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Local experts explain how Houstonians could benefit from Pfizer vaccine

HOUSTON – By the end of this month, Pfizer claims they will have the data ready to submit to the FDA for emergency use authorization.

“This is one of the most significant medical advances in the last 100 years,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, said.

Pfizer claims its vaccine is 90% effective. In previous statements, doctors were hoping for something as little as 50% to 70% effective.

Dr. Hana El Sahly, with the Baylor College of Medicine, said the efficacy is excellent news but there’s a lot of questions remaining about for whom it’s most effective.

“There will be more data coming that tells us who are the people who benefited from this... are they the young, are they the old, are they the people with underlying illnesses, are they otherwise healthy? So there’s a lot more to learn, and especially since COVID-19 is not a disease that behaves in the same way in everyone,” Dr. El Sahly said.

El Sahly actually oversees the Moderna trial for Baylor College of Medicine. While that is technically a competitor, in this case, Pfizer’s success is good news for all potential vaccines.

“This is precise because most of the vaccines that are now in phase three clinical testing are actually based on that same protein, the spike protein of the virus,” she said.

How much will a successful vaccine cost for the general public?

Nothing.

According to Operation Warp Speed, “The U.S. government will pay the companies $1.95 billion upon the receipt of the first 100 million doses, following FDA authorization or approval. The U.S. government also can acquire up to an additional 500 million doses. Americans will receive the vaccine for free consistent with the U.S. government’s commitment for free access for COVID-19 vaccines."

Where will it be available?

Local health departments are working on the logistics for where the vaccines can go and be stored.

Pharmacies are a likely option for distributing.

Should I wait to get the vaccine?

Some infectious disease experts, including Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine, believe the first vaccine available may not be the one that’s proven most effective in the long run.

However, Hotez said, for your safety, get the first one the FDA approves.

“I’m often asked the question, ‘hey Dr. Hotez which vaccine are you waiting for?’ That’s the wrong question I’m not waiting for anything,” Hotez explained. “I will take any vaccine that is made available that has been approved by the FDA, knowing that the vaccine, the first vaccines coming out may not be our best ones. That’s OK, at least we get some Virus neutralizing antibodies in our system.”