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Research continues, as COVID vaccine begins distribution

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The United States may be having trouble getting vaccine into the arms of those who need to be protected against COVID-19, it isn’t because of a shortage.

Operation Warp Speed isn’t warping, with perhaps only one-tenth of the people in the American health care system getting vaccinated. A new vaccine from AstraZeneca may soon help the supply, with British approval Wednesday and U.S. approval expected soon.

Meanwhile, research is continuing on who it helps. University at Buffalo Professor and Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Thomas Russo said researchers are getting a handle on how the vaccine affects different ages, like older people.

"There is reasonable numbers of older individuals in both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine trials. The numbers are not as great as we would like," Russo said. "There’s a hint that maybe the efficacy might be a whiff less than it is for the overall population, but still, the numbers look very, very good, which is encouraging because we were concerned that that group may not have a similar degree of protection."

He said the next question to answer is about young people.

"For the Pfizer vaccine, we have a little bit of data for 16 and 17-year-olds and it looks good and safe in that group. We have no data as of yet for people that are less than 16. So Pfizer is starting to enroll children in some of its trials," Russo said. "Moderna plans to do that very soon. But data on children will be forthcoming, but is not available yet."

Russo said the global issue is getting enough doses to vaccinate 8 billion people and ensure herd immunity. The AstraZeneca vaccine will help because it doesn’t require the extreme refrigeration Pfizer and Moderna do and can be shipped more easily.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.