PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There has been recent excitement over the effectiveness of potential coronavirus vaccines, including the one by Pfizer.
The company announced it can prevent 90 coronavirus infections for every 100 people vaccinated with two doses.
“The 90 percent efficacy was seven days after the second dose,” says Dr. Marc Itskowitz, a primary care internist at the Allegheny Health Network. “We were hoping it would be at least 50 percent. A 90 percent efficacy rate is fantastic. It’s a game-changer. It’s beyond our expectations.”
After the scientific community reviews the data, seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA would be the likely next step for Pfizer.
“They pointed out there were no serious safety concerns, and so we’re getting the excellent combination of efficacy and safety. That’s what we want in a new vaccine, especially a vaccine that was brought to market so quickly,” says Dr. Itskowitz.
It’s possible 10 or 30 million doses could be available once authorization happens. Vaccine makers have already started mass production. Usually, a company will wait for FDA approval first.
“They basically decided they were going to start the manufacturing process as they studied this, as they conducted the trials so that if the trials were successful, we would have access to this vaccine as soon as possible,” Dr. Itskowitz said.
The logistics of ramping up greater production and distribution will take a lot of planning. The vaccine needs long-term cold storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius. But for the short term, it can be refrigerated for five days.
This means a distribution site has to be ready to immunize as soon as the shipment arrives.
“It will probably have to be done around the clock to meet that five-day deadline if this cold storage issue becomes a problem,” Dr. Itskowitz says.
The states will be coordinating the priority groups.
“The first group will be frontline health care workers and first responders. The second group will be people at risk for serious illness. And then the third group will be the general population,” says Dr. Itskowitz.
“The most important group in my mind is that second population, the people who are really vulnerable to hospitalization,” he added.
It may take a full year to vaccinate the majority of the population and yearly immunizations may be needed.
“This vaccine represents the most clear pathway to end this pandemic,” Dr. Itskowitz says.
A steady increase in production could result in vaccines being available to most Americans by mid-2021.