TAMPA, Fla. — An FDA advisory panel recommended the FDA approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for an emergency use authorization, bringing a sign of a light at the end of the tunnel for many during this pandemic.
That includes people who took part in the company’s clinical trial, wanting to help fight the virus and placing their hope in a potential vaccine.
“I’m excited, I’m proud, I’m happy, I’m relieved, hopefully we won’t have to see many more people die,” said Mike Hammonds, a participant from Central Florida.
Hammonds jumped at the chance to participate, and like many others, watched the updates from the panel Thursday.
“It’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s gonna make me feel really good that we’re moving towards something,” he said.
Experts analyzed Pfizer’s trial data and asked questions into the evening before the panel reached their recommendation. The FDA will take it into consideration as it decides whether to grant an emergency use authorization.
“There was a pretty general agreement on the panel that the data Pfizer was giving them shows that this vaccine is very safe, as safe as the other vaccines that we give and that it is actually surprisingly effective,” said Michael Teng, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at USF.
Teng said the unknowns still include how long immunity lasts, the impact on transmission, rare long term effects and its effectiveness for children.
“You don’t see these numbers like 95 percent efficacy very often. The takeaway is I think the panel is actually pretty impressed with the data that they saw. They are debating other points that really don’t seem to do with the safety and efficacy of the vaccine but what to do after if emergency use authorization is actually given,” he said.
Some participants in the clinical trial shared confidence in the process when talking with ABC Action News.
“My own experience has been they are taking every single step they need to be to make sure this is safe and effective,” said Alex Engel, participating from Brooklyn.
Knowing there’s still a road ahead, Engel said he maintains public health measures like masking and social distancing.
“Making sure I’m doing everything I can to ensure we are in a better place so that when this vaccine does come out and does become available to everyone it really makes a difference and it really makes a difference quickly. And that we don’t lose a lot of people on the way towards that eventual day,” he said.
“I feel like I started to see the tiny, tiny light at the end of the tunnel several months ago when I participated in the trial and it’s exciting that other people are going to get to start to see that. That being said it is a tiny light and it is very far away in the tunnel but it feels like we’re making progress,” said Rachel Lipson Gordon, a participant in Atlanta.
She urged patience.
“I’d say trust in the process I don’t even think people have to trust in the process there’s so much information out there,” she said.
“The study was done with the utmost integrity and using great data, great science protocols,” said Madison Busker.
Busker is another participant from Atlanta.
“It’s really important for people to consider aside from it being a pandemic and it being a very special situation that people should consider being a part of clinical research if they haven’t considered it because it can help a lot of people and it’s a really rewarding experience,” he said.
While the FDA has not yet approved an emergency use authorization, planning for the logistics in distributing it is underway.
In a recorded video Governor Ron DeSantis released Thursday, he said the federal government has allocated nearly 180,000 doses of the vaccine to the state.
DeSantis said a little more than 80,000 doses will go to CVS, Walgreens and strike teams for long term care facilities, and the rest to hospitals for high risk and high contact healthcare workers.
“As the vaccine supply increases over the next few weeks we want to start getting it out to our elderly residents as well as those who might have significant comorbidities,” the Governor said.
Vice President Mike Pence, said earlier Thursday that when there is approval, that they are working with private sector partnerships to ship with the vaccine within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, President-Elect Joe Biden stated in part, “Our challenge now is to scale up manufacturing and distribution to distribute 100 million shots in the first 100 days of my administration. We are putting together an experienced team to do just that.”
Meanwhile the fight against the virus still carries on. Experts urge people to continue following mitigation measures, including wearing masks, social distancing and hand hygiene.