Wisconsin medical experts call Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine news 'light at the end of the tunnel'

Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 19:29:23-05

Pfizer announced Monday its early data shows a vaccine that's more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. On the heels of the announcement, Wisconsin medical experts are optimistic a safe vaccine is within close reach.

"For the first time, it provides light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic, which we have really not had before," said Doctor Robert Citronberg, Executive Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Prevention at Advocate Aurora Helath.

"It's just really a testament to when the world's scientists all come together and say you know what? We're going to do this thing. It looks like they may have done it," said UW Health's Chief Quality Officer, Doctor Jeff Pothoff.

The news comes just days after Wisconsin saw a record-breaking 7,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. As of Monday evening, 59,000 cases were active across the state.

The Associated Press said that while Pfizer's announcement means the company is expected to apply for an emergency use authorization later this month with the Food and Drug Administration, it does not mean a vaccine is "imminent" and more research is needed.

"I think it's okay to be optimistic about this. It's not the final word and the ink is not dry yet, but I think we can take this as good news," Dr. Pothoff continued.

"It will likely take more than one manufacturer having a successful vaccine so that we can make enough to cover all the people around the world who need it," said Dr. Pothoff.

Doctor Pothoff explains high-risk groups, including healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, would have the first opportunity to get a vaccine. The general public would be next in line as more doses become available in 2021.

"Early on what you'll see is the prioritization of people who are highest risk getting the vaccine first and then cascade down, hopefully very quickly, to just about everyone," Dr. Pothoff explained.

Before a vaccine is readily available to the general public, though, both physicians stress the importance of practicing safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.

"We're reinforcing caution that this is not over yet and we still have a long way to go," said Dr. Citronberg.

Medical providers, Ascension, Froedtert and Aurora haven't released their vaccine distribution plans, but Dr. Citronberg did say his hospital group is working on it.

"We've been working diligently for like the last month to build a scaffolding, so that when the vaccine is available we'll be able to execute our plan," he said.

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