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COVID-19 vaccine could be 'a major contribution to global health'

Moderna and Pfizer have already announced trial results that ended with effective rates higher than 90 percent.

HOUSTON — In the race to a COVID-19 vaccine, we’re seeing more companies announce at least preliminary successes with their vaccine candidates.

On Monday, Moderna announced its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective.

RELATED: Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine almost 95% effective

Last week, Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective in preventing the coronavirus.

RELATED: Pfizer says early peek at its coronavirus vaccine suggests it may be a robust 90% effective

Both companies are working toward obtaining the FDA emergency authorization to be able to distribute the vaccine in the United States.

Experts have told KHOU 11 that the FDA’s efficacy bar is 50%. They also stressed the importance of tackling the coronavirus on a global scale. Baylor College of Medicine announced progress in that area, saying it was starting clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine in India. Baylor is partnering with India and U.S.-based vaccine companies for the project.

“The reason that's significant is that vaccine is made locally in places like Indonesia and Cuba and Brazil and India so that potentially our vaccine could be the first low-cost COVID vaccine for global health that's now being scaled up and more than a billion doses in India,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, where he’s the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development. “That's pretty exciting. And so, I'm hopeful that this will make a major contribution to global health and fill the gaps to where some of the more expensive and cumbersome technology vaccines may not find easy access, especially in low- and middle-income countries."

Hotez said he was optimistic about Pfizer and Moderna results.

“That's the first good news we've had,” he told KHOU 11, “because in the past I've talked to people about the importance of social distancing to save your life and wear masks and have never been able to put brackets on. And now I can say, you know what? We don't have to do this forever.”

Hotez said he is often asked what vaccine he is “waiting for?”

“The answer is, I'm not waiting,” he said. “If better vaccines come along, great, I'll get boosted with one of those. But don't wait. Don't overthink this. Don't cherry-pick.”

KHOU 11 asked Hotez about vaccine skeptics and what that movement could mean for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

“As a medical school professor and scientist, you know, it's tough to go up against that,” he said. “But I try to do as best I can because I'm also the parent of an adult daughter with autism. And one of the things the anti-vaccine people say is that vaccines cause autism or chronic conditions. And so, I wrote a book with the straightforward titled 'Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism' to debunk all of the misinformation and disinformation they were putting out there. What I do is try to explain to people the evidence that these vaccines are safe, the fact that the Operation Warp Speed vaccines are tested in the large 30,000, 44,000 people clinical trials. We've got one of the most robust vaccine safety mechanisms anywhere in the world because of our FDA and CDC and anyone who's willing to listen, I can take them through all of that."

With the COVID-19 vaccine seemingly on the horizon, the next question could be when and if we could get rid of masks.

“In time, as the whole U.S. population gets vaccinated, I think we can then start relaxing some of our social distancing and mask requirements,” Hotez said. “But for now, the prudent thing is going to be to keep all things going at the same time in order to really wipe out this disease.”