My GP, Dr. Alex Lickerman, has once again put up a coronavirus post on his practice’s website, and allowed me to reference it here. It’s timely because it’s all about the new Pfizer vaccine. (A ICU nurse in New York may have been the first to get the shot.) How effective is it, and how do we know that? Is it safe? What about kids under 16, who weren’t part of the clinical trials? And pregnant women, who also weren’t tested? Since this is a mRNA rather than a killed-virus vaccine, should we have extra concerns about safety? What adverse reactions have been reported? If you were already infected, does the vaccination also reduce your risk of getting reinfected? When will “normal” people who aren’t healthcare workers or nursing-home patients be able to get their jabs?
Alex has kindly agreed, as he has before, to answer readers’ questions about the new vaccine, so put your questions in the comments section below and he’ll address them as he has time. Alex has read all the relevant scientific literature, as well as the data from the vaccine trials, so ask away! But do read his 4-page summary beforehand, as it has a lot of information.
I’m not going to put up his whole post; you can go to his site to see it, which you can do by clicking on the screenshot below:
I’ll just post Alex’s recommendations, followed by his list of “unanswered questions” (indented). The short message: GET THE SHOT AS SOON AS YOU CAN!
- The vaccine is highly effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection.
- The vaccine is safe. Adverse reactions, both local and systemic, are mostly minor. Though the study hasn’t yet gone on long enough to prove there are no serious long-term adverse affects, such adverse affects, if they exist, are likely to be rare and non-life-threatening based on other Phase I and II studies of other RNA vaccines.
- We recommend everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine should receive it when it becomes available to them.
- It very well may take all of 2021 to get everyone who’s willing to be vaccinated to receive the shots, which means it likely won’t be until early 2022 that life returns to pre-pandemic normal. In the meantime, continue to wear a mask when indoors with anyone you don’t live with, wash your hands frequently, and refrain from dining indoors at restaurants.
- While suggested by the study, still left unproven is whether BNT162b2 [Pfizer’s name for the vaccine] prevents severe COVID-19 infection, whether it prevents COVID-19 infection after just one dose, and whether it prevents COVID-19 infection in subjects who’ve already had COVID-19.
- The study didn’t look to see if the vaccine prevents asymptomatic infection. Nor did it assess whether subjects who developed COVID-19 despite vaccination are less likely to transmit the virus. Thus, it’s not yet clear how effective the vaccine will be in containing the spread of the infection.
- The study hasn’t gone on long enough to tell if subjects who were vaccinated yet still contracted COVID-19 have a lower risk of long-term effects of COVID-19.
- We don’t yet know if the vaccine reduces the risk of dying from COVID-19.
- There was insufficient data to draw conclusions about safety and efficacy of the vaccine in children younger than 16, pregnant or lactating women, and patients who are immunocompromised.
- We don’t yet know how long immunity lasts and whether or not booster shots will be necessary.