Alaskan doctors weigh in on the progress of COVID-19 vaccination efforts

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 8:32 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As the COVID-19 pandemic continues threatening lives, disrupting global economies and changing how students of all ages attend school, there is now a sliver of light forming at the end of this long, dark tunnel. A number of vaccine candidates have advanced into the final stage of testing.

“We are currently planning for COVID-19 vaccines to be available as soon as November,” the Immunization Program Manager for the Division of Public Health Dr. Matt Bobo said. Bobo is just one of the state’s health officials keeping a keen eye on the progress of vaccine testing.

“Right now we are following about four vaccines that are going through phase three clinical trials, the CDC is expecting at least two to be available in November,” Bobo said.

While that sounds like exciting news and, to some extent is, it will take time to mass-produce the amount of vaccine needed once an effective treatment has been fully vetted.

“The vaccine will be distributed in three phases,” Bobo said.

Phase one will be for essential workers, health care professionals on the front lines, teachers and other key position holders. Phase two would be for high-risk groups, the medically vulnerable and older Americans. Phase three would then open things up to the general population.

“Hopefully we’ll have enough by the end or the middle of the first quarter of the new year to get at least one dose of vaccine available for every American,” says Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist.

However, hope doesn’t trump science and before McLaughlin gets too excited he wants to see results.

“Again it all depends on how the clinical trials go, so far the phase one and two clinical trials have gone well but phase 3 clinical trials are still underway," said McLaughlin.

Efficacy of a new vaccine is only half the concern, the safety of the vaccine is also something you may see the question on message boards and in the Twittersphere but Alaska’s top doctors seem to have a favorable opinion so far.

“Are people planning to get vaccinated? I think speaking for myself that’s my plan as soon as it becomes available,” Bobo said.

The state’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink shares a similar opinion. “We’ve been following the data closely, like Joe, I plan to get the vaccine if it comes out when it’s my turn, to get it out but we’ll continue to follow the evidence on a regular basis.”

Until that time the waiting game continues as this persistent pandemic affects seemingly every phase of life.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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