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Dave & Dujanovic: Leavitt celebrates vaccine but says COVID-19 war isn’t over

(President Trump, left, speaking in Arizona, September 14, 2020. Former VP Joe Biden speaking in Florida September 15, 2020. Credit, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY —  Recent events are trending toward good in the battle to defeat the coronavirus pandemic. And those working behind the scenes to win this COVID-19 war will do their best, according to a former Utah leader.

Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Therapeutics are nearing final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their COVID-19 vaccines.

During a meeting Wednesday at the Emergency Operations Center at the State Capitol, Rich Lakin, director of immunizations at the Utah Department of Health, said he expects to see the first phase of 100,000 doses of the vaccine arriving in December.

More work to do in the COVID-19 war

Former Utah governor and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic Friday to discuss the encouraging developments.

Leavitt celebrated the good news along with Dave and Debbie, but cautioned listeners this is just the beginning and more work lies ahead.

“We need to get through the next four months or five months because the virus is still going to be with us during that time and it’s growing in numbers fast,” Leavitt said. 

Quick turnaround

Dave asked Leavitt for his perspective on moving quickly from no vaccine to what looks like promising vaccines from at least two pharmaceutical companies in just eight months.

“Vaccine development is measured in years, not months,” Leavitt said. “And it typically can be four, five, six years. Doing it in eight months is a tribute to science, commitment, huge investment — not just here but around the world.”

Healthcare workers across the nation will be the first to be inoculated.

Leavitt said he believes the second wave of vaccinations will target Americans older than 65 who have underlying conditions.

After that, he said the third wave of vaccinations will likely go to at-risk workers like teachers, then expand to the general population who are at lower risk by spring.

“But we’ll have a lot more experience by then,” Leavitt said. 

Politics of pandemics

Dave asked whether the Trump administration’s reluctance to transfer power to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is damaging the vaccine implementation program across the country.

“Pandemics and politics have always, unfortunately, come together,” said Leavitt, who sits on the Center for Presidential Transition Advisory Board.

“When you’re dealing with a pandemic, you’re dealing with people who have different priorities, different risk tolerances, different philosophies,” he said. “That has clearly played out here.” 

Leavitt said President Donald Trump deserves the credit for a vaccine being developed during his time in office.

“In a political atmosphere, there are people anxious to take it away,” he said. 

Leavitt said he thinks the transition of power will happen regardless if Mr. Trump cooperates.

“Those who are handling the vaccine want it to go well and they’ll do their best. Those who are coming in are professionals, and they know what to do,” he said. “I wish there was better cooperation, but I think it’s going to happen no matter what.”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.