If want you want to see how COVID-19 vaccines are working out in the real world, take a glance at the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD). As essential workers, many of them received their first vaccines in December 2020 and they have since reported a noticeable decline in COVID-19 cases within the force.
“Since the 1st vaccination clinics in late December, we are reporting steep declines in our internal COVID test positivity rates,” the LACoFD tweeted last Friday.
The LACoFD recently reported their COVID-19 test positivity rates among their staff had fallen from 18 percent at its highest weekly average to its current rate of 5.6 percent, according to City News Service.
They’ve also seen a significant drop in the number of sick days being taken by their crews. Speaking at an online panel discussion in early January 2021, LACoFD Medical Director Dr Clayton Kazan said the fire department was facing “significant challenges” with their stretched workforce towards the end of 2020, with 10 to 15 percent off sick with at any given time, largely due to COVID-19.
"We were getting kicked in the teeth. Just when people were starting to get people coming back [to work after being sick], we'd get 20 people back, but then 25 more off sick," said Dr Kazan. “We peaked at around 340 who were off sick all at once.”
“Several of them hit the hospital. A handful of them hit the ICU [intensive care unit],” he added.
Fortunately, the tide is now turning, and the vaccines are thought to be playing a major role.
“As expected, the vaccine began to have its impact seven to 10 days after the first vaccines were given,’’ Dr Kazan said in a statement to City News Service on January 22.
“As the county continues to surge, new cases among department personnel began dropping precipitously as did our test positivity rate,’’ Kazan said. “This is the first time in the entire pandemic that our data diverged from that of the County.’’
These results are unpublished and not part of any scientific report, so the reports should be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, it's worth considering that firefighters are a relatively young, active, and healthy group of people and might not necessarily be representative of the wider population. Nevertheless, this scenario makes for an interesting preliminary insight into the effect of COVID-19 vaccines in the real world, outside of clinical trials.
The first COVID-19 vaccine in the US was given to an ICU nurse in New York City on December 14, 2020. Since then, 19.9 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on January 27.
For more information about COVID-19, check out the IFLScience COVID-19 hub where you can follow the current state of the pandemic, the progress of vaccine development, and further insights into the disease.