Two University of California, San Francisco doctors are among those who expressed excitement over Pfizer's early results showing its COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective.
"My first word was, 'wow,'" Dr. George Rutherford, UCSF's head of the division of infectious disease and global epidemiology, said on KCBS Radio. "Ninety percent efficacy is astounding. The measles vaccine, which we use as the absolute best vaccine ever, is 95%. This would be a real home run if they can keep it up."
UCSF's coronavirus expert Dr. Bob Wachter expressed similar excitement. "90% efficacy is far better than even most optimistic projections. An election analogy: these are CA results, rather than PA," Wachter wrote in one of his regular Twitter threads covering the pandemic.
That said, he added, if this vaccine is approved by a credible process and distributed, "I’d wager that the uptake will be more like 70-80%."
Wachter also cautioned that while the news is encouraging, people still need to wear masks and follow health orders.
"While being appropriately excited re: vaccine, it's worth remembering that it probably won't make a material difference in everybody's life/schools/economy until next summer," Wachter wrote. "If so, that means the time from now to then is equal to the time from the 1st COVID cases in U.S. to now."
Why so long?
Wachter said the next big step will be looking at safety, and the reason the vaccine won't be considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization until later this month is that researchers needed to wait two months to observe at least half the volunteers.
He's hopeful safety concerns won't pop up with this vaccine, pointing out three other vaccine trials "were suspended at various times to analyze safety concerns," while the "Pfizer study was never suspended, making it unlikely that we’ll see high enough numbers of severe side effects to derail approval."
So when will the vaccine actually be ready?
"Pfizer has said that it can make 50 million doses available by year’s end, and 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021," Wachter wrote. "It’s a two-dose vaccine, so this means enough vaccine for 25 million people, who won’t all be in the U.S., available by January."
Rolling out the vaccine, he said, will be no easy task, as all the doses will need to be packaged, frozen, shipped and tracked.
"This means that, under ideal circumstances, we won’t see a large chunk of population vaccinated till spring or summer (of course, other vaccines may work as well & shorten the timeline)," Wachter wrote. "This means that we still have an awful lot of COVID, and deaths, ahead of us. Be safe!"
Read Wachter's complete thread on the Pfizer vaccine here.