We are underselling the value of the COVID vaccines.

I have been hearing lots of concerns from people about the COVID-19 vaccines. These have mostly involve ideas that the vaccine is not nearly as good or as safe as people are being told. If anything, I have felt that the opposite was true; the vaccine is actually better than people are being told. 

I was reassured today when I saw an article in the New York Times this morning entitled “Underselling the Vaccines” that expressed optimism and described similar conversations about the vaccines. While this article asserted that the vaccines were under rated from a reluctance to generate unrealistic expectations, I also think it’s from the extensive misinformation being spread around the vaccines. This misinformation comes from many sources including media reports and comments from scientist that are incorrect or highly speculative.

The vaccine works no matter your age!

So let me make a single definitive statement: the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are some of the safest and most effective vaccines for an infectious disease that I have observed in my lifetime. These two vaccines are remarkable and will end this pandemic if they can get into every human around the world.

In order to reinforce this point in the rest of this post I will attempt to refute five misconceptions about these vaccines.

  • The vaccines are not 100% effective, so why should I take them? These vaccines are a hundred percent effective against severe illness from COVID-19. Of the 32,000 people in the Pfizer trial, only one developed COVID-19 severe enough to require hospitalization. Beyond the 95% prevention of any clinical COVID-19 infection, the 5% that got the illness had very minimal illness. So these vaccines are essentially totally effective in preventing COVID-19 illness in all age groups!
  • You can still spread disease after you’ve gotten these vaccines. These statements come from the fact that this idea of disease spread was not a specific endpoint in the clinical trials. However, if you reduce clinical illness by 95%, you should reduce the spread of the virus by 95%. Others have suggested the vaccines might be changing clinical illness into asymptomatic illness, and these people could still spread disease. While not a formal end point in the Moderna trial, it appeared that asymptomatic disease was reduced as significantly as symptomatic disease. This would suggest that the likelihood that people would spread this illness after the vaccine would have been reduced as much as their own infection. The NYT article reported that  Dr. Paul Sax of Harvard has written in The New England Journal of Medicine that, “while no rigorous study has yet analyzed whether vaccinated people can spread the virus, it would be surprising if they did.“ If there is an example of a vaccine in widespread clinical use that has this selective effect — prevents disease but not infection — I can’t think of one!”
  • These vaccines contain toxic chemicals that will harm you or cause you to have difficulties having children. There is absolutely no toxic chemical in this material. The lipid component which has been raised as a material of concern is actually in many foods and cosmetics. The amount of this material you are exposed to every day is hundreds of times what you would get in the vaccine. All these substances have been shown to be safe in large studies because they are in food and cosmetics. So it is unlikely that anything in the vaccine would cause a toxic affect.
  • The immunity from the vaccines won’t last long. This concern began from poorly performed studies early in the pandemic that suggested the infected people did not have long-lasting immunity. This has been disproven, and if you look at either immunity from natural infection or the vaccine at six months, immunity hasn’t decreased at all. Studies from SARS have shown that immunity can last a very long time, up to 15 to 17 years. So while we are not going to say that these vaccines would last for 17 years, it is likely that the immunity will be long-lasting enough to end the current pandemic if everyone gets vaccinated.
  • A large number of people are having allergic reactions to these vaccines. There have been a number of significant allergic reactions to these vaccines, and it is important to investigate what caused these reactions for both the recipients and the vaccine. Despite this, the reactions are relatively infrequent; roughly one in every hundred thousand injections — more than 100 times less common than allergic reactions to penicillin. We are seeing these reactions because we are immunizing so many people! More importantly, everyone who’s had a reaction has been effectively treated and stabilized without any long-term problems.
  • So, if you are getting the vaccine, you can be assured it is a safe proposition for you.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

16 thoughts on “We are underselling the value of the COVID vaccines.

    1. If you have had COVID and are antibody positive you’re protected and likely don’t need the vaccine right now. You can get it without issue though. If you wait, you should check your antibody in 6 months to make sure it remains positive.

      Like

  1. In a discussion the other day, a friend of mine mentioned that the vaccine contains aluminum. Could this be true? We have family history of Alzheimer’s
    .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I live in a suburb of Chicago( GLENVIEW, Illinois). My wife and me are both + 75 and diabetic.As of today there is still no clear program for vaccine distribution!

    A real disgrace!

    I am immensely upset buy this poor and mishandled program.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hi Dr Baker,
    Thanks for the interesting and informative post! A couple of quick questions I had as we are contemplating the costs/benefit analysis of taking a vaccine as younger people in our 30s:
    1- what do you think about the issue of vaccine administered thru blood resulting in only IgG antibodies (vs nasal-mucosal vaccine that would generate IgA?) my concern is that the current method prevents severe disease, but may not impact the probability of getting respiratory infection or passing it on to others, as it does not create sterilizing immunity / mucosal immunity.
    2- what are the risks of long-term side effects, given modifying messenger RNA and going thru the cell wall is a relatively novel method (compared to prior vaccination methods of inactivated virus or adjuvanted protein)? my concern is that utilizing foreign mRNA to turn the cell into a protein factory may help with COVID, but what if it leads to unintended outcomes – such as creating a protein factory when there’s nothing to fight off (i.e. autoimmune disorder) or other such consequences that are hard to detect without more time passing.
    Thanks,
    Neal

    Like

    1. Serum IgG gets into the mucosa and neutralizes virus there. Otherwise people who have isolated IgA deficiencies (1 in 700) would get sick (which they don’t). The injected RNA breaks down rapidly so I doubt there is any long term effects on inflammation. Chronic viral infection probably is much worse. Best. JB

      Like

  4. In your blog you restate that natural immunity lasts for many years. We do know that the Sars-1 virus is close to 78 percent close to this virus if I an correct? So I am hoping that is the case. How can you get this message out to others. I feel like that there is a lot of immunity out there already. Along with people who freely choose to get the vaccine. I believe the Immunity issue for the vaccine not lasting comes from the surgeon general himself. People are saying that they don’t believe anyone anymore, The information is so varied that I don’t think we can blame the general public (of whom I am one) for not knowing what to believe. I don’t think you are doing that, but when we say you are immune then say wear a mask it is saying two things. When one authority says you can get the virus again or one of my doctors says I can and one says I can’t… it is very confusing. I met a man yesterday in the grocery store who said “I don’t believe anyone anymore” about the whole Covid issue. There have been way too many articles published as you said that were not peer reviewed and the press put them out as gospel truth. So now no one knows what to believe. I have spent hours researching and talking to people (Doctors I trust) to come to what I believe is solid. I found you through my neurologist. Most people do not take the time to look things up or research. My point or question is can we find a way to explain immunity to the general public? Not people who just tested positive, (I have a hard time believing that they all really had it) but those who have antibodies and do not need a vaccine because of this, or get a vaccine and have antibodies and are immune. I want truth to be told help.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here is an article as an example saying they don’t know if the vaccine with protect people. This is why there is confusion. Why would people want to get it if it doesn’t protect them from spreading it. Most people I know want to be done with this and hope the vaccine provides it. I am just sharing this to show my point on my last comment. Thanks for your time
    https://www.goodrx.com/blog/wearing-a-mask-after-covid-19-vaccine/

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: