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Cleveland's pivotal role in the approval of COVID-19 vaccines

University Hospitals conducted clinical trials on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which may soon be authorized in the U.S.

CLEVELAND — It could be the fourth COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. arsenal.

AstraZeneca says its vaccine is 79% effective in preventing COVID-related illness and 100% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

University Hospitals physician-in-chief and infectious disease expert, Dr. Robert Salata, says while we won't be able to keep COVID from happening, "If we can tame this virus, if you will, and make it the equivalent of a common cold, that is in and of itself, a significant achievement."

And achievements from vaccines are being made, thanks in part to the scientific community here in Cleveland.

Last fall, UH Cleveland Medical Center conducted clinical trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It too saw no reports of blood clots, as seen in a small number of people in other countries.

"The occurance of these problems seems to be no greater than what seems to be in the general population," says Dr. Salata.

Last summer, UH was one of only 120 places in the world testing the Pfizer vaccine. And by the end of this month, UH will begin recruiting participants for clinical trials of Pfizer booster shots in an attempt to learn if a third shot of the same vaccine can stimulate a more robust immune response. The trials will also investigate the efficacy of the next generation of Pfizer vaccine developed to defend against COVID variants.

The news comes as almost a quarter of all Ohioans have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot. As of Monday, 24.14% of Ohio's population has started at least one dose of vaccine. 27% of the population in Geauga County has started or completed vaccinations, while only 10% of Holmes County has gotten a shot.

With a fourth vaccine possibly ready to go in May, doctors hope access to a shot won't be a problem. 

And with help from scientists, doctors, and volunteers right here, the road to pandemic recovery runs through Cleveland.

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Editor's Note: The below video aired on November 23, 2020