What I Wanted for Christmas Was a Vaccine

By Roger Paradiso

“You’ll know when you get the vaccine, but that also tells you it’s working and that your body is responding,” former FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told CNBC.

She was speaking about the two incredible vaccines that have emerged just in time—thanks to a massive mobilization of government and private money, and public and private research and ingenuity.

These two vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna, are the first serious threats to the survival of COVID-19 as a pandemic. Perhaps others will be developed in the coming months and provide enough coverage for the entire world before the summer is over. For our country this is a welcome sign.

Currently, we are losing the war against COVID-19. More than 18.8 million cases have been reported in the U.S. and more than 331 thousand people have died. The disease will not go away on its own as some have said. It will battle us until we kill it or at least beat it back towards extinction.

How do we defeat infectious diseases? We find a vaccine which protects us from getting the virus, or at the least keeps us from dying. And we vaccinate at least 70 percent of the world’s population.

Are we willing to subject ourselves to a new vaccine? Fifty-eight percent of Americans in the latest Gallup poll said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine, up from a low of 50 percent in September. So, what are the concerns of the remaining 42 percent? Let’s do a quick review of the history of modern vaccination before we address that concern.

Flu vaccines are usually 50-80 percent successful in keeping us from getting the flu, which kills 25-70 thousand (mostly elderly) people a year in the USA alone.

The 1918 Spanish Flu caused the most severe pandemic in recorded history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus. According to the CDC, an estimated 500 million people (a third of the world’s population contracted the virus and at least 50 million people died (675,000 in the United States).

Did you know that the AIDS virus has infected more than 70 million people and about 35 million have died since the late 1980’s according to the World Health Organization? Do you think the families of the 35 million dead would want a vaccine? Today, the disease ravages the third world and there is no cure. There is an antiviral drug that manages the disease, and if treated early, most afflicted with AIDS can live a normal life by taking the medication.

So, when the FDA, doctors, and regulatory agencies from around the world say we have two vaccines ready to go that are over 94 percent effective, we should cheer. We should cheer like those parents did when Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin developed effective polio vaccines back in the 1950s. I remember going to the playground in grade school and being given a sugar cube with the Sabin vaccine.

At this point, 23 million people around the world have died of polio, according to the USDA. But it has been almost completely eradicated across the globe by vaccination. Nevertheless, there are people who are still skeptical, and they should be. Without dissent we cannot argue the efficacy of these vaccines.

You should know that both Pfizer and Moderna have finished Phase 3 of the trials, with over 60 million people given the vaccine or the placebo. Pfizer’s and Modena’s vaccines proved to be more than 94 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, according to data from large-scale clinical trials.

According to CNBC, some of the reported side effects include “local swelling, irritation, some pain, sense of fatigue, sometimes headache. In a percentage of patients, they had chills and low-grade fever.”

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the Trump administration’s vaccine development efforts, has defended the safety of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Earlier this month he said, “significantly noticeable side effects from the shots were reported in only between 10-15 percent of trial participants, potentially lasting up to a day and a half”.

Illustration by Jim Meadows.

These have been the most studied trials in history. “Operation Warp Speed” was the name given to a process in the USA which was entrusted with clearing all the bureaucracy of red tape and time. The science was left alone to develop and test these vaccines. There were no short cuts in the science.

Social media users have been sharing a post that makes several claims of serious negative health effects from the Pfizer-Biotech COVID-19 vaccine, including that six people died during late-stage trials. Six people did die during the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine trials, but only two of them were given the vaccine, the rest were given placebos. One of the vaccine recipients had a cardiac arrest 62 days after a second dose of the two-dose vaccination and died three days later. The other died from arteriosclerosis three days after a first dose of the vaccination. FDA briefings clarified that the deaths were not deemed to be related to the vaccine: “None of these deaths were assessed by the investigator as related to study intervention.” They explained, “All deaths represent events that occur in the general population of the age groups where they occurred, at a similar rate”.

The FDA briefing documents also show that it is true that there were four cases of Bell’s Palsy among those who received the vaccine. Bell’s Palsy is a sudden weakness or freezing of muscles on one side of the face, which in most cases is temporary. The briefing states that the frequency of Bell’s Palsy in the vaccine group is “consistent with the expected background rate in the general population,” adding there is “no clear basis upon which to conclude a causal relationship at this time.” The FDA said it would, however, recommend “surveillance” for cases of Bell’s Palsy as the vaccine is sent out to larger groups of people”.

“For most people, Bell’s Palsy is temporary. Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell’s Palsy symptoms for life. Rarely, according to the Mayo Clinic, Bell’s Palsy can recur”.

The vaccine has been given in Great Britain for several weeks. Two recipients have developed severe allergic reactions which prompted treatment. Both have recovered. There is also news that two people in Alaska have had allergic reactions and are recovering. Before you take the vaccine check with your doctor to make sure you do not have any medical reasons not to do so. If you have had allergic reactions to any vaccination, you should not take this vaccine. Right now, there is some thought that children under 16 years of age and pregnant women should not take it, but it has been deemed safe for the rest of us. Check with your doctor about your risks. If there is any doubt, take the vaccine in a hospital or clinic where you can be treated if a bad reaction occurs. For the greater population there will be minor side effects which will go away in a day or two.

As of December 18th, the FDA was aware of “roughly about five” allergic reactions in possible connection with the Pfizer vaccine in different states, including Alaska, according to Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA. But “it’s difficult to talk about them with any kind of good certainty until we have more information about them. Because vaccines are so well tested, it’s technically much more dangerous, much riskier, to get the disease than it is to get the vaccine” (BuzzFeed News). “I would far rather have headache, muscle soreness, fatigue, chills, nausea, and a bit of pain at the injection site than be in intensive care with a ventilator,” said Paul Duprex, Director of the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh.

I am just a journalist, and WestView News is not a medical journal. We can only report what some have said about the vaccines, calling them the greatest and quickest vaccines ever created. They will save millions of lives. You have to question why all these experts and government testing agencies around the world would say these are vaccines you should take. Are they just looking to make money? Are they all mistaken? It does not seem plausible that all these people could be fraudulent given the downside of lawsuits and discredited reputations.

Moderna is charging between $32-$37 per dose for its vaccine and may offer a discount if it is bought in bulk. Pfizer’s, on the other hand, is more affordable. It is reported to be $20 per dose. “The U.S. has secured 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 50 million people” (Health and Science, CNBC). The U.S. has also made a deal with Moderna for 200 million doses. Vaccines will continue to be in production until the demand worldwide is satisfied.

“The goal is to achieve herd immunity, experts say; roughly 70 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated or have natural antibodies. That’s about 462 million doses for herd immunity and an estimated 660 million doses for everyone in our country. Both Pfizer’s and Modena’s vaccines require two doses”.

The battle with COVID-19 will be over if we put forth the effort to not only get the vaccine, but also to continue practicing vigilance. Yes, we will need to continue wearing masks, keeping out of crowds, and washing our hands well into this coming summer. But things will start getting better and better shortly, and life may return to normal by summer’s end.

Vaccines to prevent the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are perhaps the best hope for ending the pandemic. While no vaccines are 100 percent effective, they are far better than not getting vaccinated. “The benefits certainly outweigh the risks in healthy people.”

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