Johns Hopkins experts explain hurdles for COVID-19 vaccination

Posted at 6:19 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 07:28:47-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Johns Hopkins vaccine experts say even with highly effective vaccines ready for emergency use authorization, there are still lots of hurdles to get over... from distribution to getting people to accept the vaccine.

We’ve seen unprecedented strides toward developing COVID-19 vaccines quickly—and that are more effective than anticipated.

"During a pandemic, because there are so many infections and so many cases, in the phase three trials we’re rather quickly able to tell whether these vaccines actually protect against disease or not," said Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Now focus is turning towards making sure they can be distributed since they require storage in such cold temperatures.

"Pfizer itself has created these cold boxes that can store about 1,000-5,00 vaccine vials. That requires dry ice," said Moss.

Another important facet is proper education about the 2-dose vaccinations.

"The important thing to remember here is that vaccines do not save lives, vaccination saves lives," said Dr. Rupali Limaye with the International Vaccine Access Center.

Limaye said a widespread campaign about the trial data and potential side-effects is important.

"Trial participants from the Pfizer vaccine trial indicated the vaccine can cause people to feel unwell for a few days. We need to be able to communicate that this is normal and the vaccine has undergone rigorous safety testing," said Limaye.

The FDA advisory group is meeting in a week to assess the data from the trials and experts expect them to give authorization for distribution shortly after.

In the first round, Maryland will get 155,000 doses. Governor Larry Hogan said on Good Morning America that’s not even enough to cover our front line health care workers.

"We have about 300,000 of those so our plan submitted to the CDC prioritizes the most vulnerable so front line health care workers, nursing homes and then first responders and as they come in, we just start working our way down that pyramid of a list," said Hogan.

Hogan is also concerned that not everyone feels the vaccine is safe.

"Some of the polling showed that somewhere over 50% of the people don't feel like they want to get a vaccine. We can't get this under control unless we get somewhere around 70% or more of the people to be vaccinated," said Hogan.

The governor added the numbers we're seeing are going to get worse before they get better.

"The good news is the cavalry is on the way. There is a light at the end of the tunnel," said Hogan.

There are still lots of questions surrounding these vaccines: how long does immunity last? Will they be effective for children under age 12? Moss said these vaccines aren't the end all be all.

"We’re still hopeful that at least one of the vaccines in the pipeline, and there are many more types in the pipeline, that we will be able to have a vaccine that’s a single dose and just requires refrigeration," said Moss.

He also said initially, people won't be able to choose what vaccine they get, but he hopes by the end of 2021 they will be widely available enough for people to choose based off what is most effective for their profile.

"We may learn that different types of vaccines are better in some populations. Maybe one vaccine is better in older people than in children," said Moss.