The effort to vaccinate the US population against COVID-19 continues, with a third vaccine by Johnson and Johnson increasing the supply of vaccines available. As more time passes and more people are vaccinated, scientists are learning more about the effects of the vaccine. And so far, it's been good news. Before moving on, check out this video by Vox explaining why there is no need to choose between the three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson).
This video leads us to the first takeaway message from this post:
Takeaway #1 - All 3 vaccines available in the US are proven to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
The Vox video brings up a good point regarding the efficacy numbers reported by the vaccine manufacturers' clinical trials: real world performance does not always mirror the success in the clinical trials. Fortunately, there are studies that are looking into real world efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. Two recently published studies, one by the Mayo Clinic in a peer-reviewed journal and another by the CDC, show that real world efficacy of the vaccines are 80% or higher for people who completed both doses of the vaccine. That's pretty close to the 94-95% efficacy rate seen in the clinical trials.
These numbers are highly encouraging about the prospects of the vaccines and the impact they can have in ending this pandemic. The CDC study results provide an even better outlook since their study followed healthcare workers, first responders, and other frontline workers; i.e., people who are at higher probability of coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19.
Takeaway #2 - COVID-19 vaccine performance does not decline in real world usage.
A common question about the vaccine is how long will it protect one from COVID-19? It's difficult to predict how long protection from the vaccine will last since human trials with them only began last summer but these trials are ongoing and participants are continued to be observed for more information on the vaccines.
Pfizer recently published more data on their clinical trial, where they see continued protection 6 months after administering the second dose of their vaccine. Moderna says their vaccine could provide protection for a few years. We will have to wait for the trials to continue to get a better determination of how long vaccine protection will last.
Takeaway #3 - COVID-19 vaccine protection should last a substantial amount of time.
With all these good news related to the vaccines, is this the end of the pandemic? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no. The spread of multiple variants around the globe can affect the vaccine's performance. Initial reports show that the vaccines' efficacy significantly drops against the variants. There are ongoing studies by Pfizer and Moderna to understand how effective their vaccines are against the predominant variants (e.g., South Africa). Pfizer and Moderna are also looking into booster shots, which will also target the variants. There are also other non-vaccine factors that affect the course of the pandemic, which we will cover on a future post.
In the meantime, sign up for an appointment to get vaccinated whenever you become eligible. Many states around the country have expanded their eligibility list to include anybody 16 years or older. As mentioned earlier, there is also no need to be picky about which vaccine you'll get; the best vaccine is the one that's available.
Continue to wear a mask whenever you go out, maintain 6ft distance or greater from people outside your household, and wash your hands frequently!