COVID Vaccine Q&A with Dr. Zamora
As the number of daily COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths continues to rise in the United States, we’re finally experiencing a glimpse of hope as we witness images of frontline healthcare workers receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Watching this unfold in real time generates a mix of strong emotions and many questions. Below are answers to the most common questions we have recently received at Brave Care.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective?
The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine has thus far proven to be 95% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 infection in adults. The Moderna vaccine has shown similar results. By comparison, the seasonal flu vaccine is generally between 40-60% effective.
At this time, all we know is that COVID-19 vaccination reduces the severity of COVID-19 infection. Even after vaccination, it will remain important to follow routine precautions to help prevent spread of the disease.
How do I know for sure that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe?
The safety of any vaccine is determined primarily through phase 3 trials and ongoing safety monitoring following vaccine distribution. Phase 3 trials for all approved vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, are never shortened or compromised for any reason. Over 43,000 people participated in the Pfizer trial, and over 30,000 in Moderna’s trial.
The phase 3 trials for both the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines demonstrated no serious side effects within 8 weeks of adult participants receiving their first and second dose. In the history of vaccines, serious side effects invariably occur within 6 weeks.
Now that frontline healthcare workers and high-risk populations are starting to get vaccinated, information regarding potentially rare or serious side effects will continually be collected via national and international databases.
By the time the general adult population is given the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we will have much more information regarding potentially rare or serious side effects. But the early data suggests promising results.
Were the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved too quickly?
Any authorization for a vaccine, including an “Emergency Use Authorization,” must be vetted for safety and effectiveness by three independent scientific groups: the Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB); the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC); and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). These three independent and highly respected scientific groups have determined that the potential benefits of approving these vaccines outweigh the risks of not approving the vaccines.
When will my child be offered the COVID-19 vaccine?
It will be many more months (mid to late 2021) before a vaccine becomes available for children. Children’s immune systems are different than adults’, and they may need different doses or show different reactions to each vaccine. Children will therefore need to be included in phase 3 trials prior to being offered COVID-19 vaccination.
Pfizer recently started enrolling children as young as 12 years in its trials. The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for manufacturers to include children in their COVID-19 vaccine trials as soon as safely possible.
Will Brave Care be distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to patients and families?
Brave Care has been approved as a site for vaccine distribution. As soon as the vaccine becomes available to the general population, we plan to offer the vaccine to adult family members of both new and established children within Brave Care.
Will Brave Care staff and providers, as frontline healthcare workers, be getting the new COVID-19 vaccines?
Yes, we’re hopeful about getting the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by late January, per CDC and Oregon Health Authority guidelines.
What is the COVID-19 vaccination plan for adults in Oregon?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently being given to frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents. First doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will be given to about 100,000 Oregonians, with second doses to follow in January.
Next in line, as identified by the Oregon Health Authority’s equity-focused Vaccine Advisory Committee, will be people with underlying health conditions and those older than 65.
The Oregon Health Authority states that the general population isn’t expected to be eligible for vaccination until sometime in Spring 2021.
I trust the scientists and the approval process, but I’m still hesitant about the vaccine. What else can I do to better determine if it’s safe?
We totally get it - the choice to get a vaccine isn’t completely risk free. Data so far from vaccine trials suggests that the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the risks. The data is continually evolving, and Brave Care is staying up to date with the newest and most reliable information (we review the data as a company 2X weekly, sometimes more). You can always bring us your questions and concerns, and we’ll answer with evidence-based, compassionate advice.
We’re hopeful that with cohesive national and international vaccine development and distribution efforts, the 2021 holiday season will be much brighter. We wish everyone a safe and peaceful final few weeks of 2020.
Joanna Zamora, MD FAAP
Pediatrician at Brave Care