MOBILE, Ala. (WALA)-- A saving grace in the COVID-19 pandemic could come in the form of a vaccine that is just weeks away from review and could be in Alabama next month.
Dr. Scott Chavers with the Mobile County Health Department says the state will receive 540,000 vaccines by the end of December.
Dr. Chavers says it’s a “highly effective vaccine that appears to be very safe.”
The first round of the vaccine will be offered to healthcare providers and first responders.
He says vaccines will be divided based on a survey put out by the Alabama Department of Public Health that will gauge the number of frontliners who will need the vaccine.
Dr. Chavers says depending on availability the general public may not be offered the vaccine until early March or April, at that time the elderly and those at high risk will be given priority.
While Pfizer says the vaccine has a 95% efficacy rate, Dr. Chavers says it's effectiveness can only be determined by people being willing to take it.
“The data are going to be very transparent... to go look at it, make the decision that’s right for you, but there’s a lot more to this than I think people realize,” said Dr. Chavers.
Some have faith in it.
“I would definitely take them up on it. As long as I knew it was tested and all that, I think it would help me and the community as well...I trust that they’re doing the best they can. It’s not going to be perfect, but they’re doing the best they can to come up with something as fast and efficiently as they can,” said John Mylonas.
Others say, while it’s promising, they’re a bit skeptical.
“If it’s something that, you know, can prevent it or at least lessen it then hey let's all go for it, but as far as me taking it first I would definitely wait just to see how it… just to see how the effects are with that first batch,” said Lashoundra Young.
As the vaccine undergoes approval Dr. Chavers says the Mobile County Health Department is one of many institutions working to make sure they’re capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine which must be stored in extremely cold temperatures at -120 degrees Farenheit.
“You have to have the ultra low temperature freezers, you have to have the gloves and everything to handle this and then understand what it takes to get the vaccine out of the vials.”
Local health departments are working with the state and CDC to make sure everything is in place to distribute those vaccines by the end of December and come Spring we could have two different vaccine options with Moderna right behind Pfizer.
Dr. Chavers says it's possible that when Pfizer's vaccine is reviewed by the FDA in the second week of December, Moderna could be reviewed too.
“Which would be outstanding because the advantage of the Moderna vaccine is it doesn't have the ultra low temperature requirements that the Pfizer vaccine does. “
Both vaccines will require two doses.
At this point it is not known how long immunity will last.
Dr. Chavers says right now is a critical time to keep the infection rate down.
He encourages people to get tested for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving, even if you do not have any symptoms.
MCHD is offering free rapid COVID testing at six of their sites on Saturday November 20th.
Testing will be available Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Keeler Memorial Building (251 North Bayou Street in Mobile).
Testing will be available Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations:
- Dauphin Island Parkway Health Center (2601 Dauphin Island Parkway in Mobile)
- Eight Mile Health Center (4009 Saint Stephens Road in Prichard)
- North Mobile Health Center (950 East Coy Smith Highway in Mount Vernon)
- Semmes Health Center (3810 Wulff Road East) and Women’s Health Center (248 Cox Street in Mobile).