‘We need to keep our guard up,’ San Antonio epidemiologist warns, despite coronavirus vaccine progress

KSAT Q&A with Cherise Rohr-Allegrini

SAN ANTONIO – After Monday’s announcement from Pfizer that its COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective, local epidemiologist Cherise Rohr-Allegrini said the news is “really exciting.”

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine is looking 90% effective

“What’s most important about any vaccine is that it be absolutely safe. And if it’s safe and 90 percent effective, then that is just incredible for all of us,” she said during Tuesday’s KSAT Q&A.

While many Americans view this as a sign of hope, experts have said it could still take months, possibly a year or more, before the vaccine is available to the average person.

Storing and distributing the vaccine is likely to be a big challenge ahead.

“This vaccine has to be stored at minus 80 degrees. Now, laboratories typically have a minus 80 freezer, but pharmacies don’t have that. Doctors’ offices don’t have that. So if we do utilize this vaccine, we’re going to have to really rethink how we deliver the vaccine into the population,” Allegrini said.

Testing timeline: What’s ahead for COVID-19 vaccines

San Antonio is one Texas city that hasn’t seen an overwhelming spike in cases in recent weeks. Cases are rising but in a way experts expected this time of year.

“I’m hesitant to say ‘safe’ because people relax their guard. We need to keep our guard up. It’s really important in schools especially, or any kind of congregate setting that we keep those masks on. We keep the physical distance. I think that’s why we’re in a lot better situation than a lot of other places. But what’s happening is really what we expected to happen,” she said.

Track daily spikes in COVID-19 cases in San Antonio, Bexar County

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A San Antonio native currently in her dream job as the executive producer behind KSAT special programming like Fiesta parades, Dia De Los Muertos and the Rodeo special. When she's not prepping for these productions, she's helping run KSAT's social media channels.