PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Despite the news of a promising COVID-19 vaccine, prominent doctors in Rhode Island tell 12 News there is still a long road ahead before the first one is administered.

On Monday, Pfizer released data on its coronavirus vaccine that suggests they would be 90% effective at preventing infection.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said this is great news, and exceeds his expectations. By the fall, he expected the vaccine-effectiveness rate would be around 60%.

“A vaccine that might be 90 or 90-plus percent effective? I think it surpasses my expectations and the expectations that I think most of us had,” he said.

While the news is encouraging, Jha cautioned that it’s still too early to tell whether the vaccine will be approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We do not have that much data yet, but so far it doesn’t look there were any big safety problems,” he said.

Dr. Karen Tashima, director of clinical trials at Lifespan, called the newly-released data “impressive,” but while she likes what she’s seeing from Pfizer, she wants to see more.

“We are all looking at the data to be able to say with more confidence that this is something that we should all be receiving,” she said.

In the meantime, Jha said the country has a lot work to do to prepare for distributing and administering a vaccine once it is approved. He said with a second surge of cases occurring nationwide, he said it will be a “very tough couple months ahead.”

“We are going to see large outbreaks, lots of infections, lots of deaths across the country, unless we make some very substantial changes,” Jha said. “I believe an additional 100,000 Americans are going to die between now and Inauguration Day.”

If Pfizer’s vaccine is approved, it would require two doses.

If the vaccine remains on track toward approval, Jha said front-line workers could receive the vaccine by the year’s end, and the elderly would likely receive it by March. Everyone else, he said, would be able to receive the vaccination by May.

It’s unclear how many vaccines Rhode Island will be given specifically, but Jha said they should not have to fight other state’s for vaccine doses like when they were battling for more personal protective equipment (PPE).

“My expectation is, and everything that we heard from the Biden team, is that distribution will not be based not on who is well connected, or who is wealthier, but is going to be really based on need,” Jha said.

“In terms of Rhode Island, I think we are very well set up,” he continued. “We have a new vaccine taskforce, that the governor is going to help put together, that is going to think about equitable distribution in our state.”

Dr. James McDonald, medical director at the Rhode Island Department of Health, said the state is more than ready to distribute the vaccine statewide.

“There’s been a lot of preparation,” he said. “By the way, this is new but it’s not that new to the Department of Health. We know how to acquire a vaccine, we know how to deploy a vaccine.”

Jha said he understands why many may be skeptical of getting the vaccine, but urged them to follow the science and trust the process.