Local health experts weigh in on COVID-19 vaccine rollout


POUGHKEEPSIE — As Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine shows signs of hope, local health experts shared their thoughts on its possible rollout.

Each held a sense of skepticism for the potentially fast turnaround. 

Dr. Seema Rizvi, who works in the Wingate nursing home in Fishkill, believes there is optimism to be had about the imminent arrival of a vaccine, but its efficacy is to be determined.

“We don’t know if it will be safe and effective,” she said, “unless you know it will be given.”

A local nurse who asked to remain anonymous also questioned its efficacy. “If they do release a vaccine that’s too early, we may have to deal with that it’s not really going to work well,” she said.

Harriet Koral, a professor of nursing at SUNY Ulster, is unsure if the public will take the vaccine once it is released. “We have a large population that’s already skeptical about vaccines,” she said. “I think it might be difficult to convince people that it’s safe if it truly is.”

Dr. Rizvi held skepticism about whether or not the push for a vaccine was politically motivated. With President Trump projected to lose in both the popular vote and electoral college, the politicization of the vaccine may be rendered moot, but she blamed his mishandling of the pandemic for the fervor around a sudden vaccine.

“There should be no ifs, ands or buts,” she said of the outgoing president’s refusal to implement a nationwide strategy. “The pandemic is the pandemic.” 

Koral hopes that new leadership can implement a national mask mandate until a vaccine arrives.

“There’s no regulation, there’s no mandate on wearing masks.” she said. “It would be great if we could have some kind of federal response on how to contain this virus.” 

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris recently announced a COVID-19 task force of doctors and health experts to tackle a nationwide strategy in combatting the virus. Biden’s office has released plans to work with governors and mayors that haven’t issued a universal mask mandate. 

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that a vaccine could be readily available for all Americans by April of next year, but cautions that public health measures such as wearing a mask will need to be adhered to along with the vaccine once it arrives.

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