Health expert says more approvals will speed up Arizona virus immunizations

Dec 18, 2020, 7:15 AM

PHOENIX – A prominent Arizona health official said as more coronavirus vaccines start to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration, it will be easier to ramp up vaccinations across the state.

Arizona Public Health Association Executive Director Will Humble told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos & Chad on Thursday that the more people who receive the coronavirus vaccine, the faster the community will be able to achieve herd immunity against the virus.

“You have to add on all those people that have been infected and recovered because they’re vaccinated too, they’re vaccinated by the real virus and recovered,” Humble said.

“If you had 60% of the public vaccinated and another 15% probably 20% [infected] in Arizona given the way we’re going, then you’re up to 80% and that’s probably herd immunity for this virus.”

Health officials have urged people to get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them; however, mass vaccination for the general population isn’t expected until the spring.

The first Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines were distributed in Arizona this week and larger-scale operations are starting to ramp up to vaccinate health care workers and residents in long-term care facilities.

“This is emergency, it’s not full approval,” Humble said. “The difference is for the full approval of the vaccine, they’ll have to follow the people in the clinical trials for a couple more months, but I support going with emergency use authorization because we’re in such a pickle.”

Humble, who was formerly the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, noted that as additional vaccines gain emergency approval it will ease the strain of attempting to accomplish the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history.

An FDA panel endorsed a second COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna, on Thursday, paving the way for the shot to be added to the U.S. vaccination campaign. The agency is expected to issue emergency authorization shortly for the vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-Astrazeneca’s coronavirus vaccines are expected to be the next coronavirus vaccines in line to ask for emergency use authorization from the federal agency. Those hearings could come after the first of the year.

Humble noted that vaccines from Moderna and Astrazeneca that don’t have to be kept as cold as the Pfizer vaccine could open the door to more easily vaccinating those in more rural parts of the state.

He said Astrazeneca could be a “game changer” for the U.S. because the company has a large contract with the federal government and is able to mass produce its vaccine.

Additionally, it only has to be refrigerated, which would pave the way to vaccinating people in clinical settings like doctor’s offices and community health centers.

The distribution of the coronavirus vaccine this week has provided a light at the end of the tunnel as infections continue to surge in Arizona and across the country.

On Thursday, state health officials reported 5,817 new coronavirus cases and 147 additional deaths, bringing the documented totals to 435,036 COVID-19 infections and 7,677 fatalities.

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Health expert says more approvals will speed up Arizona virus immunizations