(Image via Shutterstock)
(Image via Shutterstock)

Doctors from Green Bay-area hospitals endorse safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the COVID-19 vaccines, but Dr. Michael Landrum, an infectious disease expert with Bellin Health, could only express the importance of developing vaccines with 95% effectiveness with sports metaphors.

“It’s not quite 100%, but 95%. It’s a Hail Mary pass that’s been completed or a home run in the ninth inning,” Landrum said. “This is really what can end the pandemic and bring us all back to a more normal type of lifestyle that we’re used to.”

However, he has heard concerns surrounding the safety of the vaccine from some medical professionals as well as family and friends and that the process was rushed. Landrum, at a media event hosted by the Brown County Health Department on Wednesday, vouched for the safety of the vaccine.

“The safety monitoring for this vaccine has been the same as for any other vaccine,” he said. “We did not cut any corners.”

One reason Landrum said the vaccine was developed so quickly is because scientists learned from the last coronavirus outbreaks, SARS and MERS, that a vaccine would need to target the virus’ spike protein. 

“We didn’t have to spend years trying to sort that out when COVID-19 started going around the globe,” Landrum said. “We already knew that and that accelerated things.”

He also credited the huge infusion of cash from the federal government for the vaccine’s development. Because of that funding, processes that would typically happen one after another, instead were all happening at the same time. For example, manufacturing for the virus started one year ago while it was still in the research phase.

“The fear of great financial loss was taken away by this huge lump sum of money that was given by the government,” Landrum said. “Typically, you would wait until several years of research had passed before you’d take that financial risk so that huge amount of money really helped accelerate things and compressed the timeline quite a bit.”

During the trials, patients were monitored and had follow-up appointments for two months after the administration of the vaccine. By that time, any major side effects would have become apparent. The only ones reported were shoulder pain, in some cases worse than the flu vaccine, and a low-grade fever and fatigue, on par with the shingles vaccine, according to Landrum. 

“The side effects of these vaccines are pretty much on par with other vaccines,” Landrum said. “I feel comfortable recommending them to my patients.”

Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai pointed out the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus but instead contains part of the virus’s RNA, which allows the body to build up an immune response. That means you cannot contract the virus from the vaccine.  

Rai said the COVID vaccine is a unique situation where so much focus was put towards one goal.

“It also shows what good funding on research can accomplish in America if we were to focus on it,” he said. 

Rai said anyone with concerns about the vaccine should talk with their doctor instead of deciding to skip it because in order for life to go back to normal, about 60 to 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated. One question the vaccine trial did not answer was whether vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus to others. 

“At this point the number one thing we can say about the COVID-19 vaccine is it prevents you from getting it. We don’t know if it prevents you from transmitting it,” Rai said. “So until we have a very large portion of the population vaccinated, we’re going to recommend masking, physical distancing, all of the things we’ve been recommending to keep society safe until we get enough people vaccinated.”