LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Medical history is expected to soon be made when the COVID-19 vaccine gets the approval for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the U.S., and its rollout begins.
UofL Health is one of 11 institutions to get a shipment of it in Kentucky when that happens. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith answered questions and talked preps on Wednesday, saying the vaccine is safe and effective.
“This is the first time as a medical community we’ve got the ability to impact the course of this virus," said Dr. Smith.
The first to receive shots at UofL Health will be staff members; there are 975 doses set for shipment. That won't cover everyone, so staff is prioritized.
Dr. Smith wants to quell doubts and fears, remarking on the findings of the vaccine clinical trials, "there’s nothing in there that we can see that would cause someone to have an adverse reaction to this.”
He explains, side effects are similar to that of the flu vaccine, but perhaps slightly heightened. Dr. Smith says published findings report mild to moderate arm soreness, fatigue, and fever as side effects.
Some 44,000 people were tested, across several countries. He adds, there's no reason to believe someone with allergies should have an adverse reaction to the shot. There's also currently no recommendation on who should not take the vaccine; it's for people 16 years old and up.
There's been practice unloading and transporting the vaccine into proper storage at UofL Health. That is an extra cold freezer that reaches the temperature of -80 degrees Celsius.
“I will tell you that it’s all weighing on my mind. We are about to undertake an immunization project unlike anything we have ever done in my lifetime, and probably unlike anything that has been done since polio," Dr. Smith said.
"Once you remove the vaccine from the package, you’ve got three minutes to get in the -80 degree Celsius freezer or it will have thawed to the point that you’ve got a problem," he added.
The shot will come in two doses; a second shot to follow the first a couple of weeks later. People will be monitored for effects following the shots. But Dr. Smith feels COVID-19 won't be eradicated, like smallpox, for example.
"I can tell you from the disease standpoint, that COVID is by far widespread enough to become something that we’re gonna have to deal with seasonally," he says.
He hopes the vaccine will mean better control of the novel virus.
“We are starting to take steps towards getting this under control," he explains.