NORFOLK, Va. - Dr. Edward Oldfield, a Professor of Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, is reacting to news surrounding the race for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I've never seen anything like this in my 40 years of practicing infectious disease,” Oldfield told News 3. “It's just extraordinary in time, extraordinary in science, extraordinary in commitment to have this vaccine ready to go.”
This week, vaccine advisers with the CDC voted to recommend healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities be the first to get it once one is approved.
Oldfield agrees that healthcare workers are the number one priority.
“They have the most exposure,” he said. “They're the ones on the front lines. If you don't have healthcare workers, who's going to take care of COVID patients in the hospital?”
He said those at long-term care facilities are also important.
“They're the ones that have the greatest chance of dying, and so their reasoning to be at the top of the line is because of the risk of that outcomes,” Oldfield said.
Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam gave expectations on what's next in the Commonwealth.
“Assuming the FDA grants Pfizer emergency use requests, vaccine doses will ship to the states immediately,” Northam said. “This could happen as early as mid-December, just a couple of weeks from now.”
Northam said Virginia is expecting to get about 70,000 doses from Pfizer in the first wave, enough to give 70,000 people a first dose of the vaccine. He said this will happen at hospital systems, or places equipped with ultra-cold storage facilities.
While it will take time, Northam said it's important everyone get the vaccine once available.
“That is our only path to getting back to that near normal which we often speak about,” Northam said.
In the meantime, Oldfield said guidelines like mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing are crucial.
“Could you imagine if your grandmother died because you let your guard down, and that vaccine came out a month later, you could've saved her life?” Oldfield said. “I think we have to be even more careful now, because we're just on the horizon of a truly protective vaccine.”