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Hi Reddit! Here’s who we have answering questions about vaccines today:

- Krutika Kuppalli, MD, FIDSA, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina and an Emerging Leader in Biosecurity Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security- Dr. Cameron Wolfe is an infectious disease specialist at Duke University Hospital. have been at the forefront of the COVID emergency preparedness at Duke University Health System. I have also co-authored numerous studies about COVID and its treatments and serve as a member of the North Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee. I am also on the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group for both the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA.- Nancy Lapid is editor-in-charge for Reuters Health.- Christine Soares is a medical news editor at Reuters.

Please note that we are unable to answer individual medical questions. Please reach out to your healthcare provider with any personal health concerns.

Follow the Reuters vaccine tracker and see how many doses of vaccine need to be administered per day to get back to normal.

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Comments: 134 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

p_cc112 karma

Hello, My country has begun its vaccine rollout, but modelling shows the new variants could become rampant in the coming months. Do the currently approved vaccines protect from the variants, and what is the speculation about protection from future variants or mutations in the virus?

reuters15 karma

There has been a lot of data this week, and even in the last 24 hours about the vaccines’ effectiveness against the variants that have emerged in the UK and South Africa that are causing a lot of worry. The good news is, most are pretty effective against the UK variant, and while the effect is reduced against the South Africa variant, there is still some protection, especially against severe disease -- which is an important goal in itself. It doesn’t prevent infection, but it prevents severe illness, and that prevents deaths and collapse of hospital systems. - CS

reuters6 karma

Adding to this: The other critical thing to remember about variants, is that this is what viruses do. The more disease there is present in a community, the more statistical probability more variants will occur. So the evolving presence of variants is in fact a call to more rapidly deploy vaccine, drive overall burden of disease down, and therefore halt the evolution of new variants. As mentioned earlier, a reduction in efficacy from such a high bar that Pfizer and Moderna have set, is still likely to translate to an effective reduction in transmission and severity. But we need to drive down our case numbers of these variants will continue to evolve. - cw

el_papi_chulo9 karma

A lot of my friends don't want to get any vaccine because they are worried about long term side effects that can appear years from now. What would you say to them if you want to convince them vaccines are safe even years or decades from now? Are their fears baseless? Any examples in history?

reuters11 karma

So reassuringly we really don’t have ANY examples where the longer-term side effects of vaccines occur late. There are certainly side effects that can occur early. But there are no examples of proven late side effects. Much of this concern arose in the wake of factually incorrect data around autism, and has since been disproven. So I would not be afraid of late or unknown impacts. Ultimately we’re losing thousands of people per today right now, so there’s also the balance against the urgency. - cw

phoneyramone7 karma

Is there a consensus on whether the vaccine is safe for pregnant people?

reuters5 karma

Yes. The American College of Obstetricians and the CDC have both come out and been clear to say there’s no reason why this cannot be safely given to women who are pregnant. In fact, recognizing there’s a higher rate of covid-associated problems in pregnancy, both for mum and the fetus, it’s a more compelling reason to have a conversion about vaccination with your physician and seek vaccination. Same is true for breastfeeding - best protection for the infant is that mum doesn’t get sick. We feel very confident about the safety for both situations.- cw

ieremias772 karma

And those who are breastfeeding?

reuters6 karma

Yes. mRNA vaccines are rapidly broken down by all our cells, so there’s no threat to breastfeeding infants, and in fact, there is some maternal antibody transfer in a protective manner. Not to mention that the sooner mum develops her protection, the less likely she’ll inadvertently get sick herself and have to interrupt breastfeeding or heaven-forbid get her child sick. Yes, perfectly safe! - cw

supplyside-Jesus7 karma

Can vaccine makers share the "recipe" and allow other companies to produce it as well to end the pandemic quicker??

reuters12 karma

The technology is certainly widely available, yes. And similarly, the “recipe” in terms of the genetic code of the virus has been available as early as January 2020 - that’s been the refreshing thing about this pandemic and the science, is that it’s been widely shared. Similarly with the variant strains of covid. So whilst there are proprietary components to the vaccine, the recipes are widely available already, and shared between companies to improve production. Things that are kept confidential, for example, are the exact mRNA code that Pfizer and Moderna use, or the precise molecular makeup of the lipid nanosphere (fat droplet) that those vaccines use to carry the messenger. - cw
This is already happening. Today, Novartis announced it would pitch in to help make the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and Sanofi has also said it would make other companies’ vaccines in its facilities, to help speed delivery - cs

Excess6 karma

What do you think of the Sputnik V? Would you administer it to YOUR parents if you coulnd't get ahold of the Moderna or Pfizer ones?

reuters8 karma

Sputnik works on a very different platform than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. It’s an adenovirus vector vaccine, meaning it uses a weaned harmless virus to carry the relevant piece of covid into your body. The Moderna /Pfizer vaccines simply take a piece of mRNA genetic code for covid surface protein, wrap it in a fat bubble (lipid nanosphere), and present it to your immune system that way. Different processes, both quite effective. Of the data we have seen publicly, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are wonderfully effective, probably slightly more so than Sputnik, but all three look protective better than 90%. We don’t know durability (how long they will protect you) for either types yet. If you don’t have access to Pfizer/Moderna, but you do have access to sputnik, it looks effective. - cw

castevens5 karma

Thanks for doing this!

How do you feel that the rollout has been going so far? It feels like there have been issues with purchasing, distribution, storage, prioritization, scheduling, and administration at most/all places. Do you think this is a product of lack of preparation on the state and/or national level, or some other explanation?

reuters5 karma

I think that the rollout has been challenging for various reasons. First of all, we are dealing with the most complicated vaccine rollout we have ever had to deal with during a very challenging situation. Secondly, the logistics of having to roll out the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very difficult because of their storage conditions which requires meticulous planning- you have to know how many people you are going to vaccinate. For example, once you reconstitute the Pfizer vaccine you have six hours to use the doses. Third, we have the never-ending challenge of working to combat misinformation/disinformation which only is magnified in this day of social media and the internet. The amount of damage that is done to the vaccine rollout because of this and time spent countering it is also a huge lift.

I do think we could have been proactive to counter the problems we are now seeing. We spent over 10 billion dollars on Operation Warp Speed to develop a vaccine but did not spend any money sensitizing and educating the public, healthcare providers, and advocates about the vaccine. This is something we should have started doing last year in advance of the vaccines coming. We should have started developing a centralized database that tracked the number of vaccines, which company they came from, which states they went to, and how they were being distributed. This would help us figure out where the disparities are and how we could better address them. - kk

chitati5 karma

After receiving a vacine are you still a carrier?

reuters5 karma

You might be. The vaccines are intended to prevent serious infections. Even after a vaccination, people can become infected (even without symptoms) and they can still pass the infection to others. -nancy

hotspur_fan5 karma

My understanding is the vaccine does not prevent you from contracting or spreading the virus, it just protects you from the symptoms. Is this true? If so, how will the vaccines help with herd immunity? If we reach a point where we stop social distancing and mask wearing are the non-vaccinated guaranteed to catch Covid?

reuters2 karma

This is exactly the point of herd immunity - we believe it’s probably around 70%. That can be achieved either through natural immunity or vaccination, although if you look at the US experience, over 400k deaths have barely achieved 20-25% natural immunity, so clearly herd immunity through vaccination is preferred. Once we get to that point, you CAN open up society in cautious ways - eg: more travel, less curfews, more gatherings etc - because even if a case pops up here and there, the likelihood that an infected person comes into contact with an “at-risk” individual (neither vaccinated, nor previously infected) is so low that the virus dies out in that person. So yes, this is absolutely what wer’e shooting for!!!! - cw

Important to remember, though, that “immunity” can mean protection from infection, or severe disease -- meaning you do get infected, but have a mild illness. The vaccine makers are still studying whether or to what degree the shots prevent transmission of the virus. So the herd immunity calculation has to take into account a moderately effective vaccine that does still allow some transmission of virus to happen. Same with natural infections. With new variants arising, if antibodies from a past infection don’t work on them, then the herd effect gets less and less likely. - cs

behale85 karma

If my wife and I are both fully vaccinated, can we still get the virus and pass it on to our children who are not vaccinated?

TheBotchedLobotomy1 karma

I see they havnt answered this yet, but ill give my 2 cents. Maybe they'll respond after me to correct it- but from what ive gathered, since the vaccines are not 100% effective the chance will be there still since one of you could still contract it

reuters1 karma

Hi we answered a version of this question here: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/l81oft/we_are_healthcare_experts_who_have_been_following/glad09i?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

Even after a vaccination, people can become infected (even without symptoms) and they can still pass the infection to others.

TheLordOfLight_5 karma

How come some states are already letting none high risk people get vaccinated, while some other states are not even done vaccinating doctors, nurses?

reuters4 karma

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) developed the guidance for the various phases of the vaccine rollout however it is up to each state to come up with the plan as to how they are going to do it. Every state has its own plan that takes various factors into account and its own unique set of logistics which has led to each state being in different stages of the process of the vaccine distribution plan. - kk

sknewytboy5 karma

When a government buys vaccine doses from the manufacturers, is it first-come-first-served and everyone pays the same price, or are the doses going to the highest bidders?

reuters7 karma

Governments have been placing advance orders with companies since last summer, and continue to announce new purchase agreements. The details of the contracts are mostly confidential, but some have released pricing details and they vary -- effectively whatever the country and the company can negotiate. - CS

cl3272y4 karma

Can I still be an asymptotic carrier after I’ve received the vaccine?

reuters5 karma

You might be. The vaccines are intended to prevent serious infections. Even after a vaccination, people can become infected (even without symptoms) and they can still pass the infection to others. -nancy

Scarlet1094 karma

Why does my arm ache so much 12 hours after I’ve had the first dose of vaccine (Pfizer)?

reuters6 karma

This is a normal reaction and is to be expected after having the vaccine. In the Pfizer study 83.1% of people < 55 years old and 71.1% > 55 years old developed pain at the site of injection. It means that your immune system is working to start developing antibodies against the coronavirus. If you have pain in your arm you can try a cold compress or taking some over-the-counter ibuprofen. - kk

Soggy-Primary5914 karma

When will vaccines be available for children? Or will they be tested in young children?

reuters3 karma

So at the moment we have availability for 16 and older for Pfizer, and 18 and older for Moderna, in the US at least. The study is complete for children between the ages of 12-15 for the Pfizer vaccine and we’re awaiting further data to be released. The trial looking at 9-11-year-olds opens soon. So hopefully in the next few months we’ll understand if there’s any difference in safety or efficacy, but there’s certainly no biologically plausible reason to think they’ll be different. But we need more data. - cw

mls40373 karma

How far away are we from herd immunity? and do we really need to see 70% of the population vaccinated / exposed to covid for cases to decrease naturally?

reuters1 karma

Best estimates I’ve read for the US at least puts us at about 20-25%, although it’s probably creeping up in the recent month or two. Other countries are likely to be far less, given they’ve had less disease. So we have a long way to go to get to 70% - it HAS to be through vaccination, the prospect of doing through natural infection is awful. I will note that some parts of the world have higher levels of disease in small community pockets. For example, some parts of Brazil have seen infection go through > 50% of the population. So there may be focal herd immunity popping up in families, in communities, but not countries yet. - cw

heyjcm3 karma

Is there a timeline posted somewhere for when the various age brackets are scheduled to get the vaccine in the US?

reuters5 karma

So it varies slightly from state-to-state. Most states allow 65 and older currently, some 70 or 75 yrs. There’s a good timeline available on a live tracker through the New York Times which is kept up to date. - cw

SuperSecretDaveyDave1 karma

What is Israel doing differently to be so far ahead of the game and why aren’t other countries approaching it the same way?

reuters2 karma

I think Israel is showing us the way. Their vaccine uptake has been fantastic so far, almost 50% have received a dose I read today. There’s a lot to unwrap there, wherever. It’s a smaller population. It’s a population that is in a tight geographic space. It’s a population that generally has a tight communication with government. It’s a population where hesitancy is lower, and the sense of community benefit and community unity is strong. Plus public health infrastructure remains strong. So yes, I think we should always look to countries who are doing well to see what we can learn from their experience, in the same way, we should look to countries who are struggling to see what we should avoid, and how we can help. But there are foundational differences in the way they’re set up that do give them some advantages. - cw

SherlockianTheorist3 karma

Thank you for taking our questions, and thank you for all of the hard work that you and your fellows have been doing this past year plus.

My question is what happens when before someone is able to get the second shot they actually contract COVID-19? Should they go ahead and get that second shotm. Is there a waiting period? Or do they have to wait a longer time and start over with two shots?

reuters3 karma

There’s a couple of things to comment on here - the first is that if you contract covid after the first dose (which is certainly possible, especially in the first 10-12 days when protection really hasn’t been generated) then don’t come for the second dose during the 10 days of your infectious window. Not only is your body inflamed and potentially responds to dose #2 differently, but frankly, that poses a risk to the vaccinating team. However after that time - let’s say you’re unlucky enough to covid after a couple of weeks post dose #1, we have been instructing people to wait a month and come back for the second dose. You likely gain some protection from the natural infection (we think good for 3+ months), but the durability of the protection will be so much better having had the second dose of vaccine. - cw

phoneyramone2 karma

One more question - In your opinion, is it important to strictly means-test the vaccine rollout at first? Or should the goal be to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible?

reuters2 karma

As fast as possible. A means-test is rarely a good way to halt the spread of a virus. In the US at least, and also most regions of Europe and Oceania, the vaccine is purchased at the federal level, and provided for, so means testing shouldn’t weigh into the decision to purchase. Now sometimes one’s wealth or lack thereof translates to greater risk of being exposed to covid - we see that with many essential workers, or those with lower health literacy. So it's ethically appropriate to prioritize certain groups. But ultimately we’re all going to benefit from a more rapid deployment across the globe. - cw

SirDrAaron2 karma

Will the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's ~66% efficacy be good enough for people with multiple co-morbidities?

reuters1 karma

Johnson & Johnson’s efficacy numbers released today were for the outcome of preventing moderate-to-severe, and severe disease in trial populations. But they didn’t publish the full results with details on the participants, so it’s too early to say how people with specific comorbidities fared. -cs

Ihaveanotheridentity2 karma

Should we self-isolate between vaccine shots?

reuters5 karma

No need to do anything different. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain no living parts to them, so you don’t become infectious as a result of the vaccine. That said, you can still contract covid during the gap between the vaccines, and in fact afterwards. So receiving the vaccine really shouldn’t impact our trying to safely distance and mask like we’ve learned to do over recent months. But the vaccine won’t give you covid so no risk there. - cw

ImperatorPC1 karma

How quickly can the mRNA vaccines be changed to combat new strains will undoubtedly see in the future? How quickly can they be approved or do they need to go through the same approval process?

reuters1 karma

Reuters looked at that question in an article yesterday: https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN29X1DI Changing the vaccines can be done, and the most likely scenario is that it would come in the form of a “booster shot” that will add protection against newer variants to the immunity already gained from the initial vaccination. This is similar to what happens every year with flu shots, the virus changes somewhat, and the vaccine is adjusted. - cs

ObsoleteReference1 karma

With the J&J virus seeming to be less effective than Moderna/Phizer do you recommend getting J&F if approved and offered or to wait for the others.

Also, saw an article a few weeks ago that even light Covid was leaving problems behind (Lungs especially i remember). If J&J is less effective, and seems to fight off 'major' covid more than 'light' covid, would that change anything?

reuters1 karma

With the J&J virus seeming to be less effective than Moderna/Phizer do you recommend getting J&F if approved and offered or to wait for the others.

We do not yet have the entire data from the J&J vaccine since it was released by press conference, however the data says that in the US population the vaccine is 72% efficacious. The most important thing about the data is it prevented COVID-associated death. I would recommend to anyone that has the opportunity to get vaccinated with ANY of the vaccines to take the opportunity. We need to use all the tools at our disposal such as wearing facemasks, physical distancing, hand hygiene in combination with getting vaccinated when it is available. These are very good results and if you are offered this vaccine you should take it! - kk

Totally agree - I would equally recommend a wider distribution of J&J or Novavax, which also released its data recently, same with Astra-Zeneca. A broader distribution of vaccines drives down total transmission and case burden of covid, which in turn makes us all less likely to get sick in the first place. Plus the reduction in severe illness is crucial to recognize as well. It’s not just about not getting covid, it’s about how sick you get with your covid, how quickly you recover and how likely you are to transmit. There are benefits here that extend well beyond the absolutely vaccine efficacy number. - cw

microgiant1 karma

Covid vaccines took about nine months to bring to market, and people rightfully marveled at how fast that was, saying it normally would have taken 4-5 years. But flu vaccines get an update every year. Now we need new updates to our Covid vaccines, to deal with the new strains. Will developing, testing, and releasing an update to a Covid vaccine be faster than developing the original vaccines was?

reuters1 karma

This is an important qn as we see different variants evolve. Part of the development phase we’ve just gone through was to frankly see if any vaccine strategy for coronavirus would work. Let's remember we’ve never had a vaccine for any other strain of coronavirus before. So we now know that we can generate excellent protection. So that will make further development much more efficient. We will also understand a lot more about what immunological measurements correlate with ultimate protection. It's not as simple as measuring an antibody level; there are T-cell and B-cell functional assays and binding affinity assays that we will understand that much better because of the last year’s effort. So we won’t need to test new strains in future vaccines in nearly as many people to get the same confidence. It should be much easier with the last 12 months under our belt!! - cw

el_papi_chulo1 karma

What happens to the people who got their first done and delay their second dose by days or weeks due to limited supply? How long is too long of a delay for the second dose?

reuters2 karma

Great question - this has occurred a bit already. Ideally, we want to stick to the data that we know, which is 3 weeks for Pfizer and 4 weeks for Moderna, although there’s some data to support a wider gap if need be. We have been recommending if you’re sick on the due date for dose #2, or if your local supply is short on that day, delaying out to 6 weeks is ok. We just don’t have the quality of data the further you go out, so we try and stick to the studied timelines. But I wouldn’t have any concern vaccinating someone at 4-6 weeks if they couldn’t get their second dose on time. The other thing we don’t know any safety or efficacy data for yet, and so we really don’t recommend, is to cross over vaccines. Eg: if you had Pfizer dose first, stick to that for dose #2. If you had Astra-Zeneca first, don’t go and get a Moderna for dose #2. We don’t have any data on that approach. - cw

mw13satx1 karma

Is eradicating SARS-CoV-2 a likely goal? Or, is it safe to assume by now that Covid will be another seasonal viral issue like influenza for the foreseeable future? What mutation could make that not so?

reuters1 karma

Although eradication of SARS-CoV-2 would be nice I believe that it will become endemic and is here to stay. I believe that it will become a seasonal issue as you mentioned. - kk

Noktar1 karma

What do you think is the best way to address vaccine hesitancy?

reuters4 karma

This is a great and important question. Addressing vaccine hesitancy is an important point if we are going to reach herd immunity and try to return to what our new normal is. I think we need to take a top-down and bottom-up approach when it comes to engaging our communities. We have to meet people where they are and not where we want them to be and really listen and understand what their concerns are. I think people understandably have a lot of questions because this is a new vaccine developed with a new platform at a record pace- so that right there is a big reason as to why people have questions. We need to be patient and explain to be people how it works and do so in a way that they can understand. We also have to be willing to engage with individuals when it comes to their questions and do so in a kind and open manner. I also think engaging trusted local officials is helpful because they are people that can help be liaisons with local communities and help get people on board. I think local religious leaders, new stations, radio stations, important members of the communities, rotary clubs, service-related organizations so they can help get the message out and help engage the community. This is a situation where we need to have all hands on deck and can also use the vaccine to help address the problem of racial and ethnic disparities in this country to make sure that we get all people across the finish line of this pandemic. I think if we could find a way to do that in this country it would go a long way to helping address vaccine hesitancy. - kk

maew421 karma

What is your opinion on the Sinopharm vaccine? Is it, and other inactivated virus vaccines safe/effective in the case of the nCoV virus?

reuters3 karma

We frankly know less about the Sinopharm vaccine, because we’ve not seen primary data. To my knowledge, it’s not published anywhere in peer-reviewed literature as of this time. So although the vaccine looks safe and effective based on press release data, and based on information released by the manufacturers, it has not be passed through scientific review and made available to the public. Once that occurs, it’s likely going to be effective and safe, and hopefully have a significant impact, but we just don’t have the data to comment further- cw

schiller_271 karma

Hi. Do you think the US could ramp up the production of vaccines and supplies to administer them to their population under the Defense Production Act and if there’s enough stock, start selling it to other low-income countries?

reuters1 karma

There’s likely further ramp-ups possible on the production side. The bigger question would seem to be how quickly can that occur, and whether that comes to pass quick enough to impact global availability in the way you infer. There are also private-public partnerships already at play that will impact global supply, such as the COVAX, that the US has been a part of already. This conglomerate’s mission is to make sure affordable vaccine is available and equitably distributed around the world. https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator/covax Ultimately, safety in the US or Europe or anywhere is dependent on the ENTIRE world bringing this under control, not simply in one country. - cw

Embarrassed-Town1 karma

Hello, I have been trying to find documentation about how safe the corona vaccines are compared to other vaccines but I could not find much. A typical vaccine can take 10+ years before it gets launched to the general public. This was clearly not the case for this vaccine. How were the clinical trials different? How were the sample size different for the trials of this vaccine compared to that of a "regular" vaccine (i.e. not fast tracked vaccine)? What was different in this production/testing process that we were able to develop the vaccines in such a short period of time? Thanks in advance!

reuters1 karma

The vaccines that are already getting approvals and producing late-stage trial results represent many different technologies, but each of them is based on techniques that have either already been used in prior vaccines (like flu) or have at least been tested in clinical trials in vaccines against other illnesses. So they represent many years of work and testing leading up to this time last year when several groups turned their efforts to make a vaccine against the new coronavirus. None of them was invented from scratch in the past year. The timelines were further compressed by overlapping early safety trials with the usual later, larger trials to see if the vaccine works. And many companies started large-scale manufacturing even before getting the results from those trials, just so they’d have vaccines ready to ship sooner. So, the entire process was highly compressed but all the usual safety checks were still done. - cs

AstibusGaming1 karma

If the vaccines are meant to provide immunity from the virus for 2 years and not indefinitely, is there the possibility of a resurgence of the virus afterwards as well as a renewed pandemic? Is there any plan to stockpile vaccines for the long term? Will we have to get vaccinated every 2 years to ensure continued immunity to COVID-19 the same way some people choose to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu, or is there some building up of an overall immunity after every vaccination that renders this necessity redundant?

reuters2 karma

It's one of the things we don’t know yet. We don’t understand how long these will last. Equally, we will have to watch the evolution and spread of variants very closely, like we do each year with influenza. So it's likely we have to revaccinate, but I can’t tell you how frequently that will be, or whether we have to tweak the strain in the vaccine ever so slightly every year. Likely we will have to. - cw