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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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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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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Vaccines prevented 200 million cases of disease in the USA from 1963 to 2015

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Lest we forget, vaccines are one of the greatest medical inventions of all time. Without them, we would see cemeteries filled with children who would have died before they were even five years old.  In fact, the best evidence we have tells us that vaccines prevented 200 million cases of diseases in the USA alone in the five decades since 1963.

A recent study, published in AIMS Public Health, estimates that around 200 million cases of polio, mumps, rubella, measles, adenovirus, hepatitis A and rabies have been prevented in the U.S. from 1963 through 2015 as a result of widespread vaccination. The study, authored by Leonard Hayflick and S. Jay Olshansky, two leading experts on public health and infectious diseases, also discloses that about 450,000 deaths have been avoided in the U.S during this period, although other studies put that estimate of lives saved at a much higher number.

Dr. Hayflick discovered the human cell strain, WI-38, in 1962 which was critical to the safe manufacturing of vaccines, which became widespread in 1963. According to the article, the vaccines produced from the WI-38 cell line prevented almost 4.5 billion occurrences of the diseases, and stopped them from returning to infect us. Dr. Hayflick developed the foundation that allowed the world to have relative safe and very effective tools to prevent infectious diseases.

Prior to the development of WI-38, anti-virus vaccines were grown in monkey cells, which had some issues that made many question their safety, although most of the concern appeared to be overblown. However, once the WI-38 was available, it became easier to develop and produce vaccines for many viruses.

Drs. Hayflick and Olshansky wanted to see what effect that seminal event had on public health. And the numbers were incredible. Continue reading “Vaccines prevented 200 million cases of disease in the USA from 1963 to 2015”