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One shot of the COVID-19 vaccine does not ‘render you immune’: Doctor

The UK has imposed strict lockdowns due to a possible new strain of the coronavirus. Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Hiral Tipirneni joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video Transcript

- We have Dr. Hiral Tipirneni. She's an emergency medicine physician out in Arizona, where she was also a former candidate for Congress. Dr. Tipirneni it's great to talk with you this morning. I want to ask about the silver lining of the vaccine within the context of what Anjalee was just talking about. And I want to ask clearly. I mean, does the threat of a new strain as we're seeing in the UK, really have any implications for vaccine development or efficacy as we continue to see the rollout of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well thank you for having me on today. And as she said, I mean, there are always multiple strains that can potentially mutate. We know the science behind that. And what's really important is just for us to make sure we're following the data, let the data guide us. At this point, we have no reason to think that this vaccine that we have changes in efficacy at all based on this. But again, it's about monitoring the data, watching the numbers come out of other places, and seeing what the science tells us.

If there's a need for any sort of changes to be made, that's what we need to be watching for. But right now, I think we are in good hands with this current set of vaccines that we have, and the rollout so far has been very robust and efficacious. And we should just let the science and the data lead us as we go forward.

SEANA SMITH: Hey Doctor, it's Seana here. So it sounds like on the vaccine front, we're probably going to be OK. But I think the issue here going forward is what Anjalee just said and that's about that it might not be as detectable in tests. I'm curious just how this could potentially complicate our efforts here to mitigate the spread of the virus.

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean-- and as you all know, we haven't had a comprehensive national testing strategy. So we've already struggled with that in comparison to so many other countries around the globe. So I think that is a very real concern to make sure that we have accurate testing strategies, that we have the correct-- whether it's the actual test or the development materials and so forth. And that's why, again, and we know this, right.

We know that the CDC is watching this, we know that NIH is aware. This is another reason that we should still be part of the World Health Organization because these pandemics, the reason that we have been so protected in the past is because we've been able to stop them before they hit our shores.

In this case, we have to be very vigilant and we have to make sure that we are getting the data, we know what the science tells us, and that we are being proactive. And that just means that all of our agencies and health organizations have to be in sync and really have-- the radar has to be very sharply focused on this. Because right now, we're at a major turning point with the vaccine here. And certainly we don't want to lose any of the progress that we've been making.

But that means that all of us, including folks that have not been vaccinated, as well as even those folks who have, we still have to maintain a very high level of vigilance. That means still wearing masks, still maintaining social distancing, nothing should change in that arena until we have that larger bulk of our population truly vaccinated and truly protected.

- And that brings up a good point because we really need to bridge that point in time. We're still many months away from widespread inoculation of the population. But we're seeing right now pacing at about a quarter million cases, new cases, each day. A lot of areas are hitting hospital capacity when it comes to those ICU beds. What are you seeing on the ground in Arizona? Are you optimistic based on what we're seeing the numbers that we can safely make it to the point where there's widespread vaccination despite that rising search?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah I mean, look here in Arizona. Things are worrisome, right. We know that our ICU bed capacity is stark, we know that the numbers, the number of cases have been raging upward, our test positive percentage has been floating around 20%, sometimes higher. So all of those are obviously very worrisome indicators of this current surge. And as you all know, we recently had a Thanksgiving holiday, we have Christmas holiday, and New Year's coming up, and there are still a lot of folks that are not necessarily following the public health guidelines.

Our governor has been very lax in enforcing anything. We don't have a mask mandate, we still have indoor dining, all of these things are worrisome. And so I would just really caution all the folks out there. The vaccine is amazingly good news, but realize that one shot doesn't render you immune, and we need to have the bulk of our population protected and immunized and actually truly immune to that the infection, and that's going to take many, many months.

So until then, we all have to continue to follow those same public health guidelines, stay home if you're sick, wash your hands, wear a mask when you're around others that are not in your household, limit the size of gatherings. I would avoid indoor dining, and just try to stay home as much as possible because we are not out of this crisis. We are-- there's a light at the end of that tunnel, but we have to do a lot of work to get there.

SEANA SMITH: And talking about doing a lot of work to get there, Doctor, that vaccination list that we got out over the weekend, the CDC panel signing off on that second group of four people who are 75 and older, front line workers, as well. I'm curious just what you thought of that list and who you think we should be vaccinating first.

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yeah. Look, I mean, obviously with our first batch. I think that was absolutely appropriate. Our second sort of category, I think we're talking about the highest risk folks. You know, we have those front line essential workers out there, whether they're the first responders, grocery clerks, folks that are out there not able to work from home. They are perpetually exposed to that risk. And I think it's very important that those folks are immunized and I think that is an appropriate category that is being prioritized.

I think we have to make sure that we follow the science in allocating this vaccine, that it should not be based on position, privilege, wealth, or anything else like that. It should be based on the highest risk and making sure that we are inoculating those populations that are most likely to either be exposed to the virus or have very deadly or dangerous complications of the virus.