Just a day before Pfizer made a request to the Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, a local health official said he felt confident in the safety protocols federal officials have in place for the shot.
Dr. John Delzell, Vice President of Medical Education at Northeast Georgia Health System, made his comments during a coronavirus update on WDUN's Morning Talk.
"I'm confident that when we get a vaccine that can be distributed to folks that we'll have a safe vaccine that will be effective," Delzell said.
At the same time, Delzell urged a little caution, noting that there are unknowns.
"I think one thing that we don't know is how long will it last," Delzell said. "For the influenza vaccine, we have to get that every year because the immunity starts to wane. I think people are expecting we'll have that issue with the COVID vaccine, as well.
Plus, he said a vaccine won't solve the pandemic immediately, since it likely won't be widely available with initial distribution.
"It's probably going to be months and months before the general population has it, before they've made enough of it that everybody can get vaccinated," Delzell said.
In an Associated Pres article issued Friday morning, Pfizer said the initial supply could be available as early as next month, but confirmed Delzell's assessment that most Americans would have to live through the winter without the vaccine, since distribution will be limited.
Earlier in the week, Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech announced that its vaccine appears 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease in a large, ongoing study.
As the country waits for a vaccine, Delzell said people need to continue with health protocols to keep the virus at bay - wearing of masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing. He said Hall County residents can participate in the new hALLin initiative and sign a pledge. committing to limit spread of the virus. More information is available at wearehallin.com.