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Johns Hopkins Doctor Weighs in on Hopeful Vaccine Timeline

NBC San Diego logo NBC San Diego 12/3/2020 Jackie Crea
A researcher works in a lab run by Moderna Inc, who said November 16, 2020 that its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial, in an undated still image from video. © Provided by NBC San Diego

A researcher works in a lab run by Moderna Inc, who said November 16, 2020 that its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial, in an undated still image from video.

All eyes are on the FDA as millions of Americans wait for possible emergency use authorization for Pfizer and Moderna's coronavirus vaccines.

While there are still many unknowns, health officials said Wednesday they hope life can be somewhat back to normal by summer.

NBC 7 spoke to an infectious disease doctor about what the timeline could look like.

It might feel like groundhog day to some of us, considering life came to a standstill in March. But here we are at the end of the year and for now all we can do is long for the normalcy that we once had: maybe grabbing dinner indoors or watching a baseball game.

But the good news is that science is moving along and it’s possible people will start receiving a vaccine in weeks.

It’s December, 10 months into the pandemic, and doctors like Kelly Gebo, M.D. at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland are pleading that people take the health guidelines seriously.

“We don’t want to have healthcare workers go down and we don’t want to run out of beds, so please try to help us out,” Gebo said.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Tuesday voted to recommend that the two vaccines in the works go to the millions of health care workers and nursing home residents first. This, of course, is all pending FDA emergency use authorization.

In November U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar forecasted there would be enough of the vaccine to inoculate at-risk nursing home residents, health care workers and first responders by the end of January.

Despite a vaccine being as close as it's ever been, Dr. Gebo warns the next few months will be rough as possible COVID-19 surges following the holidays fill hospitals.

“Right now there are two ways out of this. You’re either gonna get infected or you’re gonna get the vaccine,” said Gebo.

Azar had also said by the end of March to early April, general vaccination programs should be in play for all Americans.

The hope is that by February, pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and even super markets will be able to administer the vaccine to people over the age of 65, those with medical conditions and essential workers.

Then it’s likely, officials said, by April and through June, the vaccine reaches healthy, nonessential workers younger than 65. And by summer, the hope is the vaccine will have reached a majority of Americans.

Again, this timeline is rough and it depends on decisions made in the coming days by the FDA.

Until then, Gebo asks people to remain vigilant while scientists monitor the effects of the vaccine trials.

“This is gonna be a long period between now and March, and we are all worried about the hospitalization rates that have begun to go up. Health care workers are beginning to get sick. We are tired and we need people to continue to follow the rules,” Gebo said.

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