AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness ‘exciting’ for UW Health doctors, staff working on clinical trials

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Doctors and staff who oversee clinical trials of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate said the report of its effectiveness is welcomed news, especially during the worst stretch of the pandemic for Wisconsin.

The company said the vaccine has an average effectiveness of 70 percent, but that is boosted to 90 percent under a regimen where patients receive half a dose initially and then a full dose about a month later.

“It’s always very exciting when one of the things you’re working on seems to be working,” Dr. William Hartman told CBS 58. Dr. Hartman is the principal investigator for the UW Health AstraZeneca clinical trial.

The results reported today were from overseas clinical trials, not from trials happening in the U.S. But Dr. Hartman said the information is still valuable and can help guide the process going forward.

“We can take some lessons from this data that has been opened from around the world,” Dr. Hartman said. “Some of the dosing regimen changes that can be amended so that we can further study those here in the United States as well as, we still need to continue to evaluate the overall safety profile of the vaccine.”

Dr. Hartman said the data is good news especially as the state’s hospitals, including University Hospital in Madison, are pushed to their limits during the current coronavirus surge.

“We’re kind of in the middle of a wildfire,” Dr. Hartman said. Hartman noted the promise of the AstraZeneca and other vaccine candidates like the ones from Pfizer and Moderna offer a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still important that people adhere to mitigation efforts as the winter approaches.

The next issue will be the allocation and distribution of vaccines once they’re available.

“This is going to take many months to roll out,” Devlin Cole said. Cole is a preventative medicine resident at UW-Madison and also a staff member on the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee.

Cole said health care workers are at the front of the line to receive vaccines when they’re available and that may occur as early as the start of the new year. After health care workers, residents and workers of long-term care facilities would be next, followed by first responders.

“Making sure we get that tier dealt with in our first allocation probably somewhere in the hundreds of thousands as opposed to the millions of vaccines,” Cole told CBS 58.

Cole noted the state is prepared for the roll out of the vaccines when they’re available but cautioned the process will take time. Things like education and access for the public will be key in assuring the vaccines can be distributed effectively and efficiently.

Dr. Hartman said the general public could expect wider distribution by the spring of 2021.

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