Vaccinations near as pandemic soars to worst surge yet

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The public immunization campaign started this morning in the UK, with thousands receiving doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

In the U.S., FDA analysis has backed up Pfizer’s findings that its vaccine is safe and 95% effective. The vaccine advisory group is meeting on Thursday to decide whether to grant an emergency use authorization for the vaccine and it is expected to be approved.

“As soon as my number comes up to get the vaccine I am getting it, I’m not going to wait a minute,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, Chair of the Department of Medicine on UCSF speaking on KCBS Radio’s “Ask An Expert” program Tuesday.

As cases continue to surge across the U.S. during the pandemic’s worst phase yet, Dr. Wachter says dispensing the vaccine quickly and efficiently is even more important than anticipated.

“We have this race between when will enough people get vaccines that they will be protective from this virus, while the virus is rampaging. And the virus is going to win for the next couple of months.”

Dr. Wachter estimates that there are four to five times more cases in San Francisco now than there were one month ago.

Based on the data that has been released, both Pfizer and Moderna are highly effective effective at preventing severe cases of COVID, which that require hospitalization.

Among a group of 75,000 volunteers across the two trials, 40 became severely ill.

“Every single one of them, essentially, was in patients who got placebo. Not a single severe case of COVID happened in someone who got a vaccine,” said Dr. Wachter.

There are still lingering questions about the two vaccines.

“The two things we don’t know is how long it will ask. We think it will ask at least a year, maybe many more years than that, but we don’t know. The second thing that we don’t know for sure is whether it prevents you from getting the virus in your nose, carrying it and therefore spreading it to other people.”

Which is why people who receive the vaccine will still be asked to wear masks.

Dr. Wachter says he feels confident that the virus is safe, and certainly safer than getting COVID-19.

“There has not been any documented uptick in any significant, worrisome side effects. And now patients have been followed for at least two months and many of them three, four, five months,” which is the timeframe in which side effects would normally appear, he said.

“It is just not even a close call which is the riskier thing to do. The riskier thing is to not get the vaccine.”