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Promising COVID-19 vaccine is being tested in Dallas-Fort Worth area

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday its COVID-19 vaccine has 90% effectiveness in preventing the disease. Thousands of D-FW residents are part of the trial.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

DALLAS — On Monday, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is showing more than 90% effectiveness in preventing the novel coronavirus disease.

This early data comes from a study with 43,538 participants. Some of those trial participants are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Dr. Mezgebe Berhe leads the trial at North Texas Infectious Diseases Consultants in Dallas.

"To find early effectiveness for this in a short time, I am so privileged to be part of the team that has been contributing to this," said Berhe. "This is great news for everyone."

During the trial, participants blindly received two doses, three weeks apart. Half got the drug, and the other half got placebos.

Berhe emphasized that this is early data, and more will continue to be collected from the subjects. He hopes more results will be released in December.

Berhe said he has nearly 500 participants in his study. One of the participants is Dr. Mark Casanova, President of the Dallas County Medical Society and a doctor at Baylor Scott & White Health. Healthcare workers are often perfect candidates because of their increased exposure to COVID-19.

Casanova is cautiously optimistic about the early data from Pfizer. 

"It will really take mass vaccination to get a clear idea of true effectiveness of the vaccine," he said. He believes it will take time before mass vaccination can happen, potentially in the late spring or summer.

Local business owner, Paul Hollowell, also participated in the trial, not with Dr. Berhe, but at Ventavia Research Group in Keller. He has seen the impact of COVID-19 and hopes by volunteering, he can help get life back to the way it used to be. 

"Participating in this trial is a small way I can help to prevent another shutdown in the future," said Hollowell. 

Later this month, Pfizer plans to apply for Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after it achieves the required safety information. The company expects to produce 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.