Local doctors leading the charge on LI in developing a COVID-19 vaccine discuss its status, how it could be distributed once approved, and answer questions.

The coronavirus is here for the foreseeable future but participants in vaccine trials could gain an advantage before one is widely available, according to a pair of Long Island infectious disease experts.

During a Wednesday Newsday Live webinar entitled, "The Quest for a COVID-19 Vaccine," Drs. Sharon Nachman and Uzma Syed, both said it’s unknown when an actual vaccine could be out. But having trial participants from different age groups, backgrounds or with underlying medical conditions, will help researchers understand the effectiveness of an eventual vaccine, said Syed, an infectious disease specialist at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip.

And taking part in the trials will give participants a leg up on those holding off until a coronavirus vaccine is accessible for anyone who wants it, said Nachman, chief of Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Trial participants could get a placebo dose or something that could later turn out to be a vaccine, she said, potentially giving them early protection from the virus.

"You’re not getting a vaccine," Nachman said, "but … a two out of three chance that you’re getting a vaccine means that you’re going to be ahead of everyone else who’s sitting around and waiting till one of these vaccines gets to a neighborhood near you."

She said the COVID-19 Prevention Network, which was formed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, can connect people willing to participate in a clinical vaccine trial. NYU Langone’s Vaccine Center announced on Wednesday it plans to enroll 1,000 people in its clinical trial.

"I tell people … if you’re nervous about getting a vaccine, the best place to be is part of a clinical trial because everything you say or do for the next two years is going to be closely monitored," Nachman said.

Some of the cons of a clinical trial are someone following a participant and asking several health-related questions.

"As a scientist, I think [trials are] excellent because if I got a vaccine, " Nachman said, "I really do want to know, did it actually protect me?"

Syed said there are still issues that need to be addressed before a coronavirus vaccine is ready for mass distribution, including whether there will be enough freezers at a specific location to store them, enough doses for pharmacies and getting vaccines to nursing homes.

Despite positive signs of a vaccine after Pfizer Inc. announced Monday that theirs may be 90% effective in preventing the coronavirus, Syed said people need to keep up with protective measures like wearing masks and social distancing.

"We have to really continue to do our good practices and good behaviors to make sure that we have this virus under control because it’s going to take a long time eventually for most of the population to get vaccinated and get that herd immunity," she said.

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