By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A COVID-19 vaccine is closer to being available. On Friday, Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization. If it’s approved, the first doses would be available in weeks and one from Moderna is expected to be close behind.

Vaccine distribution will be limited initially. In Philadelphia, Penn Medicine has 129 people testing the Moderna vaccine, which, like Pfizer, uses RNA technology originally developed at Penn.

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If granted emergency use authorization, Pfizer says its vaccine — that’s 95% safe and effective — is ready for distribution.

“I’m hoping and praying that it slows down this virus,” said Enelida Gomez, a vaccine volunteer and a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Gomez volunteered to test the Moderna vaccine. It’s similar to Pfizer’s and is also expected soon.

“I’m very excited about it,” Gomez said. “I’m glad I was able to participate.”

Pfizer hopes to produce up to 50 million doses this year, with about half going to the United States. Moderna expects to apply for emergency use authorization soon and deliver about 20 million doses in the U.S. by the end of 2020.

Gomez was especially compelled to volunteer because the virus has hit Black and Brown communities so hard. It killed her aunt and made her brother, who is a Philadelphia police officer, very sick.

“It was really scary,” Gomez said.

She’s now received both of the Moderna doses.

“I felt fine afterwards,” Gomez said, adding she does not know whether she got the vaccine or the placebo.

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That’s the way double-blind studies are designed — people don’t know if they get the experimental medication or not.

“Very, very hopeful,” Gomez said. “I truly believe in vaccines, they save lives.”

She’s watched COVID crush her Philadelphia community and in the hospital, it’s a constant potential danger. Masks have taken on new importance.

She shares the message in a new PSA from the hospital community.

“I have mine right here, never leave home without it,” Gomez said.

The mask-up campaign launched Thursday. It’s backed by 100 of the country’s top hospitals, including several in our area.


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Stephanie Stahl