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Doctor: COVID-19 vaccines have been the ‘highlight of our response’

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COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is approaching 26 million as the vaccine rollout continues. Tia SVP Medical Affairs Dr. Kathleen Jordan joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Dr. Kathleen Jordan is SVP of Medical Affairs at Tia. And Dr. Jordan, you just heard Anjalee walking through that. And obviously, the efficacy data could have been stronger for Novavax or Johnson & Johnson, but where it's at, considering the shortage of vaccines to get out there at speed right now, what do you make of the updates we got in terms of how it adds up to our response to the pandemic?

KATHLEEN JORDAN: I think vaccines have been the highlight of our response with some big wins. Obviously, the 95% efficacy from Pfizer and Moderna were incredible. I also think that 85% efficacy this morning from Johnson & Johnson on preventing severe disease is also incredible. People want these vaccines, because they don't want to die and they don't want to end up in the ICU. And those numbers are actually very impressive.

I mean, right now, we have 7% of the US population vaccinated, which is great. We have our health care workforce vaccinated, which makes our health care facilities safe. But we're poised to really roll out hundreds of millions more doses in the coming months. And I'm excited about where we are with vaccines. I do think we're a little bit away from herd immunity however. Remember, none of these vaccines are yet approved for children under 16, and that's 20% of our population. So we have 20% of our population that isn't going to be vaccinated, at least in the immediate future.

So we do need to also still keep our eye on the ball on other measures. We still need to double down on masking, infection control efforts. We still need to work out testing. I'd like to see some big wins coming out of testing that are more affordable and accessible with quick turnarounds, point of care. Imagine getting testing going into dinner parties or schools or any kind of communal gathering. So I think we're still looking for some wins, but we've had some real wins.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, we've seen a number of ideas at least floated around, especially around sports venues. But I want to get back to the issue of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, because the expectation going into the data that came out today has always been that this vaccine may allow things in terms of the vaccination distribution and getting as many people vaccinated as possible, that could really accelerate.

Because it is a one-dose vaccine, and doesn't have the same restrictions in terms of storage. Now that we've got the number, the efficacy isn't it has high as Moderna and Pfizer, and then of course, there are the concerns about its efficacy against the variants. How do you weigh the positive and the negative on that front?

KATHLEEN JORDAN: Well, I would caution you from simplifying these complex trials down to one number. It's not 95% versus 72%. As you mentioned, having the ability to distribute more globally, being one dose. We also don't know the durability data on any of these or how easily they are modified to keep up with these variants that are coming out. So they may in the end, be more equivalent than we currently know.

We also have allergic patients. So I think there's different vaccines for different populations. I think we still have evolving knowledge on all of these vaccines. And I think we need to continue to look at all of them. I would say these vaccine efficacy percentages are all in good categories, and i would receive any of them.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and I guess that becomes the next point too that we've been discussing before we got the efficacy data, which was, will Americans want to get the vaccines when they come out and can actually get them? I mean, we've already seen plenty of lines around the country for people who want to get the vaccine. So it sounds like we're inching along in the right fashion to get those out.

But as you said, there's still a lot of the population out there that necessarily hasn't been looked at. Pregnant women, as well. I know there are a lot of concerns around that too. So when you think about the timeline of all this, given what we know now with these new vaccines, what is your estimation for when we might hit herd immunity?

KATHLEEN JORDAN: Whew, you won't pin me to a specific date, but I do think we, we're going to need high numbers. Given the prevalence that we have currently, as well as the level of contagion shown by these new variants, as well as the old variants, we need high percentages to achieve herd immunity. That doesn't mean that vaccinating ourselves is not helpful. That helps us personally, that helps our own microcosm in our own communities. So we're chipping away with vaccinations. So I think we just need to keep our eye on the prize of herd immunity.


KATHLEEN JORDAN: But in the interim, we still have to do the social distancing and being safe.

ZACK GUZMAN: Well, let me just follow up real quick on one of these states. I mean, we saw North Dakota and South Dakota. You can make your own, you can make your own take on whether or not it was a bad thing or good thing that the response was so weak. But when you factor in the people who actually contracted COVID-19 the natural way, through catching the coronavirus, I mean, when you look at that, South Dakota might be approaching herd immunity because of that.

Obviously, it's not good when you think about the deaths that would have stemmed from it. But what do you make of that and how all these states are facing their own struggles with rolling the vaccines out in different case count numbers as well?

KATHLEEN JORDAN: But this is a pandemic. So this is affecting the globe. I mean, this is how it all started actually. So we can't look at, while individual communities all getting safer will eventually lead us to a global herd immunity, people in South Dakota will travel to other states. So they will still be at risk in other states or present risk if they are not vaccinated.

So I think we have to look at it more globally than in the little communities. I think we have to attack it. I think we have to attack education and compliance in our communities in order to achieve global herd immunity. But I don't want us to be too complacent in the Dakotas, for example.

AKIKO FUJITA: Some good context there. Dr. Kathleen Jordan, the SVP Medical Affairs at Tia, good to talk to you today. Thanks so much for joining us.

KATHLEEN JORDAN: Thanks, have a good morning.