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

COVID-19 vaccine facts

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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Adenovirus vaccines for COVID-19 – scientific facts vs anti-vax nonsense

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The new COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) and AstraZeneca utilize an adenovirus-vector to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Of course, this being a new vaccine technology, like the mRNA vaccines used by Pfizer and Moderna, we will be hearing all kinds of false claims about the new adenovirus vaccine.

So, this article will just try to explain what an adenovirus is, how it works in vaccines, and why it is safe. There’s going to be a lot of science here, so I’ll do my best to link you to good articles that explain some of it.

The anti-vaccine squad used an ignorance of basic cell biology to make all kinds of odd claims about the mRNA vaccines such as claiming that it would change the DNA of the vaccine recipient. It can’t.

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Vaccine profits from Big Pharma – let’s take a closer look at this trope

vaccine profits

The old myth of the huge Big Pharma vaccine profits – it’s the subject of so many memes, tropes, and outright lies from the anti-vaccine activists. These vaccine deniers, who not only lack knowledge of science but also of basic corporate finance, believe that every Big Pharma CEO relies on vaccines for their next bonus check, which they use to buy their new Ferrari to show off to imaginary vaccine-injured children.

I am not naive – public corporations have an obligation to their shareholders and employees to maximize profits. That’s capitalism, I suppose.

But where this trope goes off the rails is when you realize that vaccine profits would be eclipsed by medical industry profits if Big Pharma simply stopped producing vaccines – mass epidemics would mean that hospitals would be filled with patients, just look at the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s ironic that the anti-vaxxers claim that Big Pharma’s greed gives us vaccines, but if they were truly greedy they’d be out of the vaccine business.

This article is not going to be as much science as I usually do – it’s going to focus on finance and accounting. Yes, I’m a finance and accounting geek as much as I am a science aficionado. 

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COVID-19 vaccine safety signals – ACIP reports good news so far

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The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has reported that there are no COVID-19 vaccine safety signals through 16 February 2021 for the two vaccines available at that time from Moderna and Pfizer. This is good news and should allay the fears of those who might be on the fence about the vaccines.

I want to briefly examine what ACIP discussed regarding the COVID-19 safety signals. In addition, they looked at any concerns with regards to the vaccine and pregnant women – also good news. So, just good news.

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COVID-19 vaccine choices – which one should you get?

COVID-19 vaccine choices

There are now three COVID-19 vaccine choices that have been given clearance under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the USA. The one question I keep getting from friends and strangers is – which of the COVID-19 vaccines should they get?

The three vaccines which have the EUA in the USA, from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), are very safe and very effective, so my simple answer to the question is succinct – get whichever vaccine is available to you. It probably does not matter in the long run which will be better than the other, they all prevent SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

All three of the vaccines, plus additional COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax (neither of which have submitted EUAs to the FDA as of this date), will be available in the developed world, that is, the European Union, USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Each country will have slightly different combinations of these vaccines available, but this discussion should be germane to anyone asking about which to get.

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JNJ COVID-19 vaccine receives FDA emergency use authorization – great news

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On 26 February 2020, the Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) COVID-19 vaccine underwent an FDA expert review, similar to the ones for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously in favor of the third vaccine in the USA to prevent COVID-19. On 27 February 2020, the USFDA gave clearance for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

VRBPAC agreed that the vaccine was very effective, especially in preventing death and serious COVID-19 disease. They also found no serious safety signals, with the incidence serious adverse events were no higher compared to the placebo group or what would be expected in the general population.

The EUA approved the vaccine for use in adults 18 and older. Before JNJ can ship the vaccine, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet tomorrow to make recommendations on who can receive this vaccine.

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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 underwent an FDA expert review, similar to the ones for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously in favor of the third vaccine in the USA to prevent COVID-19. This vote by the vaccine experts is the last step in advance of FDA clearance for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

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

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

UK COVID-19 challenge study

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

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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