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Doctor on Covid-19: ‘This is a virus that is really here to stay’

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Dr. Elizabeth Clayborne, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Emergency Physician at UM Capital Region Medical Center, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest in the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

KARINA MITCHELL: Welcome back, and we turn our attention now to the fight against COVID. The White House today unveiling plans for the rollout of a Pfizer COVID vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, pending FDA authorization. Here to discuss is Dr. Elizabeth Clayborne, adjunct professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and also emergency physical at UM Capital Region Medical Center. Doctor, thank you so much for being with us today.

I want to say that the administration says it's acquired enough vaccinations, about 28 million, for the 5 to 11 age group population. COVID rates are climbing in parts of the world. So is this the right time? Has there been enough research done? And can you explain how the dosing and protocol are different for children compared to adults?

ELIZABETH CLAYBORNE: Absolutely. So, you know, to start off, yes, I do think that this is the right time. For this particular age group, 5 to 11, the data that involves a study that had over 2,000 kids had really promising results. And they did utilize a dose that was 10 micrograms, so that's a third of the size of a dose that was used for adults. And it did show a very robust immune response with good antibody production in this group.

And I think that it's important that we obviously bring the vaccine safely to our children when it's ready and not rush it, but we also want to be mindful that we are entering the winter months, and a lot of these kids are in school, which is a very high risk situation. So I do think that getting this vaccine into children's arms before the holiday months where there might be increased travel, contact with other people, and obviously, kids still going to school, will be essential for, you know, prolonging their safety in the winter months when I think the risk for COVID could go up.

JARED BLIKRE: And, Doctor, I want to get your take. There is a new measure in New York City that's being discussed. This is going to require police officers, firefighters, and first responders. This is going to implement a vaccine mandate for them. We've already seen this implemented in the health care systems throughout the US, but it's controversial, not the least to say. I'm just running what your professional opinion is of this.

ELIZABETH CLAYBORNE: Yeah, absolutely. So, as a physician, you know, obviously, I work in a very high risk environment. I come in contact with COVID positive patients all the time. And so it makes natural sense that someone working in my environment needs to be vaccinated. I would argue that a lot of these other professions also have an extreme high risk exposure.

Police officers, firefighters, these are people who interact with the public on a daily basis. At times, they may interact with more people than I even interact with at the hospital. Although they may not be sick people, It's still a significant risk. So I do understand why some of these cities, like New York and San Francisco, are kind of moving towards vaccine mandates.

And in general, I think that when we look long term in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, we are going to have to enforce people, complying with this very important public health measure, and that is vaccinating. This is a virus that is really here to stay. And so if it indeed becomes endemic, there's no other way for us to protect from growing deaths and hospitalizations and serious adverse outcomes from coronavirus unless we vaccinate. And so I think that it's an important step that everyone is going to have to deal with at one point or another.

I will say that I think people who are still hesitant about the vaccine should continue to look at the data. Millions and millions of people have now received this vaccine, and we have a lot better understanding of the side effects and potentially some of the longer term effects of the vaccine, as well as its efficacy. And it is showing that it is indeed very safe and effective in protecting against severe disease and hospitalization.

And at the end of the day, that's the name of the game. You do not want to have to go to work and worry about getting sick and dying or bringing home something that could kill one of your family members.

KARINA MITCHELL: And as more and more people are getting this vaccine, as you say, millions and millions, we're hearing reports, Novavax, one of the vaccine makers, is running into manufacturing problems. Are you seeing any issues with availability? Do you foresee any of those issues happening?

ELIZABETH CLAYBORNE: Fortunately, here in the United States, I feel that we have had reasonably good access to the vaccine. There are certainly always pockets of our country, and particularly in underserved and urban areas, and places where I don't think we did as great of a rollout of the vaccine as we could have that we should continue to be mindful of.

But the areas of the world that I think that we're really lacking in access really is all the developing world, a lot of the countries that don't have the same kind of privilege and economies that we have in the developed world. They need access to this vaccine. And so I do think it's important that we explore all the options to get all the effective and safe vaccines to market as we can. And that would include some of those that may be struggling with their production right now.

Now, we need to absolutely ensure that they are safely brought to market. And I think that's what's happening. But the growing pains in producing these vaccines and distributing them safely is to be expected. And I hope that these are challenges that we can surmount, because it is essential that we get the entire global population vaccinated if we want to control COVID for the foreseeable future.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, and I'm glad you brought out the rollout point because there's also discussion about the Merck rollout of its antiviral drug. And that's still in the very beginning stages, but there's also concerns that it's going to be available in the places in the developed nations and also the cities and coastal regions and a lot of these developed nations where you have higher incomes. And there's going to be another inequitable distribution of this. I'm just wondering how the health care industry deals with these sorts of problems overall. And in this specific circumstance, given that it's the only one of its kind, really, is there a way to prevent this inequity of distribution?

ELIZABETH CLAYBORNE: I think at least being cognizant, right, of the possibility of these health inequities that have been longstanding in several areas of our country and around the world and have been exacerbated by COVID-19 is essential in combating health disparities. So I think that governments like the United States that have such a significant power and economic influence in the world, have to be leaders when it comes to demanding health equity with the rollout of these vaccines and enabling countries that do not have as many resources to have access to all of the medications.

Just because you're born here in the United States does not mean that you should have access to drugs and medications that other people don't have, especially when we're dealing with a pandemic that affects everyone. And people must remember that as we enter these winter months, there's always a possibility of a new variant spinning off. It is more likely that that variant would arise out of a country that does not have great control of the COVID-19 pandemic because it's not well vaccinated.

And so even if you are not enticed by the need for health equity because you think it's the right thing for you to do, you should at least be motivated by the fact that COVID variants or coronavirus variants can come from other countries and then impact your particular health and situation in countries like the United States.

KARINA MITCHELL: And it is definitely a global problem, particularly as the US opens up to international travel. Dr. Elizabeth Clayborne, adjunct professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, also emergency physical at UM Capital Region Medical Center, thank you so much.