University of Iowa hospital employees have started receiving the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine. Patricia Winokur oversaw the U-I’s Pfizer vaccine trial — and was pleased to be a part of its rapid development.
“This one’s in the history books now — I don’t think there’s anything that we are going to see going into the history books in medicine that’s going to surpass this for quite some time,” Winokur says. ” So to be a part of it — it’s an amazing and emotional time.”
Winokur says there is more to come. She says the FDA will review applications this week for the Moderna vaccine. ” And that may be the opportunity for Iowa to receive a second vaccine that will allow us to vaccinate more individuals,” she says.
U-I Hospitals and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran says the vaccine is important — but added this caution. “The last thing that we would want is for the introduction of the vaccine to cause Iowans to take this less seriously,” according to Gunasekaran. “We just flattened the curve or are beginning to flatten the curve significantly over what we saw a month ago.”
He says even though his organization is one of the first to get the vaccine — they are not getting enough doses to vaccinate all employees right away. And it will take time for everyone else to get it as well. “I think it is really important for us to understand that the vaccination process has just begun. It is two doses. It is going to take many months for a majority of Americans to be vaccinated,” he says.
Gunasekaran says there is more hope as people wait for the vaccine. “The good news now however is that you now know that hopefully, we are in the last six to nine months of this,” Gunasekaran says. “You can definitively say that we are reducing the risk — but we are not done until we are done.”
Winokur says those who are getting vaccinated should still take precautions. “What we are telling people is they do need to continue practicing social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing. Vaccines are not perfect,” she says.
Winokur says there are still questions as to whether the vaccine prevents people from still shedding the virus. “We don’t know that yet, that’s some of the research that still needs to be done. We don’t know that the vaccine reduces shedding. My guess is that it does at least partially,” Winokur says. “But if it is not fully suppressing viral replication– people could pass it on — and that’s another reason to continue all the protections that we are recommending.”
The first round of vaccinations are going to frontline health care workers and the state’s nursing home staff and residents will be next.