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COVID-19 Vaccine Updates

Hello and welcome back to the Corner.  In a previous issue we discussed the vaccine products that were in development to help protect against COVID-19. Since then we have had at least 2 products approved for emergency use by the FDA in the United States, and some gaining traction in other countries.

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As most of you are aware, the FDA has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine products for people age 16 and older. These vaccines require a 2-shot series with a period of 21 to 28 days between administration.

Data from clinical trials suggests effectiveness of around 95% against COVID-19.

The current vaccines use what is referred to as mRNA technology. This provides cells a blueprint to make a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 “spike” protein. The creation of this protein is what triggers the immune response in our body. After this happens, the mRNA is quickly broken down and does not affect our inherent DNA. This technology is not new as it has been studied for well over 10 years. It is important to draw attention as to why the vaccine became available so quickly. As the clinical trials were in progress, manufacturing of the vaccine had already started in anticipation of the EUA being granted (as long as the trial results were favorable). Because of this, the vaccine was available immediately, which is much different than how other products typically move through the process.

There are some other vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials that use different technology. One of these, made by AstraZeneca-Oxford, uses non-replicating viral vector technology and was recently given authorization in Great Britain. This vaccine appears to have an estimated efficacy rate of around 70%. As clinical data is compiled on this and other vaccines, it is possible we may see additional authorizations for the other candidates.

Overall, adverse effects of these vaccines appear to be similar to other common vaccines. While these vaccines cannot cause COVID infection due to the fact they don’t use parts of the virus itself, side effects are still possible. These may include, but are not limited to, injection site reactions, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, nausea, or fever. The incidence of side effects seems to be more likely after the second dose of the vaccine.

Hopefully in the upcoming months, access to COVID-19 vaccine products will expand, leading to more and more people getting vaccinated. One big unknown at this time is if vaccinated individuals can still develop asymptomatic COVID-19 and therefore spread the virus. Due to this undetermined factor, there is a continued emphasis on wearing masks and social distancing.

Thanks again for stopping and continue to stay safe and healthy.

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