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The COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 Vaccine

The big news coming out this week is Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Today we are going to break down what we know so far and what this might mean for the population in general and those with autoimmune diseases.

On November 9th, the drug company Pfizer put out a statement that their new COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective. So what exactly does that mean? And what data did they get from this recent study that might give us some information? While this may seem like extremely good news, lets break it down in more detail.

The Trial

In July Pfizer began conducting a clinical trial with 43,538 people. In this trial half of the participants got the vaccine and half of the people got a placebo with salt water. Participants then underwent a second dose of the vaccine after 3 weeks from the first dose. Then they waited for people in the trial to get COVID-19. Then they measured which of them had had the vaccine and which had not.

After 28 days from the initial vaccine (7 days from the second dose), they had found that 94 of the 43,538 people had become sick with COVID-19. Of those 94 cases, the data from this group suggests that most of them were cases of people that did not get the vaccine. The company stated that this data lead them to believe that the vaccine would be approximately 90% effective.

Trial Flaws

Before we start getting too excited about what we do know, let’s talk about what we don’t know.

First – Prizer never actually published the findings of the trial at this time, only a press release. So what we know is only what they told us and not as an actual study of the material that can be critically analyzed and reproduced by other scientists. This leaves out a huge amount of data in regards to the vaccine.

Because there was no published study findings, we actually have no idea what the characteristics of the people receiving the vaccine are. Only that “42% [had] diverse backgrounds” within the research pool. Were these people healthy? Were they ones that were ultimately more susceptible to getting COVID-19? Are they people that were likely to have complications from COVID19? Did the 94 people that contracted the illness in this time have underlying risk factors? Does the vaccine cause any side effects in those receiving it? All of these are questions that will help us understand the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Additionally, we were given no information about whether the vaccine just helps prevent contraction of the disease, it reduced symptom in mild to moderate cases, or if it prevents serious outcomes. This information is important as it will help us decide who vaccines should be given to when they are released in case there is a shortage.

We also don’t know how long immunity will last. Does this provide herd immunity? Will it only provide immunity on a yearly basis like the flu vaccine? Does it only provide a few months of immunity? These questions have also yet to be answered.

There is also the question of morality involved in this. Pfizer is a business. One in which has seen a downturn in profits in the past few years. The day this press release came out, the Pfizer CEO sold millions of stock of the company, boosting the companies value. Such actions also raises questions as to what information they are not providing us with this current trial.

How the COVID-19 Vaccine Works

Research around new forms of vaccines have been changing for many years. Vaccinations are important medicine, and have been used for many years as a way to help train our immune system to fight infection faster. Most vaccines in the past have involved giving people a small amount of a protein from a virus, which then trains the immune system to react to it faster when it comes into contact with it in the wild.

Newer vaccines though are using messenger RNA (mRNA). This is essentially using genetic instructions for the immune system to help the immune system create a fast response. When our cells get the instructions from the RNA, they start making the coronavirus proteins on it’s own. These proteins that our body makes then trigger the immune system to create a response to the vaccine.

These types of mRNA vaccinations are very new in science. Because they have not been used in large populations of people, we have very little information on how these might affect people long term, what this means for certain conditions like autoimmune diseases, or how long these vaccinations will last.

What This Means for Autoimmune Diseases

While the COVID-19 is unlikely to be released before January 2021, whether or not people will get it when it does is still a big question. Here are some important things to consider.

With all new therapeutic treatments, we will want to consider the risk/benefit ratio. If this vaccine shows promising outcomes for reducing severity of symptoms or death for COVID-19, then that benefit may outweigh some of the risks. Especially for high-risk populations.

Additionally, if the COVID-19 vaccine reduces the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 this would be helpful in reducing chronic COVID-19 symptoms. Things like COVID-19 Syndrome would be reduced. And the likelihood of the virus stimulating autoimmune flares would be higher.

Though the lack of knowledge of how the mRNA vaccines work in the general population may be concerning. If we are giving ourselves genetic material to make the COVID-19 protein on our own, what does that mean for autoimmune diseases? Does this mean that we will have constant immune stimulation that will flare autoimmune diseases long term? Does this mean that we will have higher incidences of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? These have yet to be determined, but should be considered.

Conclusion

As COVID-19 cases start to surge in the United States, a vaccine on the horizon seems very exciting. But as we go into a possible surge in viral cases, there are also other measures that can help protect us. Things like universal masking, social distancing, and vigilant hygiene are all good ways to help spread infection of the disease.

If you have more questions about the vaccine and what it may mean for you, contact your healthcare provider. Or you can schedule an appointment with our knowledgeable physicians.

Looking for more information on autoimmune diseases? Get our FREE ebook The 5 Foundations of Autoimmune Diseases, register for one of our FREE online webinars, or check out our blog for additional articles.

Looking for more information on autoimmune diseases? Get our FREE ebook The 5 Foundations of Autoimmune Diseases, register for one of our FREE online webinars, or check out our blog for additional articles.

One Response to The COVID-19 Vaccine

  1. Beautifully presented reasons for careful consideration before hastily taking the proposed vaccine.

    Thank you for sharing your intelligent remarks.

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