Republican Sen. Steve Daines is encouraging Montanans to get a COVID-19 vaccine when doses become available. This follows federal emergency use authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for persons aged 16 years and older. Ten Montana hospitals received their first shipments of the vaccine this week.
Corin Cates-Carney Senator, why did you enroll in Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine trial?
Steve Daines Well, I found out about it from my mom. My parents are in Bozeman. My mom’s 78, my dad’s 81. And sometime in early August, my mom gave me a call and said, hey, Pfizer is going to be doing one of their trials for their COVID vaccines in Bozeman. And we found out that Pfizer had numerous trial sites around the country, and Montana was considered a hot spot for COVID in Bozeman in particular. I wanted to see the science. And when I graduated from Montana State back in 1984, I graduated in chemical engineering. My first job out of college was with Proctor and Gamble. I used to be involved in launching FDA regulated products, and I used that background back in March of this year when we put together that, that large COVID care package to secure $10 billion of funding that would allow us to produce and order the materials for the vaccine. And by doing so, we’ll have these vaccines ready to go now, instead of, would have been probably in the May, June timeframe.
Corin Cates-Carney And it could still be several months before vaccines that receive emergency use authorization become widely available to the general public. First, they’re going to health care workers, long term care facility residents. And a point just for clarity, you participated in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trial. That was a blind trial. But I understand you tested for antibodies after receiving two doses.
Steve Daines Correct.
Corin Cates-Carney Senator, when vaccines are available, do you encourage people to get one?
Steve Daines I do. The science tells us that the Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective. And it won’t be mandatory. But I want to encourage Montanans, when it, when they are able to take the vaccine, to do it, because that’s how we’re going to end the pandemic. You look at the history of pandemics, you think about polio. It was when Dr. Salk announced in 1953 on the radio that they had a vaccine, you know, the American people cheered. And that’s how we put an end to polio. A vaccine is how we’re going to put an end to, to COVID-19.
Corin Cates-Carney A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that an increasing share of the public say they’d be willing to get a vaccine. Among the top of the list of demographic groups that are most likely to be hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine are Republicans. What do you say to Montanans and your constituents who are skeptical of these vaccines?
Steve Daines Well, I think the more the information gets out, and the more information that will be shown that this, the vaccine is effective and it’s safe, the greater the adoption rate will be.
Corin Cates-Carney Vaccines offer us a path out of the pandemic, but for the general public — not for months longer — when they become more widely available. For now, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mask wearing, social distancing can help slow the spread of COVID-19. As we wait for these vaccines, what do you say to people who are still not following other public health guidance, notably Montana has lawmakers gathering umasked in our State Capitol for the upcoming legislative session?
Steve Daines Well, I encourage Montanans to, to be respectful of their neighbors, family members, and to do all they can here to keep our, our family members and our neighbors safe. So where it makes sense, it just using — I call it good ol Montana common sense — to wear a mask. Bottom line is, we’re seeing our ICU facilities across Montana at near capacity. Our health care workers are risking their own lives every day for us, taking care of Montanans that have COVID-19. That’s why it’s so important that we get those health care workers with the vaccine first. Because not only do we have a capacity issue in terms of just beds in Montana, we have a capacity in terms of personnel. And that’s why the CDC has prioritized health care workers. We’ll need to get the first responders. We need to get to our senior citizens, because that’s the demographic of our population now that are at the greatest risk.
Corin Cates-Carney In the coming months, those same public health officials who have been recommending masks will also be recommending COVID-19 vaccines. What needs to happen to create more buy-in, trust, in that guidance in our health systems that have been somewhat eroded over the past year? And what part do politicians like yourself play in that?
Steve Daines Well, I want to keep continuing to tell the story — my own personal story — of my experience with the vaccine. I took that vaccine in the early stages of the trial before the science was completely available. That shows how safe and effective it is. There are absolutely no, no shortcuts being taken. The data and the science, I think, will be very compelling to show the American people that we have a safe and effective vaccine. And keep in mind, look at the history of pandemics, the way you stop a pandemic is through a safe and effective vaccine.
Corin Cates-Carney Senator, thank you so much for taking the time.