Local health officials both ‘hopeful’ and ‘cautious’ about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine progress

Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 5:46 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Local health care professionals say they are ‘hopeful’ but ‘cautious’ as word spreads of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine having an efficacy rate of more than 90 percent.

“I woke up with a smile today when I saw that tweet,” said Dr. Ashok Rai, President/CEO of Prevea Health. “In all honesty, that’s a better efficacy than we were initially hoping for.”

To put it into perspective, Dr. Rai compared the COVID-19 vaccine to the influenza vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 40-60 percent.

“When you start talking 90% effectiveness, you’re talking about the ability to eradicate something such as measles, such as smallpox, such as chickenpox. When you start getting that 90% level, you’re talking about completely getting rid of it, not having to worry about something, if you get a lot of people to take the vaccine,” said Dr. Rai.

“When you get a vaccine that has that type of efficacy rate, that allows us to go back to an environment where we can have our businesses open, our schools open and back to what would be the new normal,” said Laura Hieb, Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice-President of Bellin Health.

Both local health care providers said they are waiting for more data to be released from Pfizer in the day ahead as the pharmaceutical giant looks for an ‘emergency use authorization’ from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before the end of the month.

Because there are many companies looking to create a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, Action 2 News asked Dr. Rai about its claim of 90 percent efficacy.

“The ultimate fact check is when this is peer reviewed. In other words, other scientists have looked at their data picked it apart and said it was a good study. So that’s the next part and then the ultimate is when it comes in front of the FDA for that emergency use authorization,” said Dr. Rai. “Remember efficacy is only one part of the equation, safety is the other so we are going to want to look at that (data) and dive into that. But right now, for a company to come out and say 90% efficacy, knowing that they’re going to go through a ton of screenings, means that they’re pretty solid about their opinion.”

Dr. Rai said we don’t know how long the vaccine would be effecting, but based on the study, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine would come in two doses, about 30 days apart.

Although this is good news, both Dr. Rai and Hieb urge patience and encourage everyone to continue following CDC guidelines.

“It isn’t going to happen overnight so I think we have to demonstrate some patience as well as compliance with the standards so that we continue to stay safe while we get the vaccine distributed and get those who need it most,” said Hieb.

“What we don’t want to happen is that with that little bit of hope, everybody forgets what we need to do right now to get us to that end point,” said Dr. Rai. “That is my number one fear, that the message around getting tested, wearing your mask and physically distancing will somehow get diluted by the good news. We need to get to that good news point, but at least we know that there’s a point. Now we got to do everything to get us there.”

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