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With Multiple Vaccines in the Mix, Herd Immunity Could Come by Summer

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- As vaccines have started trickling into hospitals and nursing homes, the question now is: who's next? Few dispute that frontline health care workers should get the vaccine first but now millions of essential workers want to know when it will be their turn. The good news: a vaccine might be available to everyone sooner than expected.

While California received 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first round, more is on the way. The Moderna vaccine is set to get the go-ahead for widespread distribution soon. Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician a UCSF says it's a big breakthrough to have two viable vaccines.

"It is amazing to have two amazing candidates. They both work very well. Their efficacy is 94 percent or higher," Dr. Gandhi told KPIX.

According to a state advisory committee, first responders, farm workers and educators are next in line to get the vaccine but there are more than seven million non-health care essential workers seeking a spot in that line.

Dr. Gandhi does not expect a vaccination battle to develop.

"I think it's going to be fast and I think people should feel really comfortable because when there's two, there's competition and the whole world is on hold until we get enough doses that it's going to be fast," she said.

While the demand for the vaccine is going up, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports 27 percent of the public are hesitant about getting it.

Dr. Ryan Skinnell, from San Jose Sate University, says recent messaging by health officials looks to be be targeted at communities that have the highest number of virus doubters.

"I don't think it's by accident that the first vaccine received were people of color, administered by doctors of color in neighborhoods filled with people who are often underrepresented minorities," Skinnell said.

While allergic reactions have been reported with two health care workers in Alaska, experts feel the benefits of the vaccine will outweigh any potential side effects.

"Covid has made us totally miserable," Dr Gandhi said. "It's better to get the vaccine because if you think about weighing the pluses and minuses, a very low allergy reaction, I would not worry too much."

Dr. Gandhi gave KPIX an optimistic estimate that vaccines will be available to the general public by March or April and there will be herd immunity by summer.

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