LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Drugmaker Pfizer announced Monday that early data showed its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective.
“We have been working basically around the clock for eight months,” Dr. Mika Dolsten, chief scientific officer at Pfizer, said. “This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, medical advance in the last 100 years.”
The pharmaceutical giant also said it would be applying for an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA as soon as final data meets safety milestones, which it expects to happen in the third week of November.
“I would suspect that if we get going and start the first rounds of vaccination in January, for us to have a significant impact in the populations, it’s going to take until into the summer,” Dr. Nicholas Testa, Dignity Health Division chief medical officer, said.
Testa, who is not involved with the Pfizer trial, said the early data appears to be promising, but that complete results must be published and peer reviewed. And, he said, even if that process goes smoothly, the need for facial coverings and social distancing will likely not change until the middle of next year.
“What people need to remember is it’s gonna be the ramping up of the vaccine and it’s not gonna be a ramping down of the other measures,” he said.
Testa said that the most vulnerable — frontline workers, the elderly and people with underlying chronic health conditions — will get the vaccine in the initial rollout.
“I would get it,” Glenn Sasale, a theater worker, said. “I think by the time it gets around to most of the population, it’ll be safe enough for all of us.”
“I just don’t think I would get it,” LoriAnn Bilal, a student, said. “It just feels very rushed, and I’d rather quarantine, self-isolate, kind of do what we’ve been doing.”
And while Testa said he understood the concerns of people who said they would not immediately get the vaccine, he said they were not scientifically founded.
The most common side effects, he said, were mild symptoms of the virus, such as aches, fatigue and low-grade fever. More serious side effects include severe allergic reaction or autoimmune response, which he said were very rare, as are longterm side effects of vaccines.
“I know people will have anxiety about the safety of the vaccine,” he said. “I honestly feel that the vaccine will be safe and it will be far better than what’s going on with COVID.”
Pfizer said that it has 50 million doses of the vaccine ready to go, about half of which will go to Americans. The company said it will be able to manufacture at least 1.3 billion doses by next year.