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Local healthcare providers thrilled COVID-19 vaccine could be dispensed in a matter of days

Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:28 PM CST
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Pfizer says its vaccine appears to be 90 percent effective.
Pfizer says its vaccine appears to be 90 percent effective.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - There is excitement in the local healthcare community now that the FDA’s vaccine advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The panel voted after a full day of discussion to recommend that the FDA grant emergency use authorization for the vaccine.

Dr. Fred Lopez is an infectious diseases expert at LSU Health New Orleans.

“Several countries have already started to administer it and it is an exciting time and hopefully we’ll get more approvals in the upcoming weeks as Moderna’s vaccine and others come for evaluation as well,” said Lopez.

And Louisianans were part of the Pfizer clinical trials and others in Moderna’s vaccine investigation.

“It’s important that everyone be participating in these trials. We want a broad representation of the population throughout the United States participating in these trials so that we can see if they’re really effective amongst different demographics as well,” said Lopez.

Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses.

“There is some efficacy after the first dose but the full, approaching 95 percent effectiveness data that’s been released is after the second dose and people are going to need to get that second dose,” Lopez said.

Still, there remain unknowns about the vaccine and the virus.

“We don’t know how long immunity lasts in people who have been naturally infected, and we don’t know how long patients are going to be immune after receiving the vaccine,” said Lopez.

The CDC has said frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be the first to get the shots.

Louisiana U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy is a physician. He said mere hours before the FDA panel’s vote that how the rollout of the vaccine happens across the country will affect public confidence. Some polls show about 50 percent of Americans say they will not get the vaccine.

“And they will see its safe, it’s effective, it is reassuring,” Cassidy told a group of Louisiana reporters when asked about public skepticism.

This week Britain started dispensing Pfizer’s vaccine but there have been two reports of anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction, to the virus.

Cassidy said, “There’s always a potential for an allergic reaction to any medication, that is well-known, but you administer the medicine, the vaccine in this case when there is a healthcare provider there, and so if there is a significant allergic reaction it can be addressed.”

And Lopez says even with FDA authorization COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be monitored.

“The more people who receive them, we may be detecting additional adverse effects that weren’t picked up in these rather large phase 3 trials,” said Lopez.

He said even with a vaccine about to be distributed and dispensed mask-wearing social distancing, and hand-hygiene will not automatically become obsolete.

“Even people who develop some degree of immunity may still be infected and have no symptoms or very few symptoms and be capable of transmitting this infection. We just don’t know the answers, yet to those questions,” said Lopez.

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.

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