Medical Minute: An update on COVID and flu vaccines

On Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced new COVID restrictions across Germany. These increased restrictions extend the lockdown until at least Jan. 10. In Kaiserslautern, COVID case counts remain elevated, 124-130 cases per 100 thousand.

Unfortunately, Germany continues to see increasing mortality rates (death rates) across the country. Kaiserslautern has had over two times the number of deaths in the last 30 days as they experienced in the first nine months of the pandemic.

On Ramstein, the number of active cases is also on an upward trend over the past week. Leadership is taking a hard look at the various base facilities, and we can expect additional restrictions on base in accordance with host nation guidance. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Emergency Use Authorization for the first U.S. COVID vaccine. This is the Pfizer product, the same immunization that the United Kingdom started administering to their citizens earlier this month. The next product being considered is the Moderna vaccine, which is scheduled to be considered by the FDA this week.

The FDA only authorizes the use of a vaccine after careful and rigorous testing and trials. I have no information with regard to when we will receive the vaccine locally, but Landstuhl Regional Medical Center will be one of the first overseas medical treatment facilities to receive the doses. Vaccines will initially be available to a limited number of personnel, based on the phased approach outlined by the Department of Defense and the Defense Health Agency. I will be sure to share information in this forum as it becomes available.

On the influenza front, we administered our partial allotment of 3,500 doses last week. Many of you were not able to receive the vaccine. We are waiting for the complete shipment, which should deliver approximately 8,000 more doses. The good news is that all of the 1,002 surveillance specimens tested across Europe last week were negative. Additionally, there were no hospital laboratory confirmed cases in Europe last week. Similar data is seen in the United States, where influenza numbers are well below expected baselines for this time of year. The CDC Influenza Surveillance website is:

Remember, prevention measures for COVID also prevent spread of the flu. Until next week, stay safe and healthy. Wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear your mask!