough when it comes to Americans wanting to get this. You and other doctors out there have been pretty forthcoming about some of the side effects that might come through with a vaccine like this, including fatigue and fever.

But when we think about maybe the percentage of Americans who want to get this. Of course, when there's a shortage, you're going to see the lines like we've seen. But once you move past it, maybe people will understand the benefit of this vaccine and you get into larger populations who might be on the fence. We're now seeing Dollar General come out and say that they're going to be paying their retail employees to go get the COVID vaccine as quickly as possible. In your estimation, are more incentives like that necessary here based on the conversations you're having with patients or what you're hearing in the medical community? Because it does seem that there is perhaps some hesitations out there when you talk to the masses.

JEREMY FAUST: Yeah. And I think one of the ways to sort own this problem. And it's not really a problem, and that is to say it's not a problem, to say this is a vaccine that is a big old dose of what we call antigen. It's a big dose of the spike protein itself. Well, we make the spike protein, but the point is in a high concentration. And our immune system takes notice of that in a big way, which I see is a great positive thing, to say, oh, look it works. It makes our body really make these antibodies.

The downside of course, as you mentioned, is that it's just more inducing of side effects. And so we have to work that into our system. So one of the big things, I think incentivizing people may work. I think another thing that would really make a huge difference is to say, look, we also we're going to give you a day off afterwards. That's going to be going to be built-in.

So you get to-- on the reasonable chance that you don't feel great after the first or second dose, that's OK. We support you in that, and you'll get to hang out at home and just ride it out, take a little bit of medication, and you'll feel it you'll feel better. That's essentially what happened to me the first time, and what I expect to happen later today or tonight. So I think that building those assumptions into our messaging and into our policies will not only reassure people, but also just that the convenience that people are going to be missing work for this. That's a big enough reason for many people just to not get the vaccine. So I think that's a really crucial thing to do, is to support them financially in that.

AKIKO FUJITA: Dr. Jeremy Faust, Emergency Medicine Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital. It's always good to have you on the show. Appreciate you stopping by today.

JEREMY FAUST: Thanks so much. Good to see you guys.