To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? That is the question. This blog will not answer that question authoritatively, but rather provide perspectives for you, the consumer to draw your own conclusions.
Vaccines have been touted as the most promising approach for controlling the current COVID-19 pandemic. Animal and human studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection elicits an immune response that results in antibody production that theoretically protects from reinfection for a period of approximately 90 days. The hope is that an effective vaccine can also produce protective antibodies without exposure to infection.
SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development has occurred at a rapid pace with the goal of reaching herd immunity in the US as quickly as possible to reduce the infection rate and normalize the US economy. Herd immunity is achieved when 80% of a population is immune to a pathogen.
Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 are currently in development using traditional methods such as inactivated virus or live attenuated (weakened) virus along with newer approaches such as recombinant proteins, vector vaccines, and some new, never before utilized technology including RNA & DNA vaccines.
The current two vaccines available in the US are mRNA vaccines granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Vaccines made available through EUA do not require signed informed consent documentation. Instead, clinicians must inform patients that it is not licensed, why it is not licensed, and what the FDA is waiting for to license it.
These vaccines are currently (Jan 2021) administered to health care workers and individuals at highest risk for severe infection including long-term care residents (group 1a). Next to be offered the vaccines will be those 75 & older along with frontline workers (group 1b). Then those aged 65-74, along with ages 16-64 with high-risk conditions and essential workers (group 1c). Lastly, the vaccine will be offered to those aged 16-64 years (group 2).
Neither of the 2 currently available vaccines have been studied or approved for pregnant women or children under the age of 16.
The long-term safety and efficacy of the vaccines will be evaluated in those inoculated first. Researchers expect to learn more about the duration of protection and potential need for additional, ongoing "booster" doses. The current data suggests that the vaccine will protect the patient for at least 90 days. Data will be collected on the impact vaccination has on levels of community transmission. In the US, current vaccine safety monitoring systems will be utilized to monitor potential emerging safety issues.
One initial safety issue is the unexpected anaphylactic reactions which have occurred in about 11 per million vaccines given. This reaction is observed in both vaccines currently available, so clinicians are urged to be prepared to treat such reactions.
Workplaces have begun incentivizing getting the vaccine to their employees. Some workplaces have mandated the vaccine in order to maintain employment. Others have offered employees a bonus or reduced health insurance rates.
Experts believe the vaccine will "probably still work" to protect the vaccinated against the newer "super strains" which have mutated to become even more contagious. Pharmaceutical companies are testing the efficacy of their vaccine against the new strains which have a mutation on their spike protein increasing it's infectious potential.
Natural selection is the process by which the strongest organisms survive, often illustrated by the phrase "survival of the fittest". Perpetual herd immunity will be a constant "cat and mouse" game between the virus and virologists, just as is true with the seasonal flu. Herd immunity will change how and when people become infected, and SARS-CoV-2 will likely join the flu in endemic seasonal rotation.
Throughout the pandemic, one truth remains. A healthy lifestyle and prevention , treatment, or reversal of diseases and risk factors that predispose you to a severe course of COVID-19 is a worthy goal in the battle against our latest endemic pathogen. We are Kansas City's Lifestyle Medicine Specialists. We can help you achieve your health goals and reduce your risk for multiple diseases simultaneously.