coronavirus vaccine

Winning Vaccine Race Won't Necessarily Cross COVID Finish Line

Predictions that a vaccine may come by the end of the year don’t necessarily mean the development we’ve been waiting for is finally here

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The country is hoping a COVID-19 vaccine will emerge in the not-too-distant future and we can all rewind our lives back to the way they once were.

It’s been a year riddled with complications, with businesses and families forced to focus their efforts defining a new normal and doing what can be done to truly stay safe -- all the while hoping for a magic bullet: a vaccine.

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Two companies, Moderna and Pfizer, have offered glimpses of hope, saying a vaccine could potentially be ready within weeks or months if all the benchmarks are met. William Tseng, an internal medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente, said the news looks promising so far.

“Those show very good promise," Tseng told NBC 7 on Monday.

Both companies, however, must reach the aforementioned benchmarks for their vaccines to be given the green light and released to the public. Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla penned an open letter in mid-October saying he would only apply for emergency authorization if positive data was obtained and safety milestones were achieved.

Tseng says nailing down a viable vaccine would obviously be a step forward but added that finding the right vaccine -- one that is safe yet also effective -- will only begin the process. He said that a large portion of the community has to be vaccinated for it to be effective.

“When we're safe … is when we can make sure enough people are vaccinated so that we can achieve that herd immunity that everyone is talking about,” Tseng says.

Also, Tseng told NBC 7 that the creation of a vaccine does not necessarily mean it will be readily available. He said it will take time to produce enough and reach the number of people needed, alluding that at least 60% herd immunity would be required to have an impact.

“I don't anticipate a 60 percent vaccination rate or achieving that well into mid- to late next year,” Tseng said.

In other words, we could be holding on to our masks, hand sanitizers and social- distancing protocols well into 2021.

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