RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Regulators in the United Kingdom have approved Pfizer's vaccine for use, just over a week prior to an FDA meeting to review the regimen.
"I think any time that several countries roll this out at once it puts a lot of confidence in the population. Anything that rolls out this fast, people are going to have a mistrust and I think seeing multiple places around the world come to the same conclusion will reassure all of us that this is going to be a safe process," said Dr. David Kirk, the Associate Chief Medical Officer at WakeMed.
The news comes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rate are increasing both in North Carolina and the nation.
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"This is going to be a difficult winter. I think everybody's forewarning that the spike increase in cases that we see right now became inevitable over fall, both for climate reasons and for fatigue reasons," said Dr. Myron Cohen, the Director of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases.
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Kirk said that at WakeMed, the numbers "are similar to what they were at the peak in the spring and summer."
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If the FDA approves the vaccine, the first Americans could begin receiving it in mid-December. Though it may take several months to fully ramp up distribution, medical experts have a percent in mind when it comes to achieving herd immunity.
"A vaccination level of 70% would, I think, have a dramatic effect on the pandemic," Cohen said.
We still don't know how long-lasting these vaccines are, so COVID-19 protocols such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and frequent washing of hands can't be dropped.
"You can really protect yourself by wearing a high-grade medical mask, washing your hands, and socially distancing. It really works. Our lived experience here in the hospital is our staff are not getting infected from patients," Kirk said.
Medical experts hope that the UK's decision to approve the vaccine is a positive signal not only for the FDA's plans but in boosting confidence about its efficacy.
"The sooner that data comes out, other countries rolling it out (and) we'll get their experience, I think more and more people will be excited about the vaccine as more and more information comes out," Kirk said.
The vaccine in the UK is set to be distributed beginning next week. If approved, North Carolina officials said they could receive its first vaccine doses as early as December 15.
"The UK decision suggests that they've looked at the data in much more detail than we have in the United States, and they've found (the) safety and efficacy sufficiently compelling to approve the distribution of a vaccine for people in Great Britain. So one would assume that it is compelling, and this will be a contribution in (stopping) the COVID epidemic," Cohen said.