King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin struck an optimistic tone Friday, predicting that the region could have the worst of the pandemic behind it in a matter of months, if not weeks.
Dr. Duchin cited a number of reasons for his positive outlook, including falling case and hospitalization rates, a ramping up of vaccine distribution, and an additional single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine that could be approved by the FDA as soon as early next week.
“We have many reasons to be encouraged as a community,” he said. “Complacency now would be a major mistake, but we’re in a much better place today than we were a month ago, and we’re headed closer toward a possible return to normalcy in a few months.”
“With a few more weeks of serious caution and vigilance, we may be able to put the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us,” he added. “We are getting close to putting this in the rearview mirror.”
Duchin also touted the fact that last week marked the first time over the course of the entire pandemic that King County didn’t see a single new COVID-19 case in a long term facility.
In the days ahead, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could prove integral to speeding up the county and state’s timeline for putting an end to the pandemic. That vaccine cleared a major hurdle Friday, after an FDA panel unanimously recommended it for emergency use.
The vaccine also carries significant advantages over those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.
“This is a very good vaccine,” Dr. Duchin said. “It has some very attractive features: It’s a single dose, very easy to store, it’s highly effective, and potentially has fewer side effects.”
Even so, he also emphasized that people should take whatever vaccine is available, and that all three are “highly effective” at preventing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
“The real advice is if there’s a vaccine available to you, take it,” he advised. “We can say with high confidence that all of these vaccines protect to a very high degree against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.”