MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Monday, researchers say a leader contender in production of a COVID-19 vaccine showed good immune response. The lead scientist told BBC News that while there is no definitive timeline, but the hope is to have millions of doses by the fall.

“I think we’re all cautiously optimistic to be able to say that,” said Patsy Stinchfield, a pediatric nurse practitioner in infectious diseases with Children’s Minnesota. “It’s what happens after that I think we’ll need to get our expectations correct around.”

Although the U.S. is embarking on Operation Warp Speed — a plan to manufacture millions of doses at the same time researchers study the vaccine — Stinchfield said the vaccine will still be rolled out in tiers.

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“We did this with H1N1, we’ll initially have few numbers of vaccine and we’ll have to decide who gets it first,” she said.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control, is the group that decides those tiers. Stinchfield is one of ACIP’s liaison representatives.

“You decide based on risk,” she said. “So that will be healthcare workers on the front lines taking care of sick people, you have to have healthy people to take care of sick people.”

After that, it’s generally high-risk groups, like older people or people with preexisting conditions. Stinchfield said children might be at the end of the list, given they are less likely to get sick from COVID-19.

“To have us vaccinate all of the United States, it may take several months and even a year,” Stinchfield said.

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At this point, it’s not clear if the vaccine will go directly to the states or to the providers. During the H1N1 vaccine shortage in 2009, Children’s Minnesota received a limited supply and had to decide — with a panel of doctors, nurses and ethicists — who got the vaccine first.

“I hope we don’t have to do that, but we have to be prepared,” said Stinchfield.

She also pointed out, enough people need to actually take the vaccine for herd immunity to develop. Stinchfield said research shows that needs to be more than 50%, but 60% to 80% would be better. In the 2018-2019 flu season, 53% of Minnesotans were vaccinated for influenza.

Heather Brown

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