By Tyler Greer
The University of Alabama at Birmingham will receive 10,725 initial doses of the Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 vaccine this week. The initial single doses will be administered to front line UAB Hospital personnel and clinical staff, Emergency Medical Services teams from the seven-county region, and other hospitals within Jefferson County.
“We are in the midst of our darkest time locally here in this pandemic, and the opportunity to begin administering vaccines is a needed ray of hope,” said Sarah Nafziger, M.D., vice president of Clinical Support Services and professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Neurology. “We are grateful to the Alabama Department of Public Health for providing us these vaccines and entrusting us to deliver them to those at the greatest risk — those currently in the health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients with COVID-19.”
UAB is the only location in Jefferson County selected to receive supplies of the vaccine. UAB Medicine and the university have several of the minus-80 degree freezers needed to store the vaccine. Vaccine distribution for the initial Phase I period will be prioritized to individuals with direct patient contact or who handle infectious materials.
UAB will have a single on-campus site dedicated to administering the vaccine to its employees — the Margaret Cameron Spain Auditorium. Area EMS and other hospitals will utilize the current drive-through COVID testing site at UAB Highlands. Times for these sites will be determined this week.
Selwyn Vickers, M.D., dean of UAB’s School of Medicine, says the results of the Pfizer vaccine study show it is very effective after both doses are given in the prescribed 28-days-apart timeframe. After the second dose, the research results show the vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective, reducing the chances of contracting a confirmed coronavirus infection and COVID-19 diagnosis to just 5 percent. The efficacy outcomes were excellent across demographic subgroups.
Vickers is encouraging everyone — including people of color — to take the vaccines as soon as they become available.
“The speed by which we’ve gotten the vaccine developed is not because of shortcuts. It’s because of next-generation molecular biology techniques that have allowed researchers to develop effective vaccines immediately after the virus was sequenced,” Vickers said. “Every health care worker should get vaccinated as soon as their employer selects them, and every person should get the vaccine as soon as they are made available to them.
“The public data we see from the files released from Pfizer appear to be encouraging. Both the Moderna and the Pfizer study took some efforts to include the minority community in their clinical trials. The Pfizer study has over 10 percent African American and over 20 percent Hispanic participants, and the Moderna study has north of 20 percent African American. These studies have included our people to prove they are safe.”