Dobbs, Byers to be first in line for COVID-19 vaccinations

Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 4:22 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Dr. Thomas Dobbs and Dr. Paul Byers said they’ll be first in line to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination.

“We are healthcare providers and I tested somebody for coronavirus today,” said Dobbs, the state health officer, adding that he and Byers are planning to practice what they preach by rolling up their sleeves during a news conference next week.

“Based on the information I’ve seen now, I’ll be very comfortable getting vaccinated,” he said.

Meanwhile, the University of Mississippi Medical Center sent out a memo to UMMC employees saying that COVID vaccines would be distributed to about 3,900 staff members as early as Wednesday, December 16.

Dobbs and Byers expect the initial round of COVID vaccinations as early as December 13.

The initial doses will be made available to heath care workers, followed by individuals living in long-term care facilities.

Dobbs and Byers, state epidemiologist, discussed the vaccine at a Zoom meeting on Tuesday.

“We’re very excited about being on the cusp of access to the Pfizer COVID vaccine,” Dobbs said. “The phase three study data we have available from Pfizer right now … shows an efficacy rate of 95 percent.

“If you look at the details more, they show broad success and effectiveness regardless of age. Even if your over 65 or over 70, the efficacy looks really strong.”

Approximately 44,000 people were included in the trials.

“There are no significant adverse safety events that would result in the discontinuation or concern about the trial,” he said. “There were no mortality events that were concerning.

“We did see, which is not surprising, some inflammatory side effects. After the second dose, the majority did have injection site-swelling and discomfort.”

Some also reported fatigue, chills and body aches. A small majority reported fever. However, Dobbs said the side effects were “transient and short-lived.”

“The safety profile looks very strong based on this data,” Dobbs explained. “We’re increasingly confident that this vaccine will not only be effective for protecting those on the front lines but help us start to get a lid on this coronavirus pandemic that’s been plaguing us for so many months.”

Some questions on the vaccine remain, including whether those with the vaccination could still transmit the virus, and how long the vaccination is effective.

“Data that we have on the Pfizer vaccine shows the efficacy for the illness, but not data on transmission,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know how effective the shots are at the six-month period.

The state is expecting to receive around 25,000 vaccine doses next week.

Initial doses will be distributed to acute care hospitals, based on the number of front-line workers reported to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

“We expect our initial allocation December 13 – sometime next week or so,” Byers said. “It will be the Pfizer vaccine, and will be a relatively limited number of doses.

“Our primary goal, with the initial round we’re going to get, we’ll make sure we make that vaccine available to healthcare systems and hospitals to vaccinate high-priority, front-line healthcare workers, especially those who are taking care … of those infected with COVID-19.”

Byers said in the second week, the state should receive additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine and possibly some of the Moderna vaccination.

“We don’t have the exact numbers on what the allocation is going to be,” he said. “In the second week, one of our big goals is to begin the allocation process to make sure we get to health care workers and residents in long-term care facilities, first in the nursing homes, to get them vaccinated.”

Plans are also to have drive-thru sites set up at county health departments to vaccinate health care providers not associated with major health systems.

Dobbs continued to urge residents to cut out social activities, saying that the vaccination likely won’t be available to most members of the general public until the spring or summer months.

He said funerals should be limited to immediate family members, and that church services should be online, saying people typically don’t wear masks or practice social distancing in those environments.

“I want to get as many people over the finish line as possible,” he said.

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