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Moderna and Pfizer vaccines show defense against variants

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Associate Faculty Director at the Harvard Global Health Institute Dr. Ingrid Katz joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the latest news on vaccines as Pfizer and Biontech seek full FDA approval

Video Transcript

- We want to get to the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic. Pfizer is seeking full FDA approval for its vaccine. We want to talk about this, the implications of it, with Dr. Ingrid Katz, associate faculty director at the Harvard Global Health Institute. And Dr. Katz, I guess first just talk to us about progressing from authorization to approval. How significant of an impact could this potentially have?

INGRID KATZ: I think it's an incredibly exciting time right now, in terms of where we are in our public health response. This is not where we were even a few months ago. And we are now up at 134 million people vaccinated in the United States. It's a tremendous accomplishment. And so when your-- when a drug company is asking for an EUA, or an emergency use authorization, it means that they just have data from clinical trials and they need to push it through quickly, which is exactly the right thing to do in the context of a pandemic. Now, we have much more data, real-world data, to show the efficacy of these incredible vaccines. And so now, they are taking the additional step to ask the FDA to essentially grant them true approval, as opposed to an emergency use authorization.

- So how does that take us one step closer to what they call herd immunity? Because the doctors in California are saying that that state will be there sometime in June, possibly July.

INGRID KATZ: Right. So this is, again, a very exciting potential opportunity, because we know that real-world data is really reflecting what we saw in clinical trials, which is that these vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing COVID transmission, and also illness. And so when a drug company gets the full license from the FDA, then they are able to directly market to consumers, as opposed to going through all of these other channels that they've had to use. I think it also gives them an opportunity to mandate vaccination in certain settings. And so if they get this full approval, it's going to be very interesting to see what types of companies actually mandate that people get vaccinated to come back on-site.

- So doctor, let's talk about what's going on globally, because we also had that WHO approving one of China's vaccines, Sinopharm, for emergency use. How-- I guess how helpful will this be in order to get the pandemic under control on a global scale when there are so many other countries out there, specifically India now, that's seeing record cases day in and day out?

INGRID KATZ: Yeah, we have a long way to go globally, unfortunately. I think this has been a very patchwork response globally, and I think it really speaks to the holes that we have inherent in this system, that it really is inequitable. And so what we've seen overall is that countries that are wealthier made very early deals with a lot of these drug companies.

Other countries that are very poor have some access through the WHO to get some special vaccinations through that COVAX program, but there's a lot of countries in the middle, like India, like Brazil, that are falling through the cracks and have very few people vaccinated in their country. And so now, it's really switched into a complete emergency public health response, where people have to maintain social distance, they have to be masking in public. It's really the way things were for us six months ago, I would say.

- Dr. Ingrid Katz, associate faculty director at the Harvard Global Health Institute, thanks, as always, for hopping on here and joining us today.