Colorado doctor involved in coronavirus vaccine trial reacts to early results showing 90+ percent effectiveness

Early results from two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, show over 90 percent effectiveness.
Early results from two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, show over 90 percent effectiveness.(KKTV)
Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 6:29 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Coloradans are playing a role in the race to roll out a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus.

More than 200 people in Colorado are enrolled in the nationwide Moderna vaccine trial. Monday, the company announced the thrilling news that early results showed the vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective.

The doctor in charge of the clinical trial in Colorado told 11 News that percentage far exceeded his expectations.

“When the trial was designed, the assumed efficacy was to aim for 60 percent,” said Dr. Thomas Campbell, clinical research officer for UCHealth.

“To be at 94 percent is really astounding.”

Campbell also gave a nod to pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which announced last week its own vaccine was showing 90 percent effectiveness.

“Both vaccines [Pfizer’s and Moderna’s] are intended to induce the formation of antibodies against that spike protein, so we have two independent studies that are using similar technology and a similar strategy, and they both came to the same result greater than 90 percent efficacy. To me, that’s both amazing and it really provides convincing evidence that these early results are real.”

So far, side effects have been minimal.

“Most of it is what we call injection site reactions, so pain and swelling at the injection site and then some flu-like symptoms that can occur in the day or two after getting injected.”

The trial is expected to last until sometime in 2022.

“To be able to assess the longer-term safety and efficacy, so at this point all the data we have is just from the first four months of observation, so we really need to have an idea of how these vaccines work over the longer term,” he said of the trial’s length.

However, Campbell believes in the next month, Moderna may start filing paperwork for the FDA to consider authorizing early use of the vaccine before the trial is complete.

“Moderna will be requesting an emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so within the coming weeks I would suspect they will file the necessary documents. The FDA will review those documents very carefully and that will take some time ... if they’re satisfied with the information, then at that point they could grant the emergency-use authorization. That could still be a month from now before we get there.”

Once the vaccine is released, it will only be available to certain segments of the population due to the limited supply. Campbell expects it will be more widely available by spring or summer.

“Perhaps the second quarter of next year for the average person is able to get the vaccine would be my guess.”

In the meantime, he advised the public to continue taking every precaution in the fight against the virus.

“It is still very important that we all continue to follow the recommended public health practices of wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding large group gatherings, and washing or disinfecting our hands. ... It will probably be second quarter before the general public has access to the vaccine, so we need to continue to try to control the epidemic with these other measures to keep our hospitals from getting overburdened.”

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