Work on a vaccine against COVID-19 is ongoing and there is hope, but Alzheimer’s looms as a major health threat in the decades to come.
Those were two of the messages Sarah Graff, a representative of Missouri Senator Roy Blunt brought to Centralia Thursday when she spoke to an audience of 15 Centralia Kiwanians over lunch at the Centralia United Methodist Church
Blunt she said, serves as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on the senate’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education committee, which has input into the federal government’s vaccination program, “Operation Warp Speed.”
The name, she said, referred to speed at which a vaccination against COVID-19 will be brought to market, not to the safety protocols. “The ‘warp speed’ part is the speed in which it will go to market and get distributed. It will still go through the same safety regimens that any vaccine would.”
The government, she said invested in the creation of are four different vaccines before they are approved. She said all four are now in the last phase of clinical trials, Graff said. “All are being manufactured with anticipation of approval.”
That means the government will be in a better position to get the final vaccine distributed as quickly as possible. “The military will get them out the next day… The goal is to have 300 million doses available immediately after they are approved by the FDA… They will be ready to rock and roll when the FDA approves it.”
She clarified that to explain the military would distribute the vaccines to the states.
“The CDC, the NIH the National Academies of Health, they all worked together to figure out who’s going to get the vaccine first.”
The top two priorities, Graff said, would be health care workers and other essential workers and people at high risk.
Within the states, according to a fact sheet she shared, state and local health departments will have plans to distribute and administer the vaccine.
Those four potential vaccinations each require two doses to be administered several weeks apart.
Blunt, she said, has been very involved in the funding of the program and has regular communication with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and had worked with him prior to the onset of COVID-19.
The future of COVID-19 relief funds was dependent on how the election turned out.
The suggested there were three possibilities
- Democrats could emerge with control of the US House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House
- Republicans could keep the Senate and Democrats could control the House and the White House
- Or status quo.
She said “status quo,” might produce some movement on relief by the end of the year because the government must pass appropriations bills, the current federal budget ends December 11.
From there Graff discussed Alzheimer’s disease.
“Many folks don’t realize that it is the most expensive disease in the United States. Right now, in 2020 there are 5.8 million Americans, age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In 30 years, by 2050 there’s going to be 13.5 million people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.” That would be approximately, she said, 16 percent of the population, currently it is approximately 10 perecnet. “It is a serious, serious long-term situation for the financial future of the country.”
She said that would mean “$1.1 trillion, mostly out of Medicare – the federal government.”
She said that would be twice the defense budget.
Financially, for the patients, caregivers and families, it is a smart investment to research a cure.
Even if the onset of the disease could be delayed by five years, Graff said it would save $367 billion by 2050.
“That is one reason why the senator focuses on, works closely with the Alzheimer’s Association and will continue to look for funding for research for that and other diseases.”