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Tampa Bay doctors answer questions surrounding COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine candidate begins final test
Posted at 6:10 PM, Nov 17, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — Two companies say their vaccines may be highly effective against COVID-19. Tampa Bay Area doctors are answering questions surrounding the vaccine candidates in a promising development during a global pandemic.

Moderna announced Monday its COVID-19 vaccine could be nearly 95% effective, according to its early data. Last week, Pfizer also shared that its vaccine could be more than 90% effective based on similar early data from its Phase 3 trial.

“If you were actually going to wish for numbers to come out, this is what you’d wish for, for a vaccine,” said USF Health’s Dr. Michael Teng.

Teng says if these numbers hold up, 90% efficacy for a vaccine is among the highest that they have. Teng explains next steps include finishing up a two month safety period, while companies prepare to submit for FDA Emergency Use Authorization.

Dr. Teng says though it’s been a fast process, these trials aren’t taking safety shortcuts.

“Every vaccine when you get a shot, you’re going to have some swelling, maybe some pain, things like that,” said Dr. Teng. “A small percentage of people get maybe a little bit of fatigue that we normally get with a lot of vaccines that we get. These are not serious, so these vaccines seem to be just as safe as pretty much all the other vaccines out there.”

Dr. Teng told ABC Action News in an interview last week healthcare workers are waiting to line up for a vaccine, which could give people confidence a vaccine is probably safe. In terms of choosing which vaccine to get if they do get authorization, Teng thinks at some level, you might not have that much of a choice, pointing to production capacity and availability.

“You’re probably not going to have options,” said Dr. Teng. “If you get the flu shot, you don’t actually choose which one you get. You just kind of get whatever your physician has or whatever the drug store is holding, and they’re all fairly similar in efficacy.”

Teng explained another step to tackle will be logistics, like how to ramp up production and getting vaccines where they need to be. Plans are underway on how to roll out a vaccine, with certain groups expected to get doses first.

“If you have the opportunity to get it, get it sooner rather than later because we’re seeing a huge spike in cases and its spreading really quickly," said Dr. Teng.