Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

December 2, 2020

UMass Medical School expert: multiple vaccines should be ready by summer

Photo | Grant Welker UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester

A UMass Medical School infectious disease expert said he expects multiple coronavirus vaccines to be available next summer, by which time enough doses will be available that even people who aren't at high risk for the virus will be vaccinated.

Dr. Robert Finberg, a professor at the Worcester school and a member of the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, said in an interview published by the school Monday he'd like vaccines to be made available to communities that have been most susceptible to the virus.

“Getting people comfortable with a vaccine is really, really important,” Finberg said in the interview. “Showing that people in health care who are knowledgeable are taking the vaccine and believe it’s safe is going to be very important. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have incredible efficacy and actually incredible safety. We need to get that message out.”

UMass Medical School has played a small role itself in the development of one vaccine, as one of 120 centers that enrolled patients in Pfizer's mRNA clinical trials. Pfizer said in early November its vaccine, which it is developing with German firm BioNTech, is 95% effective. More than 43,000 people in all enrolled in Pfizer's study.

Dr. Robert Finberg, chair of the UMass Medical School Department of Medicine

Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses this year and up to 1.3 billion in 2021. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, so its 50 million doses will go toward 25 million patients.

Finberg, chair of the UMass Department of Medicine, is also conducting research himself related to the pandemic. He's looking into how to identify and target host cells and genes crucial in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The questions I was interested in are one, whether we can find a drug to treat the virus … and the other was to find out exactly what cells the virus infects and what kind of cells respond to the virus,” Finberg said in an interview with the Worcester Business Journal this summer.

Finberg serves as one of 17 members of the state's task force that's in charge of helping to coordinate a vaccination plan for those developed by Pfizer, Cambridge's Moderna or others. The highest priority, Finberg said, will be given to healthcare workers providing care for coronavirus patients. Following phases will include older adults or those with health risks such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, he said.

“Both the federal government and the state are committed to providing the vaccine free of charge,” Finberg said. “And we’d like to get it to the communities where there are the most vulnerable populations, certainly including socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday vaccines could begin arriving in Massachusetts this month, but it will be months before members of the general public have access to immunizations, according to the State House News Service.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners

Related Content


Order a PDF