DANIEL VAUGHAN: America’s vaccine Hanukkah miracle

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is the Jewish festival of lights and commemorates a miracle. Oil lamps lit by Jews struggling for survival and the right to live according to their faith didn’t go out for eight days, despite a shortage of oil for the lamps.

The lighting of the lights is a reminder of God’s continuing blessing in times of great distress.

The COVID-19 pandemic is our own great calamity, and we’re in the process of witnessing a similar miracle. Politico reports that pharmacists contacted Pfizer almost immediately upon beginning to administer the vaccine because they realized each of the vials had additional doses in them.

Put another way, there was more of the vaccine available than Pfizer’s labels indicated. Those labels said the vaccination vials were supposed to contain five doses. That wasn’t what health care workers found, however. 

Instead, pharmacists and nurses found they had six and sometimes seven full doses available in each vial. According to Politico, it’s estimated that “[u]sing every drop from overfilled vials could boost available doses by up to 40 percent.”

The outlet further reported: “Manufacturers typically overfill vaccine vials to safeguard against spills and other waste, said Erin Fox, a pharmacy expert at the University of Utah who monitors drug shortages. ‘It’s pretty unusual to have a full extra dose or more though — but it does seem to be there!’ she said in an email.”

It’s still early in the process, with the first vaccinations just going out this week in the United States and last week in the United Kingdom. According to The New York Times, “Pfizer has said it has manufactured enough vaccine to supply at least 25 million doses — enough for 12.5 million people since it requires two shots — to the United States before the end of the year, but federal officials have allocated it carefully, doling out only 2.9 million doses beginning this week after the F.D.A. authorized its emergency use last Friday.”

Using some back of the envelope math, if we could squeeze 40% more doses out of Pfizer’s initial 25 million batches, that alone could increase the supply by approximately 10 million, enough to give five million people two doses.

Combined with the unfortunate spike in real cases across the country, this provides a fast ramp towards total herd immunity.

I wouldn’t expect to hit as optimistic a number as 40%. Still, any increase in the vaccination doses we have is an increase in the number of people who are no longer threatened by a pandemic unleashed on the world from China. And none of this counts the 100 million vaccine doses the United States purchased from Moderna.

American ingenuity is going beyond mere scientific research; it’s extending to your local pharmacies and hospitals, who are the heroes who found the possibility of stretching these vaccines even further.

American greatness and exceptionalism are infecting every single part of the health care distribution chain. Far from being simple providers, they’ve gone beyond and found more where none exists prior. You won’t find this kind of ingenuity in the birthplace of the virus — only deception and death. And you won’t find it in the socialist health care systems desperately depending on Americans to deliver solutions and victory where none existed prior.

That amount is more than enough to safeguard not only America’s front-line responders in nursing, doctors, hospitals, long-term and elderly care, and beyond, but also vaccinate nursing homes and all high-risk populations. In a few short months, we could go from being threatened by a monster to effectively preventing its ability to sweep through high-risk populations.

This moment is our Hannukah miracle. God’s gift to America. A vaccine vial with more in it. A reminder of the eternal guiding hand of Providence on America. Anne Frank once said, “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

That’s America right now. We defy the darkness of a pandemic descending on the world and turn this into another defining historical moment. We still face a long road of economic recovery from the pandemic, the seeds of which we haven’t begun to witness just yet. But the incredible success of Operation Warp Speed cannot be understated. We’re in the midst of one of the greatest medical marvels in history.

We have a long way to go, for sure. The current wave of the coronavirus seems only to deepen every day, but the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel is there. And with news that the number of vaccine doses available is going up, the story is getting better. It’s not just good news, it’s miraculous news.