December 18, 2020

Q&A

Another vaccine made by Moderna was given emergency use authorization by the FDA today, joining the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is excellent news. It is also a messenger RNA vaccine, like the first one. The New York Times has a wonderful graphic that explains how it works.

I found this amazing site called “our world in data”, which is interesting to look at. The most amazing charts I saw were these shown below that show the effect vaccines had on smallpox, polio, and measles. These graphs give me hope that these new vaccines and others coming will start us on the road to recovery. The charts along with the data from both trials, should help convince people that the vaccines work.

Patients and staff have been asking me whether the vaccines are safe. They have a healthy skepticism of how fast the process happened and how politicized the process became. I imagine many of you have the same wonder and other questions as well.

Here is one way to look at the development and speed of the process. We got lucky first of all. Both companies were able to design their vaccine quickly, since they had been working on similar vaccines for other viruses. Also, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was quickly identified as the cause of COVID-19 so they had something to work with.

Second of all, because the pandemic is causing huge numbers of infections, gathering data about effectiveness has been easy. Compare that to proving a vaccine works for the less common Zika virus or more rare Ebola.

Personally, I have easily decided to get the vaccine, because I really don’t want to get COVID-19. My risk of a bad outcome is high if I catch it. My risk from the vaccine is much much lower. Severe side effects are rare. This part is the no brainer. Now I just need to have patience while waiting my turn.

But why will we still need to wear masks if we get the vaccine? Whether the vaccine decreases transmission rates remains to be seen. The data for both vaccines shows a really much lower risk of symptomatic, and, especially, severe COVID-19, but the studies were not designed to prove a decrease in the rate if transmission. Proving that is much more complex since regular testing for the virus would be needed. The hope is that it does reduce transmission since other vaccines seem to work that way. More follow up data will be collected and the answer will be clearer in a few months.

Another question is how long will the immunity from the vaccine last. It is too soon to tell, since we only have a few months of data. Subjects in the studies will continue to be monitored and checked for months. Testing is being refined to look for the neutralizing antibody which can show the vaccine should still be effective. But bear in mind that we still don’t know if the SARS-CoV-2 virus will mutate like the influenza virus, which is why we need yearly flu vaccines. Our hope is that this vaccine will last longer, but finding that out will take time.

A few other points, safety data is being collected, that is a requirement of the Emergency Use Authorization. Also, an APP for smart phones has been made that immunized people can use to help gather that data.

Our governor heard today that the vaccine shipment reduction was just a one time thing. Let’s hope that is true for Washington and the other states affected.

And there is a bonus dose in each vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Yahoo! Things are starting to shift despite the dire news out of California. But we need, still, to be on guard against disinformation. No, there is no microchip in the vaccine. Beware of vaccine scams. Check your sources.

So I am feeling a little more hope today, I hope you are too. Hope can help us these last few months.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and know hope.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

https://ourworldindata.org/microbes-battle-science-vaccines

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/17/us/tn-bill-lee-comments-vaccines-covid-trnd/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/health/moderna-covid-19-vaccine.html

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/us-awaits-word-on-2nd-vaccine-as-covid-19-outbreak-worsens/

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/inslee-federal-officials-say-covid-19-vaccine-reduction-a-one-time-event-not-evidence-of-wider-issues/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/health/Covid-Pfizer-vaccine-extra-doses.html

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/health-officials-track-safety-as-covid-19-vaccines-roll-out/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/17/technology/pfizer-vaccine-microchip.html

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/2020-election-misinformation-distortions?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage#to-quash-vaccine-misinformation-this-doctor-opts-for-facts-over-fighting-fiction

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/18/us/politics/homeland-security-vaccine-scams.html

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201216104631.htm hope

https://ourworldindata.org