As a healthcare professional, you are probably well aware of the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. We are not far from first doses being administered, and without the hard facts, it can feel a little scary. There is some controversy surrounding this vaccine, and it’s really important to understand facts to help in your personal decision making about getting one for yourself or loved ones.
Let’s start with some basics: it has been scientifically proven that vaccines reduce the risk of contracting viruses, or reduce the severity of the virus if contracted. Historically, many illnesses have been eradicated or drastically reduced by vaccinations including Polio, Measles and Rubella along with many others. Flu vaccines, while re-formulated to depict the most common strain of the yearly virus, has reduced the number of hospitalized patients annually and drastically reduced the amount of people severely affected by influenza. We are faced with a worldwide pandemic, and along with the many measures we are currently taking to reduce the spread of this virus, we can add vaccination of COVID-19 to our arsenal.
Many people are skeptical about the pace at which the COVID-19 vaccine has been developed, but there are many facts surrounding the development of the vaccine that might help diminish rumors.
COVID-19 Vaccine Testing
Companies like Pfizer, Moderna and BioNTech are working on the development and testing of a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Through the development of this vaccine, these companies have developed a vaccine with 90%+ efficacy among the populations tested. According to a report in ScienceMag.org, Pfizer/BioNTech collaboration created a vaccine, “with an efficacy of 95%, in the final analysis of their 45,000-person trial. In that study, which ended after 170 cases of COVID-19 were identified, only 10 severe cases occurred, and just one was in the vaccinated group.”
Pfizer has also announced that they have completed phase three of the study and have met all primary efficacy criteria. What does this mean? According to Pfizer:
- Primary efficacy analysis demonstrates BNT162b2 to be 95% effective against COVID-19 beginning 28 days after the first dose;170 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were evaluated, with 162 observed in the placebo group versus 8 in the vaccine group
- Efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics; observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age was over 94%
- Safety data milestone required by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) has been achieved
- Data demonstrate vaccine was well tolerated across all populations with over 43,000 participants enrolled; no serious safety concerns observed; the only Grade 3 adverse event greater than 2% in frequency was fatigue at 3.8% and headache at 2.0%
- Companies plan to submit within days to the FDA for EUA and share data with other regulatory agencies around the globe
- The companies expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021
- Pfizer is confident in its vast experience, expertise and existing cold-chain infrastructure to distribute the vaccine around the world
- Who should receive the vaccine first?
- According to the CDC, it will be administered through phases. It was declared on December 1, 2020 by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that Phase 1A will include healthcare personnel and residents of long term care facilities.
- When will the vaccine be ready?
- USA Today reports that first rounds could be ready as soon as December 13, 2020. However, the following week is more likely.
- How many shots have to be administered in order to have immunity?
- For all but one of the vaccines in Phase 3 trials, two administrations will be necessary.
- Once I receive the recommended vaccine dosage, will I still need to wear a mask?
- CDC and experts recommend to continue to wear your mask over your nose and mouth, keep 6 feet distance from others, and frequent hand washing with soap and water as the vaccine effectiveness is still being studied in order to reduce the spread of the virus to high risk populations.
- If I have already had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?
- Natural immunity has not been studied in depth enough at this point to determine the time of protection after infection of COVID-19. Early evidence is showing that natural immunity may not last long, but more research is needed to determine more confidently. It has not been determined by ACIP and CDC if a vaccine is recommended for this subset of the population at this time.
As we continue to work through this pandemic, it is important to keep in mind that everyone should continue to do their part in preventing and slowing the spread of this virus. Part of that now includes vaccination. As a healthcare professional, trusting in evidence based, scientifically proven facts is best practice, especially at this time. Continue to prevent the spread by wearing your mask in public places, frequent hand washing, keep 6 feet apart from others and when it is available to you, get your vaccination. If you are sick, stay home and only seek emergency care if absolutely necessary. Together we have come so far, and together we can go even further!