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Virologist says it’s not a given we’ll be ‘back to our normal lives’ by May

Neal Browning, the second person to receive a shot in the initial trial of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc., poses for a photo at his home in Bothell, Wash., Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, north of Seattle. Moderna said its COVID-19 vaccine is proving highly effective in a major trial. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

With at least three COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, some officials have claimed that most people could be back to their “normal” lives by next May, but virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen is skeptical of that date. Even if the first vaccines roll out next month, the Georgetown University virologist warns that it doesn’t mean everyone will be protected against the virus within six months.

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“For all of us to have access to these vaccines by May of next year is really going to be something that will depend on how well these vaccines are actually rolled out and distributed,” she told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show.

There are significant logistical challenges to overcome in the distribution process, Rasmussen said, including that the Pfizer and Modern vaccines have to be stored at below freezing temperatures.

Plus, she says there’s no guarantee the vaccines will actually be 95% effective, as she clarified that percentage was only true in the test group.

“We don’t know these new vaccines will be 95% efficacious once they’re rolled out to a much larger population,” Rasmussen said. “… It’s always a challenge to extrapolate data from a small group of people to a much larger, very diverse population.”

That said, she does believe it’s good to remain optimistic, but it’s just not realistic to say we’ll be completely back to normal by May.

“People do need to be hopeful and cautiously optimistic, but at the same time, we should not take it as a given that we will definitely all be back to our normal lives by next May,” Rasmussen said.

Listen to the full interview here.

KIRO Radio’s Frank Shiers contributed to this report. Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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