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

Pfizer Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

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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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 mRNA vaccines and infertility – another anti-vaccine myth

COVID-19 mrna vaccines infertility

Here we go again with another anti-vaccine myth about infertility and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. The anti-vaccine zealots are so predictable. They grab onto a trope and hang on for dear life. They tried this nonsense with the HPV vaccine which was based on a retracted study, and they failed. They tried to claim that the tetanus vaccine caused “mass sterilization” in Africa, and they failed there too.

This time, it’s the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will cause infertility.  Anti-vaxxers are trying to use some seriously twisted “logic” to get from the facts about these vaccines to a major myth that somehow, in some magical way, these vaccines will cause infertility. 

Let’s get right to the point – no, they don’t. But let me give you the science.

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COVID-19 vaccine trials – FDA rejects ICAN petition to stop the trials

COVID-19 vaccine trials

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

This article summarizes the FDA’s response to Del Bigtree’s ICAN’s (petitioner) request regarding the Phase III trials for the COVID-19 vaccine.  The summary is divided into three parts:

  1. Petitioner’s Request;
  2. FDA’s description of vaccine process; and
  3. FDA’s response to the petition.

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What are COVID-19 mRNA vaccines? Science to help debunk myths

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how the new COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The purpose of this article is to give the casual reader a 15 minute (plus or minus an hour) scientific review of the mRNA technology that is the basis of those new vaccines. 

There will be several new COVID-19 vaccines that should be available widely in the next few weeks, but none of those will use mRNA vaccine technology. When those become available, I’ll try to write up a similar review of those technologies.

Let’s give this a go.

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