Within the next week both Missoula hospitals will receive the initial doses of the new Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine, which will initially be given to front-line healthcare providers along with residents and staff of local nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Dr. Nicole Fink, Medical Specialist for the COVID Task Force and the COVID Incident Command at Missoula Community Medical Center.

Dr. Fink answered many of the questions that the public has about the vaccines, such as are the vaccines safe, considering how rapidly they were approved by the FDA and the CDC.

“The thing that I would highlight for people who asked that question is the fact that both of these vaccines went through all of the same steps as any other vaccine that has ever been approved in the United States,” said Dr. Fink. “They've gone through most importantly Phase Three trials, which again are those large numbers of people tested, the 40,000 people, the 30,000 people, where they've taken a look to see that the vaccine is first, safe, and second, effective.”

Fink further clarified the extensive testing that the vaccines by both Pfizer and Moderna went through.

“The requirement actually from the FDA before they could even submit their data was that they needed to have followed the people in their Phase Three trials for a minimum of two months for side effects,” she said. “Because most of the severe side effects from vaccines usually occur within six weeks after the initial vaccinations, these vaccines have gone through exactly the same vetting process than any other vaccine that's ever come to market in the United States.”

Dr. Fink answered the most obvious question about any new vaccine; ‘will it work’?

“Will it work?,” she asked.  “Well, they've released preliminary data and actually the FDA posted on their website today 90 to 95% efficacy or, yes, it works. It works at preventing disease, almost 100% of preventing severe disease which is the level of illness to get you admitted to the hospital and highly effective at preventing even mild to moderate disease.”

Another compelling question is when will the general public be allowed to be vaccinated?

“You know, that's an excellent question, and the details of that are in the process of being worked out between the healthcare organizations here in town and the public health department,” she said. “So they’re working on the details of that but there’s more to come, so we do not know yet.”

Dr. Fink said that most healthcare providers will be vaccinated, however, they will not be required to take the vaccine; and to the best of her knowledge, the general public will have the option to be vaccinated or not be vaccinated.


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