More Questions Than Answers? Important Facts on Vaccines

Submitted by Dr George Harpur

Like pretty much everything else around Covid-19 there are way more questions than answers when it comes to the subject of vaccines. That said, there are, several important facts we do know. 

When will it be available?

First the vaccine will be available up here through the clinic in the same fashion that the annual flu clinic process follows, with plenty of notice, widely publicised. When, is obviously at the mercy of supply, and while no one can give a firm date until the manufacturers and agencies in control sort out their problems, it is most likely to be available for all who have the wisdom to apply for it before the end of July. Blaming Government for delays won’t produce the product faster and wastes time and energy best put to other uses.

Which vaccine would be best? 

Assuming you have checked that you are not allergic to any of the components, the best one is the one you are offered soonest. Comparisons of all the vaccines that have been approved to date shows that all have similar effectiveness in the trials. All have caused the same miniscule number of significant reactions as a percentage of doses given, and all give rise to a variety of minor side effects such as sore arms and headache that are really just an indication that they are evoking the desired response.

The most concerning side effect to any of the vaccines is the assumption that, “I’m immune, I don’t need a mask, hand washing or distancing any more”. This is a myth, but people show up for their shots without masks thinking immunity is instant and absolute. The reality is that in the trials, following the first injection most of the vaccines provide no protection at all for the first 10-12 days, then there was a dramatic separation in the placebo vs vaccine group with the appearance of significant symptomatic disease dropping to near zero in the vaccine group and remaining there even when the second dose was delayed up to 14 weeks later. 

There have been stories about death among people who have been vaccinated, but examination of the timing in these cases has clearly established that these events took place during that first 10 to 12 day interval following vaccination when protection had not yet had time to develop. Vaccination does not guarantee absolute protection. From 2 weeks after your first dose you will have virtually no chance of contracting severe disease, a very remote chance of having symptomatic disease, but may possibly have asymptomatic or disease so mild you don’t know you have it. This is one of the reasons why it is important for everyone to continue social distancing and wearing masks in appropriate circumstances, whether vaccinated or not, so as to avoid catching and spreading the infection in the event you develop a mild symptomless case. None of us wants to go about spreading this virus, unaware of the hazard we pose. 

At the present time there are in excess of 80 different vaccines undergoing development in trials around the world and there are at least five already in fairly widespread use. The technologies used in these vaccines are quite variable and whether there will be distinct advantages to one particular vaccine over another, particularly with regard to their activity against emerging strains and/or the ease with which they can be adjusted to modify their coverage, are things that are being closely monitored but will not be known for some time. One thing is certain, the speed with which we can react and respond to this, and future threats, has been greatly accelerated by the experience gained in the past 12 months and is continuing to accelerate. 

Unfortunately progress in this field will not be hastened by the great wastage of warm air and printer’s ink being engaged in by political bodies of all stripes the world over. Some things just take careful persistent attention to detail and patience to do safely.

So what to do? 

Well remember the rocking chair. Worry, no matter how hard you work at it will get you nowhere. Just wait for the vaccine and when the chance comes, take it. While you’re waiting adhere to the current practices, they’re tried and true. If you doubt the value of distancing, wearing a mask, quarantine and hunkering down close to home, just compare the figures for countries like Taiwan & New Zealand with the rest of the world. 

Speaking of vaccines and the disease and disability they can prevent, the clinic still has flu vaccine available. Have you had yours? Get it now – you need at least 2 weeks from other vaccines to be eligible for any of the COVID-19 agents.