SEATTLE — Overlake Medical Center could be weeks away from going full circle. The Bellevue hospital saw some of the first COVID-19 patients in the United States and soon it expects to receive the first doses of the vaccine for that very disease.
“For the first time in the nine months or so since I took that call, I am actually very optimistic,” said Dr. David Knoepfler, Overlake’s chief medical officer.
Two manufacturers, Moderna and Pfizer, are expected to receive FDA approval in the coming weeks. About 60,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are expected to arrive in Washington state by mid-December.
These doses must be stored in subzero conditions.
“We feel good about our refrigeration capacity in general. We think we have the personnel certainly to be able to distribute the vaccine,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told MSNBC earlier this week.
Washington medical professionals and politicians now have to convince a weary public that the vaccine is both safe and effective.
“Certainly if we can get 50 to 60% of the population vaccinated, we’re going to see a dramatic drop. Just an absolutely dramatic drop,” Knoepfler said.
The vaccine produced in record time has drawn skepticism — though slowly, public trust is increasing. A new Pew Research Center poll shows that out of more than 12,000 Americans, 60% say they intend to get the vaccine for COVID-19. That’s up from 50% in the fall.
KING 5 asked Knoepfler what he would say to people who are experiencing anxiety over the vaccine.
“It’s a really tough one. What I would say is that you are always weighing risks and benefits," he said.
“Granted this is a new vaccine that hasn’t been well tested in humans, but we do have what we call short term data, meaning less than a year, that shows it to be very well tolerated,” he said.
While vaccines typically take years to create and test, Pfizer, Moderna and numerous other researchers have develop the coronavirus vaccine within months using an accelerated timeline.
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“The benefits would way outweigh the risks in this case,” Knoepfler said.
While there is no firm date for when hospitals across the region will receive the first of many vaccine shipments, we do know that this medical breakthrough will bring much needed protection to our frontline workers first.
“Really, by the end of December, we are all feeling pretty confident that in the state, we’ll see the vast majority of our personnel vaccinated which is very exciting,” Knoepfler said.