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UofL Health prepares for Pfizer vaccine shipments as early as next week, if FDA gives emergency approval

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meets Thursday to consider the emergency use authorization of Pfizer's vaccine.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — We're now less than a week away from potentially having doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered here in Louisville. 

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meets Thursday to consider the emergency use authorization of Pfizer's vaccine.

UofL Health's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith said Wednesday he expects the FDA's committee to give an emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Pfizer vaccine, with the official green light following by the end of the week. 

Dr. Smith said he then expected shipments of the vaccine could begin arriving in Louisville 24 hours after that. The shipment would contain 975 doses. 

"We will start doing the vaccinations on Tuesday, Wednesday depending when the EUA comes out," Dr. Smith said.

UofL Health will administer the vaccine to high-risk medical care employees who volunteer.

"This is the first time as a medical community we've gotten the ability to impact the course of the virus," Dr. Smith said. 

The two-dose Pfizer vaccine requires storage in a minus 80 degree Celsius freezer which UofL Health already has in place.

"We could probably store all the vaccine that Kentucky is going to get in the first shipment," he said.

Dr. Smith said FDA data released this week on the Pfizer vaccine shows its highly effective and safe.

"We're really talking about mild to moderate side effects of this vaccine for a very small period of time and that is because the vaccine is highly effective at getting your immune system to work," he said.

As of now, there isn't enough information on the effects for children or pregnant women, so the vaccine will only be recommended for anyone over age 16.

"I will admit we do not have a lot of long-term information on the effects of this but what I can say is that the mRNA vaccine that they have developed is very targeted to this virus and should not, from what we can tell, cause any other reactions somewhere else in the body," Dr. Smith said. 

Dr. Smith said they plan to monitor the first patients to receive the vaccine for any long-term effects. He says anyone who's had COVID-19 previously would also still benefit from getting the vaccine.

"We are about to undertake an immunization project unlike anything we have done in my lifetime and probably anything that's been done since polio," he said. 

Reports from the UK released Wednesday morning health authorities saying anyone with severe allergies that would cause anaphylactic shock should not take the Pfizer vaccine. Dr. Smith said that is on their radar, but he believes there isn't enough information at this point to say those falling into that category shouldn't get the vaccine.

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