February 2, 2021

Vaccines and variants

Research into effective immunizations agains COVID-19 is ongoing, trying to answer more questions. Questions include does the vaccine prevent actual transmission and how long does immunity last? Another question is how well does it work in different types of people. Also monitoring for side effects of the vaccines is important. But the real reason is that we need more vaccines so we can get as many people worldwide vaccinated as possible. The Pandemic will not end until most people are immunized. Studies in children are needed. Research continues on some other promising vaccines and today a study was published about the efficacy of the Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine, which appears 91% effective. Mexico may approve its use soon.

The more vaccines the better. The more vaccines are given, the sooner the pandemic can be controlled. The COVID-19 Prevention Network is a group of research institutes, medical schools, private research facilities, many originally organized around research and treatment of HIV. They are still looking for volunteers, not just for immunizations but possibly treatments too. Their website is full of excellent graphics and explanations on how the vaccines work. These might answer some questions that vaccine hesitant people have. They are also looking into treatments for COVID-19, which are still lacking.

The new variants are starting to cause some concern and the best way to slow them down is to get people vaccinated. The Biden administration is working with Moderna and Pfizer to increase production and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be seeking approval from the FDA after the data was reviewed last week.

I learned a few things today from the video below that made sense to me why we still need to get a second dose of the vaccine. The levels of antibodies don’t really rise until after the second dose. Then they rise to levels higher than someone who had the virus. Those levels are more protective. Without the second dose there are more breakthrough infections and immunity wanes sooner. The same for people have already had COVID-19, re-infection is a risk if their antibodies drop. The vaccine will boost them to protective levels.

There is some protection to the new variants, but a booster is being developed. At some point a universal coronavirus vaccine can be developed but it may be a while before one is approved.

If you have an hour and interest, the video below is from a grand rounds at UW with Larry Corey who has been the lead for the COVID-19 Prevention Network. It is fascinating and, despite the concerning news about the variant, leaves one with gratitude for the amazing collaboration happening and some hope that we will eventually find our way out of this.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and keep learning.

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.