NIH director: Pfizer vaccine trial results ‘absolutely astounding’

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins discusses Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and combatting potential mistrust.
8:13 | 12/12/20

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Transcript for NIH director: Pfizer vaccine trial results ‘absolutely astounding’
We're joined now by doctor Francis Collins director of the National Institutes of Health thanks so much for joining us tonight. Start with yesterday's hearing though we did hear some concerns raised about the impact of Pfizer's vaccine on those with serious allergies as well as questions on whether pregnant women and teens should be taking it first just how common are allergic reactions to vaccines and is that a reason for concern given the millions of Americans with severe allergies. Not uncommon to have an allergic reaction to a vaccine we don't know a whole lot of details about the two individuals in the UK. Except that they both had a prior history. A severe allergic reactions enough to require. And beat him as an antidote so that is a pretty serious here. I think this it is. Probably important put into context deck near the trial this vaccine. Advisor ran on 44000. People they didn't see any severe allergic reactions in the trial so this must be early on Collins. And overall what was your take away from the hearing and from Pfizer's data on whether this vaccine will be safe and effective for most Americans. Won't. First of all it was wonderful it was a totally public hearing everybody could see the data was posted two days in advance this is the right way how to do regulatory step and to give the public full visibility on what we go and what we don't know. I have to say that the results of the trial are absolutely astounding in terms of its effectiveness we didn't expect to get to 95%. That data is very compelling there and it seems still worked across all different age groups and different ethnicities. So this is a vaccine that it appears from my perspective to be both a lot more effective than we had hoped for. And to have a very good safety record very similar to other vaccines yes some people got sore arms and some people got a bit of a fever. I don't know what I don't think of that as a side effect and can that as a fact because that is basically says. The vaccine had. Activated your immune system Europeans is that it is recognizing what happened and making some anybody that's good you want that to how. And what about people who had corona virus already any reason that they should be concerned about taking the vaccine had some of the subjects in the trials already had -- it. I don't see any reason why that would be a bad thing based on other illnesses again we don't have a vast amount of information about this when Kansas lesson here since it emerged spent. Certainly in general if you had a particular illness and you get a vaccine for that illness it's kind of like a booster it kind of builds your immunity a little stronger than it already would have been. So I don't think there's a reason they are for people who had coded to say no I don't want this vaccine might actually be helped. I know that you try not to get involved in political debates and I'm sure you saw the president's messages today Conley FDA quote big old slow turtle in reports on the White House pressuring the FDA to act immediately on this authorization. So what you say no Americans who aren't concerned about taking this vaccine because I think that the process from the development to the approval has been rushed by political pressure. I would say just look at the evidence of how this has been carried else and putting aside some of the noise and there's always going to be some noise especially in our country right now. There is nothing that has happened so with this vaccine from the very beginning not to the ultimate approval by FDA that has been driven by anything other than rigorous science. The FDA career stats are experienced scientists they're not going to let anything happen. That they don't believe is the right thing and so I have great confidence if they approve this I'm ready overall honestly. And at how much could Americans being hesitant or it or reluctant to taking this vaccine be. Problematic especially among minority communities how do you combat mistrust store that outright refusal from some. But this isn't big concern when you look at the polls there's a lot of Americans who are still skeptical about whether this is something you won't take it and juror that's surprising considering 209000. People had I don't miss most of us know people who have died do we think this would. Overcome something that resistance on the skepticism is pretty. We're gonna need it you're a really good job in the next few weeks here explaining all of the scientific basis. This particular vaccine development and why it is safe and it's gonna need to come from lots of different voices. Not just from people like me go from people in the communities where distrust is particularly high. We're trying to figure out how best to get that message out there in a way that straightforward incredible and just basically puts the accident but people. And maybe services to a lot of the conspiracy theories and social media stuff that's out there kind of getting wet. I was saying there's another thing we love to be able to do it all communities in the course of the next few weeks and that's ask people to continue to take part. In these trials both for vaccines because we are four more vaccines that are being tested as well as our effort therapeutics. I also spoke with doctor fashion last week and he said it will need to get to 70%. Of the population vaccinated before will achieve any level of herd immunity firsts are you confident that the country will have the needed supply of vaccines to keep things on track for widespread immunizations by next spring. And what do you think that we could approach that herd immunity level. I think we'll have enough doses to be able to get to 70%. Recovery shall I certainly in the late spring or early summer if Americans agreed to take part. Obviously we're not going to get there is half of the American population says no thank you and then Kobe in nineteen could go on and on hand on further compounding this tragedy. So it's real he importance. To try to get that message out there. I don't think we're gonna have a problem in terms of effective safe vaccines in sufficient doses. But those will still take some time I had to get to everybody and meanwhile we did double down on all the ways to try to keep this virus from spreading even further because it's all around us now. It's up to every one of us to try to limit the damage that this virus is trying to do. And you've just said how this could go on and on and we are continuing to see the highest rates and hospitalizations and deaths since the pandemic began and yet some Americans still aren't following basic guidelines on wearing a mask and social distancing so. How bad do you anticipate that things could get in the coming weeks and and what to get a take ultimately to get Americans to control the spread. While the vaccines aren't yet widely available. No we are losing every day now as many people as we lost had 9/11 has just almost shocking for me to say that out loud and yet that's where we are now over 3000 people losing their lives every day. And simple majors could turn that around we know these can work we've seen it happen even in the United States take Arizona home while back. But in Kansas where they basically said through the county's. You can even put a mask named Ian plays or not it's up to you and then you watch what happened the county's input and ask mandated place cases dropped. The ones that didn't cases went out there is deeply. This mask it are holding here. Which seems to be seen by people as such symbol of some sort it's a symbol is not a us all under personal freedom. It's basically a life saving medical the violence think about it that way. All of us could go out and beat one of those super spreader isn't not know it and this is how you're gonna protect the people around you your family your neighbors. Your grandparents. Why is this such a hard thing hang. To wrap your arms about how we managed to get this so confused when other issues. That really bad politics as bad as a truly tragic situation that could only happen in America. But we didn't hit reset button. A boy do we need to do that right now we're gonna save lives we have. Hundreds of thousands of lives at risk here if we don't figure out each one of us how to be part of the solution. Still not too late to hit that reset button doctor Collins with thank you so much for your time director of the National Institutes of Health we appreciate you coming on the shelf. Thanks it's nice to chat with you comeback anytime.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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