Alabama medical expert explains news about Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine effectiveness

If 90% effective, the vaccine would be more effective than the yearly flu vaccine.

Posted: Nov 9, 2020 6:21 PM
Updated: Nov 9, 2020 6:38 PM

The pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, announced its coronavirus vaccine is 90% effective based on early analysis of the vaccine.

Pfizer's vaccine, if 90% effective, would be more effective than the yearly flu vaccine.

But the company still needs to test the vaccine on a larger group of people to make sure it is safe for widespread distribution.

"I think the most optimistic of us were thinking about 70% effective, so 90% effectiveness is fantastic," said Paul Geopfert, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic.

He says if Pfizer's vaccine is truly 90% effective, only 60% of the United States population would have to get vaccinated for herd immunity.

"That assumes it's 90% effective. If on the other hand, it's 50% effective, you will have to vaccinate just about everybody for that," Geopfert said.

Pfizer's vaccine would not be readily available to the public though, due to temperature constraints.

"This has to be stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius, and as you probably know, most pharmacies in the country don't have that type of storage facility. So, we would have to develop that infrastructure," said Geopfert.

Geopfert says that major academic institutions and most major medical centers do have that storage capacity.

"So I think vaccinating the health care workers will probably be a little bit easier, but then if you're talking about going beyond that, it's going to take some more dollars to be able to make that happen," Geopfert said.

Even with a vaccine though, Geopfert says that people will still need to wear masks and social distance.

Two research facilities in North Alabama that are conducting their own coronavirus vaccine trials were unavailable to comment on Pfizer's vaccine.

Pfizer has said it won't apply for FDA approval for at least another month.

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