November 19, 2020
Pfizer’s Nov. 9 announcement that it had achieved positive interim results from a coronavirus vaccine phase III trial was welcome news as the U.S. and other countries have seen an alarming resurgence of COVID-19. That’s especially the case as the vaccine reached this stage in an exceptionally short period of time. However, developing an effective vaccine or vaccines—and currently there are five other candidates—is only the beginning, infectious disease experts said on this week’s Walker Webcast with Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker.
Once the Food and Drug Administration signs off on the vaccine or vaccines, there’s the matter of scaling up production of what is likely to be hundreds of millions of doses. There’s also transportation and storage requirements, which may vary among different vaccines.
Pfizer’s vaccine requires storage at about 90 degrees below zero, Walker pointed out, while the vaccine from Moderna—which has also proven more than 90% effective in preliminary trials—is stable under refrigerated conditions. Being able to accommodate both means being prepared, said Elizabeth Concordia, CEO and president of UCHealth.
“It will be a logistical challenge,” she said.
Once the vaccines are delivered, and it’s clear to all whether the treatment or treatments will require one dose or two, then there’s the issue at the healthcare system level of making sure people come in to get their shots. Concordia said “doubters” were a concern, and Walker pointed out that surveys done in May and September showed that their ranks have increased.
“There will always be some that will not” take a vaccine, said Concordia.
Until a vaccine is available, hospital systems such as UCHealth must continue dealing with the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 11 million Americans and resulted in at least 250,000 deaths. That being said, Concordia noted that notwithstanding many more hospitalizations recently, fewer recent ICU patients have had to be put on ventilators, a testament to the greater proficiency that first responders now have in treating them.
“We certainly don’t want the numbers that we have now,” she said, but at the same time, “we’ve learned a lot since April.” That applies to improving the customer experience for patients as well as the efficacy of treatment.