January 31, 2021

new vaccines

Despite stories circulating about people being hesitant to get a COVID vaccine, that is not the experience here in Seattle and many other places. Since there is just not enough vaccine to go around, scheduling for the vaccine can be really challenging for the most in need. Often, one is only able to get an appointment via word of mouth or trying in the middle of the night. My patients are frustrated and I feel helpless.

And sometimes people just get lucky. Like Thursday night in Seattle when a freezer stopped working at Kaiser Permanente. Suddenly 1600 doses needed to be given by 4 AM the next day. People kicked into high gear. Kaiser shared the doses with two different hospital systems who rallied employees to re-open their vaccine clinics at 11 PM and the news of vaccine opportunity was spread. Quickly lines developed and all 1600 doses were given by 3:30 AM! None were wasted. Video showed a line at UW/Northwest hospital with workers coming outside to find anyone over 65 and move them up in line. Everyone clapped and supported that move rather than whining. Such an optimistic moment!

Until I heard about the protestors disrupting the vaccine clinic at Dodger Stadium in LA yesterday. I get that you might fear the vaccine, but preventing others from receiving it is hard for me to understand, especially with the dire number of infections and hospitalizations happening in LA right now.

Some people are wondering if the vaccines are effective after the news that two members of Congress tested positive despite receiving their vaccines. One had only received one dose so developing COVID was not as big a surprise, but the other had already received the second dose. Data from the trials of both Moderna and Pfizer BioNtech vaccines showed a hight rate of effectiveness for preventing severe disease and deaths, but was not 100% for preventing infections. Also, keep in mind that immunity develops over weeks after the vaccination. They were not at full immunity yet, especially the one who only had the first dose. Since I had my second dose of Moderna vaccine last week, I am protected from severe disease and death from COVID-19. That is a relief. But I know I need to keep wearing a mask and avoid close contact with people, so that I don’t get infected and pass the virus to Jamie or my co-workers.

For all the reasons above, the data from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is good to see. The numbers are still excellent, even though they don’t reach the higher effectiveness of Moderna or Pfizer BioNtech, the results are what we want to see. A decrease in moderate cases of 72% in the US after 28 days, with a 100% decrease in severe disease and deaths at 49 days. That is the effect we need. Even if someone gets infected, they will likely have a mild case, as if they had the common cold. The other good thing to see is that in South Africa with the new variant there, even with the lower rate at 28 days of preventing moderate and severe disease, at 49 days, severe disease and deaths were 100% prevented.

The Johnson and Johnson is a singe shot vaccine and does not need to be kept at ultra cold temperatures so will be easier to distribute and administer. The Novavax vaccine is showing some strong data as well, even though the numbers may look less effective at first glance. Novavax also prevents severe disease and deaths which is the goal we are after.

Johnson & Johnson are applying for emergency use authorization, like Moderna and Pfizer did. Since the data is promising and the need is great, I am hopeful it and Novavax will be approved soon and they can then be added to our armaments of prevention and vaccine dispersion will increase. I want everyone to be safe as soon as possible.

I have no reason to think any vaccine is better than the others at this time, or should I say, the best vaccine is the one you can get. 25.5 million have been immunized so far with few adverse reactions except sore arms, fever, and fatigue that are all short lived. Anaphylaxis is rare.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe 6, get the best vaccine you can.

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.