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 – 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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JNJ COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots – still safe and effective

jaj COVID-19 vaccine clots

Like the earlier story about the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots, the JNJ (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine is being examined for a potential link to an extremely rare blood clotting disorder. The US Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have placed a “pause” on the use of the vaccine. They have not banned it. They have not recalled it.

Right at the top, I want to state that the JNJ COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective by any rational measurement. My daughters and their significant others all received the vaccine over the weekend after I recommended it, despite the blood clots issue.

I want to review what is happening here. I hope that it helps, in some small way, to allay the fears from this issue.

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AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots – let’s go for facts first

astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine clots

Next up on the COVID-19 vaccine hit list is that the AstraZeneca (Oxford University) vaccine causing blood clots (thrombus). Spoiler alert – no it probably doesn’t.

We should just assume that every single “adverse event” whether or not they’re actually linked to any COVID-19 vaccine will involve the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, which states that because one event precedes another event, they must be linked. In this case, are blood clots related to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

Spoiler alert – the answer is no. That would make this a short article, but real science requires real explanation, so here we go.

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JNJ COVID-19 vaccine trial – FDA rejects another ICAN petition

JNJ vaccine clinical trial

This article about the Informed Consent Action Network’s petition to halt the JNJ COVID-19 vaccine trial was written by Viridiana Ordonez, a J.D. candidate at the University of California, Hastings College of Law

This is a summary of the FDA’s response to a citizen petition dated October 16, 2020, filed on behalf of the petitioner, Del Bigtree’s Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), relating to the clinical trial of Ad26.COV2S, a Janssen Biotech, Inc. (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, JNJ) COVID-19 vaccine.

Like a previous ICAN petition about COVID-19 vaccine trials, the FDA denied the petition in its entirety. FDA concluded that the vaccine trials were thorough, vaccine safety was carefully tested and monitored, and ICAN’s requests are not well-founded. 

This summary is divided into three parts: (1) ICAN’s specific requests; (2) FDA’s description of the vaccine process and safety; and (3) FDA’s response to six specific requests. 

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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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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

pexels-photo-5878514.jpeg

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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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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