Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine seems promising, steps needed before it is publicly available

Health departments finalizing plans for distribution
What the COVID vaccine results mean
Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 4:57 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Pfizer said an early look at its vaccine data suggested the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19.

Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean a vaccine is imminent. It still needs to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and local health departments are finalizing plans to get the vaccine to people.

“I’m sure that brings some confidence to the public,” said Rashmi Travis, Jackson County Health Officer.

Independent data monitors looked at 94 COVID-19 cases in people in Pfizer’s vaccine study. Nearly 44,000 people are in the study-either getting two doses of the vaccine or a placebo.

The data monitors showed fewer than 10 percent of the infections were in people who got the vaccine.

“You actually have a study in humans at least suggesting, and fairly strongly, the vaccine has the potential to prevent someone from getting infected,” said Dr. Andrea Amalfitano, Dean of Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Amalfitano said the next step is making sure the vaccine is safe.

“That’s really the key here. For example, you might make a great vaccine but it is too toxic to give to people because of the side affects,” said Dr. Amalfitano.

Pfizer said the plan is to make more than one billion doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021. President-elect Joe Biden said it will be free to all Americans.

But, it’s up to local health departments to get the vaccine to people. Travis said those plans have been in place for years.

“We’ve identified potential places where we can give vaccines,” she said.

MDHHS has its vaccine plan posted online.

That plan divides distribution into three phases. Those most at risk will likely get the vaccine first- including health care workers.

Travis said even if everyone gets a vaccine, it will still take time for the pandemic to end.

“It has to take hold, it has to be able to create an immune response in such that it is effective and it is protective for you and those you come in contact with,” said Travis.

Pfizer plans to ask for “Emergency Use Authorization” from the FDA by next week.

The FDA asked to monitor people in the clinical trials for two months after their second dose of the vaccine. Pfizer’s vaccine will be made in Michigan. The company’s largest manufacturing facility is in Kalamazoo.

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