SAN ANTONIO – The Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccine Advisory committee will meet Thursday to discuss the possibility of giving emergency use authorization to Pfizer for its COVID-19 vaccine. The Chief Medical Officer for University Health said that if that happens, Bexar County could see vaccines as early as December 16th.
“I think there are only about 28,000 doses coming into all of Bexar county to start so that really limits the amount you can give,” University Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bryan Alsip.
The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says frontline workers and residents in nursing homes should be the first to receive the vaccine. Alsip said they are prepared to handle that.
“Every organization is being asked to come up with the priority tiers,” Alsip said. “I think we’re fortunate to get enough doses that we anticipate getting to cover those at the highest risk. And then as more vaccine becomes available, we can immunize the remainder of our health care workers staff and then, as recommended by the CDC and the state, start offering those to patients once we have more vaccine.”
The Pfizer vaccine is required to be stored at -94 degrees Farenheit. Alsip said University Health can accommodate that. He added that this first vaccine, as well as one manufactured by Moderna which is also seeking emergency use authorization, requires it be given in two doses. But Alsip said reserving some vaccines now to make sure they have vaccines for the second round is not going to happen.
“Early on when some of the information came out about a second dose, those were some of the strategies around reserving enough, cutting in half for that second dose,” Alsip said. “But there are specific instructions from both the state, the federal government and the manufacturers that you are to use all of that is administered in that first round...essentially they will be allotting vaccines for the second dose based on the usage of the first dose. So they don’t want people sort of reserving some for that purpose.”
While health care workers and nursing home residents are slated to be among the first to get the vaccine, Alsip said it may be a little while before the general public will be able to get the vaccine.
“Well, unfortunately, no one really knows,” Alsip said. “Estimates range from the early spring to some time in the summer. What we have is information about these first two vaccines and what they’ll be available for some of those higher risk categories. It probably will be sometime in the spring that we’ll start to see a greater availability, both more volumes of these two vaccines that are fairly early out of the gate, as well as additional anticipated authorizations of the other vaccines.”
When asked about whether this vaccine will be one that you will need to get annually or not, Alsip said it’s too early to tell.
“There are certainly indications that people who have had a disease can lose their immunity over time and so there’s a possibility that if you got this vaccine, your immunity from that could wane,” Alsip said. “There’s also a suggestion that the immunity triggered by the vaccine could be stronger than a natural infection and so that may make it last longer. I think it also depends on how much vaccine we’re able to get out over the course of the next year.”
“Obviously, we’ll have to see but the hope is that the vaccine so you get a full course would be enough to give you enough protection.”
Editor’s Note: On Dec. 10, at 7 p.m., KSAT anchor Isis Romero will host a livestream discussion with a panel of experts from San Antonio Metro Health to give you the most pertinent information about vaccines in South Texas. Tune in here.
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