COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths – UPDATED info 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 – 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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COVID vaccine breakthrough infections – let’s do some simple math

Let’s talk about COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections. That is individuals who contract COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated by the Pfizer, Moderna, or JNJ vaccines, the only ones with Emergency Use Authorizations in the USA.

This article is going to be short and, hopefully, sweet, because even though the number of COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections appear large, it really isn’t. It’s just simple math.

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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 seeking emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine

JNJ COVID-19 vaccine

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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COVID-19 vaccines rushed? Another anti-vaccine myth without merit

COVID-19 vaccines rushed

One of the enduring myths about vaccines is that they’re rushed to market, which has continued with COVID-19 vaccines. This myth doesn’t arise because the anti-vaxxers have some “gotcha” information about these vaccines, it’s because they are intent on pushing fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

If you read my articles since March about the development of this vaccine, I was very troubled about the speed of development. Most vaccines take 5-10 years to develop, mostly because we want a better handle on the expected effectiveness and to uncover any potential (and extremely rare) serious adverse events.

But were the COVID-19 vaccine rushed? Not really. Basically, two massive resources – money and brainpower – were thrown at developing a vaccine so that we could stop the inexorable march of the pandemic. The best scientists in the world collaborated with the best pharmaceutical companies with the backing of the richest countries to develop and manufacture safe and effective vaccines.

It wasn’t a magical process where scientists pulled ideas out of thin air to make these vaccines using dangerous technologies. They didn’t.

We know how to train the adaptive immune system to prevent pathogenic diseases with vaccines using all kinds of technologies. Once we were able to isolate the SARS-CoV-2 virus and determine what parts of its structure were the most immunogenic, we knew what to do, it wasn’t a huge mystery at that time.

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COVID-19 vaccines pipeline – potential next emergency use authorizations

COVID-19 vaccines pipeline

After the emergency use authorizations (EUA) were given for the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, what is next in the pipeline? There are three vaccines that could be reviewed by the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) during the next few weeks that would provide recommendations to the FDA (and other national drug regulatory bodies) for EUAs.

The three vaccines I’m going to discuss are ones that have a reasonable chance of getting approved for use in the USA or Europe. This excludes COVID-19 vaccines from Russia, China, and other countries that rarely, if ever, get FDA approval for vaccines (see Note 1).

So, let’s take a look at what are probably the next three COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline.

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COVID19 vaccine clinical trials – over 30 candidates being tested on humans

COVID19 vaccine

This article about COVID19 vaccine trials will be regularly updated as new clinical trials are registered or early results are published about an ongoing trial. Again, this article will focus on COVID19 vaccine trials – treatments and diagnostic tests are outside of the scope of this article.

Keeping up with COVID19 vaccine candidates has gotten out of hand, so for brevity, I’ve created a separate list of coronavirus vaccine trials. The interest in clinical trials for a new COVID19 vaccine is unprecedented, so I thought this might be the best way to keep loyal readers up-to-date.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed over 140 COVID19 vaccine candidates, which is amazing, but it is way too difficult to tell which ones have any chance of actually becoming a real product.

Right now, there are at least 30 COVID19 vaccine candidates in clinical trials – this article will analyze these coronavirus vaccine trials. Every single day, a new COVID19 vaccine candidate enters clinical trials, so this may be out of date within a few hours! 

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