COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths – what you need to know about the new vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine facts
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There are so many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to post some facts about the new vaccines which we can use for debunking purposes. I used to think that the HPV vaccine brought the most hatred and misinformation from the anti-vaccine world, but it’s clear that the new COVID-19 vaccines are their new targets.

This article will only focus on the five vaccines that I believe will eventually receive FDA or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval – the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ Janssen), and Novavax vaccines. I remain unconvinced that any vaccine made in China or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will ever get approved by countries with robust drug regulatory agencies. However, if they are, I will certainly add them to a future iteration of this list.

I’m going to make this in a basic chart form for ease of use. I will link to supporting evidence wherever relevant.

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Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine scientific facts

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On 26 February 2020, the Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) COVID-19 vaccine will undergo an FDA expert review, similar to the ones for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. We can expect that the JNJ vaccine will receive FDA clearance for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) quickly if the expert’s review is favorable.

This article will review the key points about the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine’s safety, effectiveness, ingredients, and other critical information. This scientific information should answer a lot of questions about the vaccine that will inevitably arise over the next few weeks.

This will be different than my myth debunking article (which will be constantly updated as the anti-vaxxers get going with their lies and disinformation), as this article will try to make sure that everyone is on the same page with what this vaccine is. 

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New COVID-19 strains – what does it mean for vaccines

new COVID-19 strains
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We have been hearing about several new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. There may be hundreds or even thousands of variants of the virus, although most may confer no evolutionary advantage and just die out.

Of course, there are only a handful of new COVID-19 strains that are actually dangerous, but the issues are whether the new vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, JNJ, and AstraZeneca confer immunity to these new strains and what regulatory requires may be necessary for the vaccine manufacturers to respond to them.

Let’s take a quick review of these new COVID-19 virus strains and what we know about vaccine effectiveness against them.

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Dr. Ken Stoller medical license revoked – baseless vaccine exemptions

ken stoller
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This article about Dr. Ken Stoller was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On February 16, 2021, the Medical Board of California revoked the medical license of Dr. Ken Stoller because of his writing baseless medical exemptions from school vaccine requirements to ten children (and charging their parents hundreds of dollars for the privilege). The Board found multiple repeated acts that justified revoking the license permanently. Dr. Stoller’s lawyer announced that he intends to appeal the decision.

It is fair to describe Dr. Ken Stoller as anti-vaccine and to describe the exemptions in questions as baseless. The decision is justified and should be upheld. 

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UK COVID-19 challenge study – intentionally infecting people to test vaccines

UK COVID-19 challenge study
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Recently, the UK announced that they would begin recruiting young patients for a COVID-19-19 challenge study to observe the course of the disease, assess “rescue treatments” for the disease, and test the effectiveness of vaccines. I remain highly concerned about these challenge studies because I think they test the limits of ethics.

As I have written previously, I think that the data could be valuable, but this UK COVID-19 challenge study could be dangerous. And I am unconvinced that it will actually provide us with any information that could be otherwise determine from scientific research.

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COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy – expert recommendations on safety

COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy
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One of the questions that keep entering the discourse on the COVID-19 vaccine is whether it should be given during pregnancy. There’s not a definitive answer, but there is some good advice based on evidence from leading infectious disease experts.

I’m not here to make a recommendation one way or another regarding whether the COVID-19 vaccine should be given during pregnancy. My job is to provide the evidence and the recommendations so that every woman can be armed with this when speaking to their healthcare provider.

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Vitamin D treatment for COVID-19 – the evidence is really weak

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Two recent papers have been published recently that seem to support that vitamin D does something to prevent or treat COVID-19. Except for a tiny little problem – both of the studies terribly weak and are unconvincing except to those who just want supplements to do something to end this pandemic. Don’t get your hopes too high.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused interest in vitamin D to skyrocket, because there has been a belief that vitamin D improves the immune system against the disease. The sales of vitamin D supplements have increased substantially since pre-pandemic times.

But is there any evidence supporting its use to prevent COVID-19 or improve outcomes for serious cases? Yes, there is evidence, but it’s far from convincing. There are better ways to prevent a COVID-19 infection, and vitamin D is not one of them.

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Employer vaccine mandates for COVID-19 – a legal and ethical discussion

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A recent article about employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates, by Professors Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and Arthur Caplan, examined its legal and ethical issues. Their thought-provoking analysis should be part of our discussions about the new vaccines.

I think that employer vaccine mandates, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, are something that should be considered everywhere. However, employer mandates are very controversial, with ten states already considering prohibitions to them.

I am going to excerpt some of their points in the article while adding my own thoughts on the topic. I think this is worthy of a wide discussion.

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Anti-vaccine Robert F Kennedy Jr removed from Instagram – YAY

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Anti-vaccine Robert F Kennedy Jr Instagram account was taken down on Wednesday, 10 February 2021. RFK Jr. has been the subject of numerous debunkings and takedowns by myself and Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, and so many others across the interwebs, it is good to see that his anti-vaccine nonsense has been forced off of one social media platform.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, RFK Jr has doubled-down on his anti-vaccine rhetoric. He has made up or repeats all kinds of nonsense about the COVID-19 vaccine, most of them I and others have spent time refuting. So, let’s take a look at what happened with Instagram.

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Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are not vaccines – the new myth

Pfizer Moderna COVID-19 vaccines
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Here we go again – I keep seeing the new anti-vaccine claim that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are not, in fact, vaccines but are either “medical devices” or “gene therapy.” I keep trying to stay up with every single myth and trope pushed by the anti-vaxxers, but I swear that there’s a new one every day.

I would really love to write about something other than COVID-19 vaccines – I’ve got a ton of articles I want to write about GMOs, supplements, and cancer that are just sitting in a virtual pile on my desk. Unfortunately, I’m very worried that the anti-vax hatred of these new vaccines will allow this pandemic to keep going. That’s why many of us keep doing the best we can to stamp out the myths.

Just to be clear, the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are actually vaccines – they are biological preparations that provide active acquired immunity to an infectious disease, in this case, COVID-19. But, I’m going to have to debunk these myths.

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JNJ seeking emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine

JNJ COVID-19 vaccine
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Pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) has submitted an application for an emergency use authorization (EUA) for its COVID-19 vaccine. In phase 3 clinical trials, results showed that it was effective against the illness, and it was especially robust in preventing severe cases of COVID-19 along with death.

The COVID-19 vaccine, which was developed by JNJ subsidiary Janssen Biotech, will be reviewed by an FDA advisory committee on 26 February 2021. If that review goes well, the FDA Commissioner could issue the EUA within a few days.

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