COVID-19 vaccine testing in Omaha shows 95% effectiveness

As COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new record high in the metro, there is promising news on the vaccine front.
Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 9:50 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new record high in the metro, there is promising news on the vaccine front.

At Meridian Clinical Research in northwest Omaha, there are more than 1,700 Nebraskans who have volunteered to participate in the Moderna and Pfizer clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Last week brought encouragement from Pfizer, while Monday Moderna says independent monitors rated its vaccine nearly 95 percent effective.

“We’re both relatively young and healthy and we kind of wanted to do our part helping everybody out,” said Nick Delman of Omaha.

In August, Delman and his wife signed up to be a part of the Moderna clinical trial testing a vaccine against COVID-19.

“The process was easy. They did a physical exam and then we got a half-dose and then they monitored us for seven days to see if we had any adverse reactions to the shot," he said.

When asked if he did not know if he received the vaccine or a placebo, Delman said, “Correct. With the double-blind, it’s a 50-50 chance. It’s kind of exciting to know I might have gotten the cure.”

Delman is among 30,000 people taking part in the trial.

On Sunday, an independent board examined 95 volunteers who got infected after a second dose.

All but five who got sick were getting the placebo -- not the Moderna vaccine.

Which translates to a 95 percent effectiveness rate.

“Everybody has to make adjustments," said Dr. Rudolf Kotula, an infectious disease specialist at Methodist Health Systems.

Kotula knows this is a critical time in the metro -- with everyone being told to rethink holiday gatherings while COVID-19 hospitalizations escalate.

Perhaps this vaccine news is encouraging enough to get us through the pandemic fatigue.

“I think this is an unbelievable effectiveness. We have 2 excellent candidates - Pfizer and Moderna. They both look like very effective vaccines," Kotual said.

Experts continue to beat the drum of mask-wearing, which remains a simple way to support our neighbors.

The vaccine volunteers feel the same way about their efforts.

“It’s really hard to see people hurting and in pain and even dying along without family. Anything to help out those people as well as the health care workers -- to support these people when their families can’t be there," Delman said.

If the effectiveness numbers stay on this path -- experts say 20 million doses of the vaccine could be available in December for the most vulnerable.

And then millions more into the beginning of next year.

One big difference between Moderna’s vaccine and Pfizer is Moderna’s doesn’t need to be stored at incredibly low temperatures.

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