Top Houston doctor says he would get COVID-19 vaccine when it's ready

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As health experts offer hope about a COVID-19 vaccine, at least one doctor ABC13 has spoken to says he'd be willing to take it once it's approved by the FDA.

This comes as Pfizer said early data shows its vaccine is 90% effective, and clinical trials through other companies are underway.

"The question I get asked the most is 'Hey, Dr. Hotez which vaccine are you waiting for?' and the answer is I'm not going to wait. Any vaccine that's authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that's available to me I will take," said Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez is a part of a team who is creating one of their own vaccines.

"All of these vaccines, including ours, Pfizer, Moderna, work by inducing production of our own virus neutralizing antibodies against the spike protein. And that's what can keep us out of the hospital in the ICU," he continued. "So any vaccine that's offered to me or to my family members this winter, which is going to be absolutely horrible, I mean it's going to be a truly catastrophic winter for the country. I'll take that vaccine knowing that a better vaccine's coming along later that we can always get a boost."

While some may hesitate about whether to get the vaccine once it is safe and approved, Hotez said don't miss the opportunity to receive a dose if you can.

He pointed out that according to surveys from Reuters and the Associated Press, up to half of Americans will refuse COVID-19 vaccines, even if they're made available.

"If you have the opportunity to get a vaccine, get it," he said.

Hotez's comments come in the midst of a week where top health experts have offered optimism about a vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday that vaccines being developed "are going to have a major positive impact" once they start being deployed in December and early into next year. He says he hopes by April, May and June "the ordinary citizen should be able to get" a vaccine.

But Fauci maintained that doesn't mean Americans should let their guard down. Instead, he said we should continue to wear masks, avoid crowds, keep social distancing and washing our hands regularly.

Hotez echoed that caution, saying face masks will still be needed even in the early stages of vaccine distribution. A decrease in hospital admissions is the hopeful game change they expect to see the fastest.

Another concern many have is with the safety of the vaccines and if they would carry any adverse side effects.

Dr. Gaby Becerra with the Texas Center for Drug Development is involved with both the Moderna and Pfizer trials.

"We haven't seen anything severe, no severe reactions. Of course, when you give a patient the vaccine, they actually receive the vaccine from the study, just like any other vaccination you expect that... your body is going to react to create antibodies to fight whatever that you're vaccinating them for. You might see a mild fever, pain at injection site. You might have a headache or mild flu-like symptoms," said Becerra.

With both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Becerra said the side effects have gone away after three days.

"We are pretty positive about the outcome and the security of the vaccine," she said.

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There are indications the first COVID-19 vaccines would be rolled out by the end of the year. In the video, the Houston area's top medical experts answer questions about the vaccines, including who would get them first.

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