COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know
Get important info on COVID-19 vaccine safety and side effects from DeAnne Brooks, PharmD, chief pharmacy officer for Cone Health in this 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2.
When will the vaccine be available? Who will get it first and where will they be able to get it?
“The vaccine we think will be available as early as next week. This Thursday, an independent committee meets and they will actually recommend or not recommend emergency use authorization for the first vaccine, which is the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine, and after that, the FDA will then meet to decide whether they are going to give full emergency use authorization for the vaccines. We do expect that we will receive some as early as next week. There are some hospitals that may receive the doses just maybe a day or two prior to Cone Health receiving the doses, and that's because they had some of the ultra-low temperature freezers already on site whenever they filled out the vaccine provider agreement forms, and we will also now have an ultra-low temperature freezer on site at the Moses Cone Hospital, thanks to a loan from High Point University.”
What process determines who gets the vaccine first?
“[The vaccine] will be phased administration and in the first phase, health care workers who are at highest risk of exposure and long-term care facilities - so nursing home residents and staff - will be in the very first phase of receiving the vaccine.”
Once people start receiving the vaccine, does this mean that they don't have to wear a mask anymore?
“We do still need to wear our masks during this time of vaccination. It's very important for 70 to 80% of our entire population to be vaccinated for us to be able to eliminate this pandemic.”
Now that we have a vaccine coming, does this mean that COVID-19 could be over in a few months?
“No, it likely won't be over in a few months, but we do anticipate that we can possibly get back to some normalcy by this time next year, maybe even a little bit sooner than that.”
Will people who have had COVID-19 get vaccinated, or if you're in the hospital with COVID-19 when the vaccines arrive, will they be vaccinated?
“So it is a possibility that later on down the road that a recommendation could come out for them to be vaccinated. We do know that within the studies that have occurred, there were some studies had participants who did have the antigen to COVID-19 and received the vaccine, so we know that it's safe for them to receive it. So we'll just wait for some more guidance from the CDC once we have plenty supply of the vaccine available.”
How safe is the vaccine? What are the side effects of the vaccines?
The facts that we're seeing coming out of the studies is that the vaccine is very effective. It's been studied in over 70,000 participants thus far. And the efficacy is above 94% for both of the current vaccine candidates that are requesting emergency use authorization. We know that the Black and Hispanic communities have disproportionately been affected by COVID-19, and being vaccinated makes this so much more important. And actually minorities were represented in the COVID-19 vaccine trials at a greater rate than are typical with clinical trials. I've seen rates of about 30%. And there were no significant safety concerns in those trials for any of the participants.”
“Now, no serious safety concerns does not mean that there are no side effects. And the side effects for the first vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine that we expect for emergency use approval this week, are very low. 3.8% of patients may get some fatigue, about 2% of recipients have gotten a headache. And pain at the injection arm. Now that feeling fatigued and the headache, it can be pretty severe and make people feel kind of yucky, but not for longer than 12 to 24 hours. We have vaccines that we receive right now that can cause flu-like symptoms for about 25% of the population, and one of those vaccines I have received myself and got those flu-like symptoms, but it was much better than having to get the disease itself. And so the same is true with the COVID-19 vaccine. We may have some side effects, small numbers of us, and we might feel pretty rotten, but it’s going to be a lot better than getting COVID-19.”
Does the new mRNA vaccine worry you? Is it something that we should be thinking about ourselves?
“No. I don't think there's anything to worry about with those mRNA - so it's called messenger RNA - vaccines. We've actually been studying that for quite some time not only for vaccines, but also in cancer therapies as well. And so it's not really brand new technology. It is innovative technology, and what occurs is it doesn't do anything to the DNA within our bodies. It does not inject any part of the actual virus into us. What it does is it actually encodes a piece of the genome of the virus - the spike protein. If you've seen those pictures of the coronavirus, you see those little spiky things on the round cell. And so that messenger RNA will actually tell us to create something like that spike protein, and we will create antibodies to that spike protein so that if we are exposed to the virus, our antibodies will recognize that spike protein, and it will not allow us to get sick with COVID-19.”