Much uncertainty surrounds vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the course of the pandemic in general. What is certain, however, is that physicians will have an important role in the implementation of a successful immunization program once a safe and effective vaccine becomes available. Patients, health care worker colleagues, family, friends, and others will seek advice from physicians on whether to get vaccinated. We will need to discuss the benefits and risks with them. Others will tell us they will refuse vaccination, and if those individuals and the community are likely to benefit from their vaccination, we will have an opportunity to try to alleviate their hesitancy in receiving the vaccine. If the vaccine is one that can be administered in our clinical settings, we will need to structure our practices to make receipt of the vaccine as accessible and efficient as possible for our patients.
Physicians must be prepared for this critical role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Sound, scientific knowledge—untarnished by political views—is essential to this preparation. To help ready physicians with such knowledge, Annals of Internal Medicine and the American College of Physicians hosted the COVID-19 Vaccine Forum on 16 October 2020 to offer current, evidence-based information related to the science, approval processes, and development of clinical recommendations for vaccines. Emergency Use Authorization of COVID-19 vaccines would be the first time this process has been implemented for a vaccine in the history of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The implementation of Emergency Use Authorization must balance efficacy and safety with the risk for mitigating the ongoing pandemic in the nation. Given the reality of current times, the forum also addressed the political environment that threatens time-honored vaccine-related processes and fosters confusion and mistrust among clinicians and patients alike.
Forum speakers included Dr. Anthony Fauci (Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), Dr. H. Clifford Lane (Deputy Director for Clinical Research and Special Projects, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), Dr. David Kessler (Former Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration), Dr. Beth Bell (Member, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices), and Dr. Rachel Levine (Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health). Readers can view their presentations in the video that accompanies this article.
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