WILL A COVID VACCINE BE SAFE AND EFFECTIVE?
It is difficult for the average person to understand what they need to know about a COVID vaccine before they decide to be inoculated. The vaccine will be available within weeks or months and public health officials are urging people to get vaccinated.
Government health officials are saying that the vaccines developed have proven to be safe and effective and that the best chance we all have for moving on and living in a world not controlled by the behavior of a virus is to continue to use masks, social distance and to take the vaccine when it becomes available.
According to Francis Collins MD, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it will take 80% coverage (vaccine administration) to get to herd immunity, and that is not likely to happen until the summer of 2021if all goes well.
According to a definition of herd immunity on the Web MD web site, “Herd immunity, or community immunity, is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to the cause of a disease, such as a virus or bacteria, it has nowhere to go. While not every single individual may be immune, the group as a whole has protection. This is because there are fewer high-risk people overall. The infection rates drop, and the disease peters out.”
Herd immunity may be the ultimate goal but can we get there? Many people are skeptical about taking a vaccine. The ones that have been proclaimed successful in the past few weeks have been developed faster than vaccines are normally developed. The process usually takes years because scientists want to be sure they have minimized side effects while maximizing efficacy.
The major pharmaceutical companies pushing their vaccines are making claims of efficacy above 90%. They are also saying that the vaccines have proven to be safe. We all need to look at the vaccine world with a critical eye and decide whether or not to take the vaccine based on weighing the pro’s and con’s.
At this point we know that the new vaccines have minimal side effects but we do not have long-term data. It is possible that a year or two from now we will find out that people have developed serious diseases as a result of taking a vaccine that was rushed through the development phase. We also could find out that the vaccines proved to be safe and effective as advertised. We have no way of knowing what the future will hold. We have to come to our own conclusions about these possible outcomes.
Then there is the issue of how effective a vaccine will be. The new vaccines were developed using a new approach to vaccine development by having messenger RNA replicate the spike protein on the coronavirus. The spike protein stimulates an immune response and researchers have indicated that this novel approach may provide a high level of antibody response.
All reports I have read make it clear that no one knows how long the antibody response will be able to fight off the COVID virus. The hope is that a two shot regimen of vaccine administration will last for about a year and that people will have to be vaccinated yearly. I have not heard any researchers talk about permanent immunity or immunity lasting more than a year. They do not know if or how long people who became infected with COVID will have immunity.
Nurses are often one of the best sources for health care information. They are on the ground and they often employ a level of common sense that helps the rest of us understand what is going on. Here are some results of an October 2020 survey about COVID vaccines with 13,000 nurses conducted by the American Nurses Association. Eighty four percent of participants felt the vaccine was being developed too quickly, 78% of healthcare workers did not feel they had received enough information about COVID-19 vaccine safety, side effects, and administration, 70% were skeptical about the vaccine approval process and 50% mistrusted information about the COVID -19 vaccine development.
All indications are that COVID will be with us for a very long time. We need to do everything we can to keep it at bay but chances are it will be a long time, if ever, before it is entirely eliminated. The vaccine is one strategy to slow the spread and we need reliable information in order to decide whether or not that option is right for us.