Header Ads Widget

With Pfizer coronavirus vaccine pending, uncertainty mixing with hope for Massachusetts frontline medical workers

File photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer’s COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)


After nine months of battling on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, the very idea seemed to catch Katie Murphy, an intensive care unit nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, off guard.

But with a vaccine, once a far-off promise, now hurtling towards reality in the United States, Murphy paused to actually, perhaps finally, consider the concept.

“With everything going on, I guess how much of a relief it would be wasn’t a part of it — but it really is, we’re cautiously optimistic,” Murphy said. “Let’s see the studies, let’s see the results. But wow. Maybe there’s something. Maybe we’re going to be turning the corner one of these days.”

The potential for Pfizer and German partner BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, already approved in Britain, to get the green light in the U.S. this week is ushering in a new stage of the deadly pandemic — one met with equal parts relief and uncertainty among those who have weathered the storm most acutely.

“I’m very glad about the vaccine. I hope that we see huge numbers for production and distribution,” Murphy, who’s also the president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, told the Herald by phone this week.

But as orders get submitted and distribution plans fall into place, cases of the highly contagious virus are soaring, with the numbers of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths all expected to rise precipitously in what many are warning will be a potentially months-long darkness before the dawn of mass immunization.

“Until then it is critical — critical — for everybody to still adhere to the physical distancing and sanitizing that we’ve been doing,” Murphy said. “I don’t see an end point in sight right now.”

Gov. Charlie Baker submitted the Bay State’s initial order for nearly 60,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, and intends to publicize the state’s distribution plan on Monday.

The governor said health care workers and those in long-term care facilities “are absolutely going to be up near the top of the list” — following along with CDC guidance that health workers and nursing homes should get the first shots.

As they wait, hospitals are already working out any potential logistical kinks.

“There are a number of things to think about: It’s a two-shot series. There’s a chance that people have side effects after the second dose. The side effects are mild — sore arm, muscle aches, low-grade temperature — but that might make us want to stagger giving it to people because we don’t want everyone out at the same time,” said Dr. Helen Boucher, infectious diseases chief at Tufts Medical Center.

As an academic medical center, Tufts’ research operation has the kind of freezers necessary for the Pfizer vaccine’s ultra-cold storage. But the vaccine comes in multi-dose vials, so once one is opened all the doses have to be used within hours or discarded.

“We don’t want to waste anything here,” Boucher said. “This is a big kind of project to organize, but we’re lucky we have the expertise that is fully engaged in that effort.”

The potential for side effects similar to the actual symptoms of COVID-19 also means more testing will be needed, said Dr. Paul Biddinger of Massachusetts General Hospital, who chairs the governor’s vaccine advisory board.

That includes for long-term care facilities, where the federal government has enlisted CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to administer the vaccines to patients and staff.

While the first vaccines may be available by mid-December, their two-dose regimen means it will take weeks for the initially inoculated to gain immunity. And their limited availability at the outset means a still-long road ahead for medical and long-term care centers.

“Since our staff and visitors ride the same buses, shop at the same grocery stores as the general public, it is incumbent on all of us to do our part to keep vulnerable nursing home residents safe from the COVID-19 virus by wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands,” Massachusetts Senior Care Association President Tara Gregorio said. “This can’t be stressed enough.”

Read the original article on Boston Herald

Post a Comment