Tampa Bay area doctors look ahead to promise for COVID-19 vaccine, state's vaccination plan

Posted at 6:31 PM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 03:55:21-05

TAMPA, Fla.— Tampa Bay area doctors are calling the major development from a pharmaceutical company promising and exciting news as the country continues its fight against COVID-19.

Pfizer announced its vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, according to early data from its Phase 3 trial.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO.

Pfizer explained the case split between those vaccinated and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90% after the second dose. The company said as the study continues, that final percentage may change.

Pfizer says it plans to submit for FDA Emergency Use Authorization after they reach a required safety milestone, which it says is expected to happen the third week of November.

“To think that, we didn’t know anything about this virus this time last year,” said USF Health’s Dr. Michael Teng. “And now 10 months later, there’s something that looks like a potential vaccine, that’s crazy. That’s just unheard of for vaccines.”

While a fast-moving process, Dr. Teng says companies aren’t taking safety shortcuts. He says among those who will be first in line when a vaccine becomes available are healthcare workers.

“That’ll also actually help too because if you know that your doctor has gotten the vaccine already, I think a lot of people will know that this is probably safe,” said Dr. Teng. “You trust your doctor, you trust they know what they’re doing.”

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has drafted a preliminary COVID-19 vaccination plan, which lays out a phased approach. Phase One looks at “potentially limited dose availability,” with possible vaccine supplied to hospitals, long-term care staff and residents, first responders, and law enforcement. The DOH expects initial priority groups will include healthcare personnel, essential workers, people with medical conditions at high risk for COVID-19 complications, and older adults.

In Phase Two as more vaccine becomes available, pediatricians, primary care doctors, and pharmacies could receive doses. For Phase Three, the DOH writes, “once the vaccine is widely available and demand for the vaccine stabilizes, the state will transition to providing the vaccine through routine health care delivery systems, including commercial pharmacies.”

The DOH’s drafted plan could change based on guidance from the CDC.

“Every state is going to make their own plans and I think it’s going to be really different for Wyoming for example than for Florida,” said Dr. Teng.