Minnesota infectious disease experts weigh in on promising vaccine news

Medical syringe is seen with Pfizer company logo displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on June 16, 2020. (Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images) ((Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

In the fight against the coronavirus, drug maker Pfizer may be ahead of the pack. The pharmaceutical giant announced Monday that early analysis shows its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective.

Minnesota infectious disease experts are weighing in on the promising developments.

“It gives hope, it gives hope that ok, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dimitri Drekonja, a University of Minnesota infectious disease professor.

The news surrounding the vaccine is a sign of promise nearly eight months into a pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of at least 237,000 people in the U.S.

“I think we have to anticipate that until something changes the numbers are going to keep going up,” said Drekonja.

“The vaccine is one of those things that once it’s available can hopefully help us decrease the number of people that are vulnerable to infection,” said Dr. Susan Kline, a University of Minnesota professor and infectious diseases physician with MHealth Fairview.

Pfizer's vaccine would require patients to receive two separate shots. It also has a vaccine storage requirement could present some challenges.

“This vaccine has a requirement for storage of -80,” said Drekonja “That's something not most clinics have available, so there will be significant infrastructure needs out there.”

If more data confirms the efficacy and safety of Pfizer's vaccine, Drekonja says at the earliest, people can expect a limited roll out of doses next spring or summer with priority given to those at highest risk.

“I have no insight into their distribution plans, but I would assume that would be health care personnel, frontline responders, high-risk people,” said Drekonja.

Pfizer made a point to say that it was not part of the federal government's Operation Warp Speed program, and received no financial backing from the government.

The drug maker is among several drug makers racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer estimates that it could have enough doses for 25 million people by the end of this year.