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Kansas City doctors weigh in on Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial success

Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 90% effective
Posted at 5:43 PM, Nov 09, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Monday, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced their COVID-19 vaccine trial is showing a lot of promise.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO said in a statement on the companies website.

Doctors said it's an encouraging sign.

“It says 90 percent effectiveness of their vaccine. Again, that is really early data. But, it’s the first signal we have seen in humans that says vaccination can work," said Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System.

The study has 43,538 people in it and 41 Action News spoke with one of those participants.

"As soon as I would tell someone I am in the vaccine trial, they thought I had COVID. They thought I was injected with COVID," Meredith Orr said. "My first vaccination, I guess in early August probably, and then I did one three weeks later. Then, I have done two more check ups since then."

Orr, a Texas native, said she feels great so far. However, Pfizer does not tell participants if they get the vaccine or the placebo.

"Either way, I have been able to help and that has been huge for me, just doing something," Orr said.

Local doctors are taking notice of the announcement from Pfizer.

"If you received the actual vaccine not the placebo, the vaccine is highly efficacious which is great news and exactly what we want to see in the vaccine," said Saint Luke's Pulmonologist and Critical Care Physician Dr. Andrew Schlacter.

Schlacter said he is not an expert on vaccines but does know a bit about what is in it.

"This is a vaccine that has some kind of DNA called RNA, the building blocks in ourselves for making proteins that builds just a part of the coronavirus framework for spike protein," Schlacter said. "What the vaccine hopes to do in one and then a second dose is to have the body's immune system create an antibody response to that spike protein."

Schlacter said the antibody response will enable a patient's immune system to fight COVID-19 from the beginning.

While it's early, this could be a light at the end of a tunnel for the virus.

“If that story holds, if it is a 90 percent reduction, okay that is a true game changer. That is like Patrick Mahomes in the fourth quarter with no defense on the other side and we are going to win that game," Stites said.

States are already gearing up for when a vaccine is approved and ready to go. Kansas and Missouri have submitted a distribution plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A spokesperson with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the CDC has provided feedback to the state.

"We’re working on incorporating their feedback into the plan this week, although it does not have to be resubmitted to the CDC. Overall, they were very pleased with the state’s plan," the spokesperson said in an email.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment heard back from the CDC as well and made changes. They posted their revised COVID-19 Vaccination Plan on Monday.