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‘Good News Out There,’ Declares Governor Lamont



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The focus of Governor Ned Lamont’s Monday, November 9 news briefing was on the “good news out there” of that day: the joint announcement by drug maker Pfizer and Mainz, Germany-based drug maker BioNTech of a COVID-19 vaccine trial with strong, positive results.

As Connecticut’s COVID numbers ticked upward from the previous week, the governor was joined by Pfizer’s Dr John Burkhardt, senior vice president, global head of drug safety research and development, and Connecticut labs site director; Dr Reginald Eadie, president and CEO of Trinity Health of New England and co-chair of the governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group; and Josh Geballe, COO for the Office of the Governor and commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, to field questions regarding the news.

“No corners were cut,” Burkhardt assured regarding safety, and emphasized that once all approvals were received, the vaccine could be rolled out, with priorities for distribution. Priority, Eadie said, would include health care workers, frontline staff, the elderly, those whose health is compromised, and those in nursing homes. That very limited number of doses, probably no more than 50 million of the two-step vaccine, could be available by the year’s end, Burkhardt said.

The good news, he also said, is that this time around, capacity is there and more is known about the novel coronavirus. Allocation, science, and communication subgroups are in place to address issues of prioritization, evaluation, and advisement as progress on this vaccine advances.

Burkhardt and Eadie noted the challenges around subfreezing temperature required for storage and stabilization of the vaccine, and the importance of working with state governments to overcome that particular challenge. It is his belief, said Eadie, that through preparation, the state will have the capacity to accommodate the safe storage of the vaccine by the time it is available.

Combatting misinformation would be another challenge, which Burkhardt believes can be addressed through focusing on the science and making that science understandable. He stressed that the test results have always been data driven.

Lamont added that it will be a collaboration of the scientific community, labor community, and community leaders to explain why the vaccine is safe. In closing, the governor emphasized that there remain a number of steps to go in getting out this vaccine to the public.

“My strong instinct,” said the governor, “this is by far the largest vaccination effort in the history of the world.”

On November 9, Senator Tony Hwang (R-28), co-chair of the Connecticut Bioscience Caucus, issued a statement noting, “Pfizer and BioNTech announced their vaccine candidate against COVID-19 achieved success in first interim analysis from an advanced phase 3 study. Their vaccine was found to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis.

“As we endure a second surge of the COVID-19 virus, Connecticut’s bioscience industry is hard at work so our state, country, and world can someday move beyond the risk and fear of contracting this terribly infectious virus... I am cautiously optimistic to hear about the strides that Connecticut’s own Pfizer, in collaboration with BioNTech, are making toward a safe and effective vaccine to COVID-19.”

Submission for Emergency Use Authorization to the US Food and Drug Administration is currently expected to occur in the third week of November.

As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches its eighth month locally, the marquee in front of Newtown Middle School continues to offer encouraging, healthy advice: Keep Calm And Mask On. Governor Ned Lamont’s November 9 news briefing also continued to stress the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols. —Bee Photo, Hicks
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