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Be patient — you will get yours

According to information released Tuesday afternoon by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 163,371 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered so far in this state. With a total population of approximately 5.86 million, that is, well, you can do the math. Suffice it to say it’s been a slow roll-out.

But what should we expect? This national effort to quickly inoculate an entire population against a disease we didn’t even know existed until a little more than a year ago is completely unprecedented. When this pandemic first broke loose last spring, many public health experts said it could be years before an effective vaccine might be ready, and now here we are, about 10 months after the first cases were reported here, already getting vaccination shots in the arms of frontline healthcare workers. If you think about it only from the perspective of how inconvenienced you have been due to COVID-19, that may seem like a long time, but in the history of public health, this vaccine has come at lightning speed.

While this coronavirus itself was new, the technology in place to begin to fight it is not. In fact, scientists in recent years had made remarkable progress in developing techniques to build vaccines against new disease threats, so they had a head start when COVID-19 appeared. It was relatively simple to identify the COVID-19 genetic sequence once it appeared, and scientists then just had to apply the techniques they had already invented to this particular virus. The result is a vaccine within 10 months of an outbreak start. If this virus had shown itself even 10 years ago, it would likely have been far worse as science would not have been as ready for it. Consider ourselves lucky, if you will.

Now, although vaccines are being produced by the millions, the scale of the immunization program now underway is unprecedented. There will be bottlenecks, there will be supply issues, not everyone will get a dose as fast as they think they should. We’re off to a start, at least -- although some are griping it’s too slow -- but soon our healthcare workers will be protected, and then it will be the elderly, and eventually, enough shots will be available to all. It will take some time, very likely several months yet. And while that may seem a long time to wait, think of those in underdeveloped countries who may wait years, and still may never be protected.

We should consider ourselves fortunate to be as close as we are.