Local vaccine expert, Dr. Peter Hotez, weighs in on efficacy of three COVID vaccine candidates

HOUSTON – The Woodlands is one of 300 locations where AstraZeneca is testing their vaccine candidate and on Monday, the company released good news on its effectiveness.

They say it’s 90% effective when recipients received a half dose followed by a full dose 1 month apart, 62% efficacy when given as two full doses one month apart.

“There’s a huge advantage to starting with a half dose- we can dose more people around the world,” said Rudd Dobber, exec. VP, AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals business unit.

Several major vaccines have studies happening locally. AstraZeneca’s phase 3 trial is taking place in the Woodlands at Village Medical Center. They said 1,000 people will receive the vaccine and 500 will receive a placebo.

They are still taking applicants and in need of a diverse population to take part in the trial.

Expert on vaccine development from Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Peter Hotez, said eventually you may have a choice in these vaccines, but right now, they all look so promising, you should take whichever one is available to you first.

“Don’t try to cherry pick, don’t overthink it, don’t think about gaming the system saying, ‘I want this one versus the others,’ right now they’re all in play,” Dr. Hotez said. “You may have some degree of choice of which one you get but for now it’s going to be, given the fact that it’s going to take time to scale up production and roll it out to the American people, you’ll probably be presented with an up or down choice. Basically, here’s one that’s available take it or leave it and the answer is take it. You have access. We don’t know enough about any of these vaccines to make an informed decision in choosing one over the other.”

According to Gov. Greg Abbott, healthcare workers will be the first to have access to a vaccine once one is approved.

None of the local hospital systems have a date for when they’ll receive that yet but they are working on plans for who within their health system would get a vaccine first.

Houston Methodist said they are one of the city’s prepositioned sites and will get the Pfizer vaccine likely 24 hours after FDA issues Emergency Use Authorization.

UTMB said they also anticipate they’ll receive the Pfizer vaccine and have the freezer capability to store the drug.

Pfizer was the first to apply for Emergency Use Authorization.