MCG expert: Pfizer vaccine “looks promising”

Coronavirus

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – We spoke with infectious diseases expert, Dr. Rodger MacArthur, and he told NewsChannel 6 the latest vaccine news looks promising.

“They [Pfizer] are predicting that they will be able to make 50 million doses of the vaccine by the end of this year,” said Dr. MacArthur, who works in Infectious Diseases at Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for. A glimmer of hope that one day life will be back to normal. Health experts have told us that hinges on a safe and effective vaccine. Pfizer announced that its latest clinical trial is 90 percent effective at preventing coronavirus.

But just how safe is it?

Dr. MacArthur said, “We’re still waiting for the safety information. The FDA wants to see the full two months after the last dose of the vaccine for everybody in the trial before they can conclude that it is safe.”

MacArthur explained Pfizer is testing a vaccine given in two doses in a 28 day period. Independent monitors saw 94 infections in a study of 44,000 people and MacArthur said most of those with the virus had the placebo. The determining factor for just how safe it is lies in how minor the side effects are for people, which MacArthur said should be similar to influenza vaccine side effects such as a low grade fever, fatigue and muscle soreness. He added that the safety data does not yet tell if the vaccine is safe with a flu vaccine.

“They were able to fool the body into thinking it was exposed to SARS CoV-2 and the body produces antibodies,” Dr. MacArthur said of the technology used in the clinical trial. “It appears the antibodies are long lasting and of a sufficient level to prevent future exposures.”

Emory University School of Medicine released the following statement about Pfizer’s announcement:

“News of the Pfizer COVID vaccine interim results brings us hope that a vaccine might be effective in preventing COVID-19.  These finding are remarkable considering the timeline that everyone has been operating under to find a way to curtail COVID-19.  As with any clinical trial, the data will need to be examined and many questions remain to be answered including how long the protection will last and whether the vaccine prevents severe cases or reduces transmission.”

Dr. Carlos del Rio
Executive Associate Dean at Emory University School of Medicine 

Pfizer reports 50 million doses should be ready by the end of the year split between the U.S. and other parts of the world.

“We’re down to about 12 or 13 million people in the U.S. who might be able to get the vaccine, under the best case scenario, by the end of December, which is very good news,” he assured. “But which 10 to 13 million? Do you start with nursing home residents, do you start with the elderly, first responders? How do you allocate the doses?”

Dr. MacArthur said this vaccine is not final, so that means you still need to wear a mask.

He is also unsure what AU’s role will be since it is not final.

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