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Nashville doctors anticipate COVID-19 vaccine arrival

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Hospitals and medical workers in Tennessee are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine.

And hospitals, like Vanderbilt University Medical Center, could start vaccinating medical workers as soon as Monday.

“Everyone’s been planning how to actually get the vaccine out of the freezer and into arms,” Dr. William Schaffner said, an infectious disease expert at VUMC.

Dr. Schaffner says normally vaccines take five to ten years to develop. The COVID-19 vaccine has been done in far less time.

“That’s been record speed but no corners have been cut,” Schaffner said.

Schaffner and Dr. James Hildreth – the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College -- both said the vaccine was developed so quickly because the foundation and technology were already there from when the science community made the Ebola vaccine and the Zika vaccine.

“The technology we have available to us now compared to just a few years ago is really amazing,” Hildreth said.

Normally, manufacturers wait until trials are done before mass producing the vaccine.

But the need was great, so they took a risk. Schaffner says they mass produced the vaccine as trials were going on.

Schaffner says the trials ended up showing a 95% effectiveness against COVID-19.

“If the vaccine hadn’t worked, we would’ve had to junk all of the vaccines, and we would’ve lost a lot of money,” Schaffner said. “We bet on the fact that these vaccines were going to work, and we as a people now have won that bet.”

Some people say they have concerns about how quickly the vaccine was rolled out.

But Schaffner says he hopes he can ease fears.

“When the average person sees that the medical people who really know a lot about this -- they’re lining up and rolling up their sleeves -- I hope it gives them a lot of confidence,” Schaffner said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 30,000 people have participated in 100 clinical research studies across the country.

TriStar Health said it’s expecting to receive the vaccine this week, but is unsure of which day it’ll arrive. We reached out to other hospitals, but haven’t heard back yet.

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