A lot of our clients are asking questions about the COVID-19 vaccines lately. So let me help spell out some thoughts about the vaccine.
Let me start that as a nurse, I understand the importance of vaccines. Scientific research has demonstrated over many years and independent studies about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. We are told by scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and that harmful effects are rare. As well, we are aware that racial bias have often left out of vaccine trials people of color. We are convinced by the scientific evidence that when harm occurs, the benefits of the vaccination still outweigh the harm. Belief has nothing to do with it. Science really does not care if you believe or not. So I am not here to try to convince you or change your belief about the COVID-19 vaccine, but to share information that helps you make your own decision about getting the vaccine. It is truly up to you to weigh the costs and benefits to yourself and your loved ones about getting or not getting the vaccine.
What is exciting about two of the COVID-19 vaccines for me is that not only will it help to mitigate the pandemic, but the science behind it. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine are mRNA based vaccines. The mRNA technology has been around for a period time, being used to treat other diseases, but now is being used in a vaccine.
So just how does the mRNA vaccine work. Your genes are encoded in DNA. For your body to use genetic instruction, it has to read the DNA and create a messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA serves as instructions to produce a protein. In this case, with a vaccine, your body is getting instructions from outside with the vaccine. The COVID virus does this too when it infects you, it creates messenger RNA for your body to produce more virus. However, when you get a vaccine, the mRNA gives instructions to create a protein that causes your immune system to respond to COVID-19 and kick it out.
Both mRNA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer have efficacy rate, after two doses of preventing severe COVID-19 by 95%. Let us do some simple math. There are 8 cases of COVID-19 in 21,270 who got the Pfizer vaccine trial. There were 162 cases of COVID-19 in 21,728 people who got the placebo in the trial. My odds are good not to get the disease when I get the vaccine.
A lot of folks are worried about the fact that the vaccine trials were rushed and the vaccines aren’t safe. We are “guinea pigs” people say. The vaccines have gone through the same clinical trial that every drug and vaccine on the market has gone through. It is randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial of 40,000 people. That means 20,000 were vaccinated and 20,000 got the placebo (saline injection). People get randomly assigned, neither the people in the trial or the researchers know who gets a vaccine or placebo. Here in St Louis at St Louis University school of Medicine vaccines are tested.
With two groups, it is easy to identify common adverse reactions. Injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain and chills were the most common reactions, especially after the second dose. We have to say those reactions are not a bad thing. It means the body is working at the immune response to prevent COVID-19 infection. Most severe reactions were rare, but to be safe, once the vaccine is given, the person is to be monitored for 15 minutes post injection.
The two approved vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, do not use aborted fetus cell tissue to be produced. Several Catholic bishops penned an open letter that stated “their use is morally acceptable since neither company used fetal cell lines from an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production. However, we acknowledge that both relied on fetal cell lines for lab testing. In current circumstances, when better options are not available, the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines remain morally valued option.”
Soon, there will be a third option for vaccine made by Johnson and Johnson (Janssen). It is one time shot, with an 85% efficacy in preventing severe COVID infection. It is made the same way flu shots are made with small piece of denudated COVID-19 virus.
Currently, there are vaccination priority groups. Right now, the groups getting vaccinated are first responders, EMT’s and health care workers in the community and people who are over 65 years of age. Deaconess Nurses are helping seniors to do pre-registration for COVID-19 vaccines on hospital and public health department websites. Everyone should get the vaccine, even those who have had COVID-19. If you have questions regarding the timing of you get your vaccine, call your healthcare provider.
After and until enough people get the COVID-19 vaccine, which will take time for that to happen, wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart and washing hands helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even once you get your vaccine, those practices will need to remain in place.
The short version of this long post is this: Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible and vaccine is available. It might save your life and the lives of those you care about and love.