INDIANAPOLIS – The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted on Saturday to recommend the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for ages 16 and up.
The committee reviews scientific data and votes on recommendations for vaccine safety and efficacy. Before a vaccine is allowed to be administered, those recommendations are required.
It was recommended in a unanimous vote, with 11 people in favor, zero against it and three recusing due to prior conflicts.
Just one day prior, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE., making it available for emergency use to patients 16 and older.
“We’re very excited,” said Dr. Brian Dixon, director of public health and informatics at Regenstrief Institute. “Our goal in public health is really prevention. We really want to keep people healthy and keep them from getting sick in the first place.
“So to have a vaccine that will prevent people from developing COVID, or developing complications from COVID, is very exciting for us because it means we can keep a lot of people healthy and safe.”
Dixon believes the State of Indiana could see the vaccine arrive as early as Monday, if not, possibly sooner.
“The plant from Pfizer is not that far away from the border, and given our prowess in trucking and logistics and transportation, I would expect that we will see it perhaps even tomorrow in the state,” he said Saturday.
In clinical trials, the vaccine was 95% effective at preventing illness and showed no short-term safety issues. However, it has drawn in criticism after how quickly it was developed.
“I think that people, you know, have a right to be skeptical because it is the fastest development of a vaccine ever,” said Dixon. “However, I think it’s important to keep in mind that this vaccine has been tested in humans now for several months. We’ve had the vaccine actually developed in the spring.
“For months now, several thousand people have been receiving this vaccine in the trials, and the safety data around it is incredibly strong.”
Dixon said several factors played a significant role in the speed of the vaccine’s development.
“One of them was the fact that it was really a worldwide effort that was focused on developing this vaccine, the whole world, including the WHO recognized that people would need a vaccine,” he said.
“We also have a number of technologies today that we didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago, things like computational biology, you may have heard of proteomics, or genomics. So gene technologies really played a big role in specifically targeting the genetic makeup of this virus and then an antibody or a response to that that would protect the body from getting the disease,” Dixon said.
Right now, Dixon said based on data from the rapid trial phase, scientists know the vaccine is effective for at least three months. He said additional data from Pfizer that has been shared with the FDA and public in their documents shows that time frame could be longer.
“We’re hoping that as the data continues to come in from the ongoing trials, that we will see that it’s effective for maybe nine to 12 months so that eventually, this could be an annual vaccine, but that hasn’t been quite determined yet.”
When asked whether there are groups of people who are advised against getting the vaccine based on recently reported allergic reactions in the United Kingdom, Dixon said:
“There were some early reports of people having an allergic reaction. That’s not all that uncommon, but it’s also not actually very common, so they’re looking into that in the UK.”
He said Pfizer currently has nothing to suggest anyone should avoid the vaccine if they become eligible for it.
“The first course doses will be targeted towards frontline healthcare workers and individuals in in vulnerable populations. And so those individuals are encouraged to get the vaccine because those are the people who’ve been participating in the trials and the safety data is very strong.”
FOX59 spoke with the president of the Indiana State Nurses Association, Emily Sego, about frontline healthcare workers, including nurses, being some of the first to receive the vaccine.
“We do believe when nurses get a vaccines themselves, they role model the behavior we feel will set us on the path to attain widespread vaccination and achieve herd immunity that’s needed to return to normal activity,” said Sego.
“I feel that as we get vaccinated, patients will feel more confident in getting vaccinated themselves.”
She said they will encourage everyone to make their own decision whether they will receive the vaccine.
“We highly encourage Indiana nurses to use their own judgement and review the science and literature to make an informed decision on what’s best for them.”
Long-term care residents are also among those prioritized to receive the vaccination. Although states have a broad discretion over who will get the vaccine next, a panel advising the CDC has only issued guidance for healthcare workers and nursing home residents to be first.
Doug Stern, director of media relations for the International Association of Fire Fighters, said they are asking for states to recommend emergency response personnel as some of the first to receive the vaccine.
“I think it’s important when we talk about priority access to the vaccine, when we say firefighters, we realize it’s firefighters, paramedics and EMTS who are really the same person. Firefighters do so much extra for the community other than just ride in the fire trucks.
“Firefighters are a part of the public health chain in America. They are the first link to public for many Americans because they’re the ones that respond when you call 9-1-1 with a medical emergency,” said Stern.
“By making sure we take care of firefighters, paramedics and EMTs for the vaccine, we’re not just protecting those essential workers and other essential workers, we’re protecting the community because firefighters are still going in to everyone’s home, and by making sure they have the vaccine, we’re giving them another tool to keep themselves and the community safe,” said Stern.
You can view more on the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation, including the full meeting and an outline of the vaccine distribution plans, by clicking here.