Pfizer’s Coronavirus Vaccine. A New Hope, With Some Caveats:
So we got our miracle! A Coronavirus vaccine!
What this constitutes in medicine really is kind of amazing.
Even the incredible work done on Ebola was based on elements that had been in the pipeline for years, so this work is like bottled-lightning!
There would have been absolutely nobody in March of this year who guessed a working vaccine by year’s end would be possible or even likely.
But here we are, and although more good news is coming, we are in the phase Tom Petty once said was the hardest part. Waiting…
The Short Answer:
- Pfizer’s Coronavirus vaccine came out much earlier than anyone had forecast.
- Moderna’s vaccine should be out soon, too.
- The 90% effective rate is only for 94 study subjects out of 40,000+
- We don’t yet have any data on side-effects.
- Sometimes these can be bad, like stroke or nerve-paralysis.
- At-risk people like young, old, & sick can get more side-effects.
- We don’t know if the vaccine prevents both the infection and also physical symptoms.
- If it doesn’t prevent infection, it could make someone a dangerous carrier.
- Even with rapid approval, only 25 million people can get vaccinated by end of 2020.
- The rest of the world will have to wait longer.
- Tight supply-chains may also slow vaccination-rates.
- Don’t get complacent!
- The virus spread is now worse in the US than it’s ever been.
- Flu season and premature business-reopenings may complicate things.
- Treat today’s environment like it’s just as dangerous as before.
- Many Americans could be vaccinated by April 2021.
Read on to find out the details…
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So as I’m sure you heard, research partners Pfizer and BioNTech came out with a vaccine for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
What’s more, just like some amazing vaccines of the past it’s got a crazy 90% effectiveness rating!
And before we get to all the cautions out there, we have one more positive note.
In addition to the dozens of treatments and cures in the works all over the world from just about every developed country,
Moderna also has a vaccine in the works that uses the exact same technique as the Pfizer one.
So that one should be coming to the end of positive trials fairly soon, too.
And now for all the bad news!
Even though Pfizer’s vaccine has been reported as 90% effective,
That was only for 94 out of the more than 40,000 subjects in the study.
And though this is a very-encouraging Phase 3 Trial,
The rest of the data still has to come out from it.
Luckily, a big part of that process will begin somewhere around November 16th.
A big part of that data we need to know about is: Side-Effects!
For example, some of the other companies working on potential vaccines are Regeneron, Arcturus, J&J, and AstraZeneca.
And two of them had to stop their trials because of bad side-effects.
For J&J, a young man in his 20s had a stroke in response to their vaccine,
And a subject of AstraZeneca’s trials came down with Transverse Myelitis,
An inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause numbness and loss of control in limbs and other parts of the body.
Still other virologists have speculated that some coronavirus vaccines might make people more vulnerable to things like HIV.
And right now, we do not know any of the observed side-effects of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Who does it help or hurt?
Another problem that can occur is a vaccine that only helps certain populations.
Even though Pfizer tried to get every different kind of person they could to test their vaccine on,
There is still no information on whether or not it hurts anyone who’s “At-Risk”, for example:
1) The Elderly
2) The Very Young
3) People On Other Medications
4) People With Other Health Problems
5) Pregnant Women or Nursing Mothers
And we also don’t know who gets which side-effects more or less by population group either,
So that’s another thing to look out for right now.
And here’s another problem that’s very sneaky.
Normally, we assume that a vaccine just obliterates any chance a virus would have at attacking us.
But what genuinely sucks, is that any virus can do at-least 2 Separate Things.
1) Infect us.
2) Give us an actual illness.
And one of the really unfortunate data-points we’re still not sure of before November 16th is this.
Does Pfizer’s vaccine let us get infected but not sick with an illness?
-Because if it does, then it just takes a healthy person,
And turns them into something much worse: An Asymptomatic-Carrier who thinks they’re healthy, protected,
AND NOT CONTAGIOUS!
So, for the savvy virus-docs who point this out, they deserve to be commended.
Because if people treated with an incomplete vaccine go back out there,
Then you just have an ARMY of Memorial Day Typhoid Marys all over again!
Now the problem of dosing.
We are all immensely fortunate to have Moderna working on such a similar vaccine, in addition to Pfizer’s great news.
But the stark-reality is that there will only be 50 million doses for a 2-dose regimen by the end of 2020 for the latter’s fix.
So even if it has no side-effects, is perfect for everyone, and gets immediate emergency-approval,
Only 25 million people out of the world’s 7 Billion will get help by the end of the year.
Hopefully, this will go to the people who need it most, like front-line healthcare workers and at-risk groups.
Pfizer has also pledged a tentative 1.3 Billion more doses by the end of 2021.
But all of that depends on a massive supply-chain to contain all the stuff like glass vials, caps, etc.
And as we all learned with supermarkets, nobody prepares for maximum capacity usage any more.
We don’t stockpile extra anything, and use Just-In-Time production & supply methods to lower costs.
And even if there are enough containers for 1.3 Billion doses just from 1 company,
The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at hilariously-low temperatures of -100F all the time, right up until you need it,
Or it becomes useless!
So we really can’t afford to get complacent!
Unfortunately, we all learned that the hard way when 4 regions around the country spiked-up in a +/- “second wave”,
After everyone decided to go outside and break all the rules on social-distancing & masks on Memorial Day.
And now of-course, we’re already in a 3rd Wave as:
1) Europe starts a few more provisional lockdowns,
2) Deaths in the US are back up above 1,000/day again,
3) Cases have been over 100,000/day for the past week,
4) Our most recent 7-day average case is at 150,000+/day,
5) And just a few days ago, we had more than 180,000 cases in one day.
Even Dr. Michael Osterholm is surprised by this and thinks by the end of the year our daily case-count could go over 200,000/day.
So somehow, lax practices and cold weather are conspiring to make things a lot worse before they can get better.
And we still do not have a Treatment for people who are already sick with the virus.
Our healthcare workers have gotten a lot better at keeping people alive, and in some cases reducing a 90% fatality rate down to 8%,
But very few people can get Remdesivir to help fix what they have.
So even though there is some very good news out there,
And some people in select hospitals and clinical trials can get Remdesivir,
We still have a long way to go, especially in Flu Season,
Even Health & Human Services secretary Alan Azar thinks the most optimistic timeline for regular folks to get any vaccine is sometime 5 months from now after April 2021.
So it behooves all of us to treat the rest of this year as if things were just as dangerous as they were back in March,
Regardless of how many businesses have partially-reopened and in some ways,
Given us maybe a little bit too much early hope of returning to normal.
Stay safe out there until you can actually get your coronavirus vaccine!