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Medical History In The Making

Virus Outbreak Vaccine California
Hector Amezcua
UC Davis Medical Center nurse Heather Donaldson prepares to inoculate a staff member with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Sacramento, Calif.

Our country has rolled out its first COVID-19 vaccines. Here in Iowa, as in other states, frontline health care workers were the first to receive the first doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. The speed at which the vaccine development occurred is unprecedented in modern medical history.

Yesterday, the number of coronavirus deaths in the US crossed 300,000. Iowa officials expect to receive 172,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month, and the FDA expects to approve a second vaccine this week for emergency use.

So as we mark the start of a mass vaccination campaign, on this edition of River to River, what to expect and what this moment means in the history of medicine.


  • Dr. Stanley Perlman, Mark Stinski Chair in Virology, immunologist at the University of Iowa
  • Michael Dahlstrom, LAS Dean’s Professor and director of the Greenlee School of Journalism & Communication at Iowa State University
  • Sue Lederer, Robert Turell Professor of the history of medicine and bioethics at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin at Madison
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River