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Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health hold joint press conference on COVID-19 vaccine – Daily Herald

Posted: December 4, 2020 at 12:56 pm


On Thursday, officials from Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health came together for a joint press conference to discuss dispersement and other questions surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine.

While there are many vaccines in the developmental process, two have been submitted for emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. These are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will be evaluated on Dec. 10, and Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Tamara Sheffield from Intermountain Healthcare said the vaccines will use the same protein found in COVID-19, mirroring what would happen in the body when a virus comes in.

COVID-19 uses spike proteins to infect a cell and then replicates itself. When the body finds that spike protein and creates it, the body will then form antibodies to protect the individual.

The vaccines are being designed to give the best impact in terms of protection. When the body is exposed to the vaccine, the immune system will eventually memorize it. This will allow the body to recreate those antibodies when needed.

The reason why we want to provide the vaccines is for two reasons, Sheffield said. One is to protect the individual who is getting the vaccine by having an immune system that is highly trained and able to quickly master and remove and infection from a virus that would come to it. The second one, really, is to protect others from an infected individual spreading disease to them.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, the Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of Utah Health, added that while the vaccines do cause some side effects, most are mild, with the vaccines being tested among a large number of people from various age ranges.

For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 44,000 people were involved, and the Moderna vaccine trial involved 30,000 people. Pavia said this is typical for what is done during any vaccine development.

I think because of the marketing of operation warp speed, it gave people this sense that things were being done with speed being the most important thing and not scientific rigor, he said. That was really unfortunate because thats not true.

While studies within tens of thousands of people gives a good grasp of basic safety, there are some things it does not show.

The biggest being what could happen at very rare levels, like one in 500,000 people or even one in a million people. Pavia said the benefits of preventing the disease outweigh the risks of the vaccine.

Were not going to know that for months, but there are really good systems in place, Pavia said. There are basically a dozen overlapping safety monitoring systems in the U.S. and in Europe that use different methods to look for any sort of signal of unusual rare events. Having said that, we have to put it in context. COVID-19 will kill about one out of every 150 people who get it. What we dont know about the vaccine yet is whether there might be side effects that effect one out of half a million people.

The vaccines effectiveness is shown to be 95% from the preliminary data. Pavia expressed his excitement that a vaccine is coming, and he believes they will be safe enough for people to use with great confidence.

A vaccine could be ready as early as mid-December, according to Intermountains Dr. Kristin Dascomb, however there will be multiple phases to distribution of it.

The vaccine will first be delivered to frontline healthcare workers.

Its so incredibly important to make sure that we keep our healthcare systems in tact and able to care for the most vulnerable in our populations, said Dr. Jeanmarie Mayer from University of Utah health.

This is considered Phase 1A by the FDA. Phase 1B will include individuals who are in essential roles, and Phase 1C will include those at risk or older in age.

Only Phase 1A has been voted on by the FDA, but Sheffield estimated that the vaccine will not be available to the broader public until the summer of 2021.

As for how long lasting immunity will be once the vaccine is administered, Pavia said they do not know yet.

More time is needed before any conclusions on whether the vaccine gives immunity for 2 years, 4 years or only 1 year.

Going along with this immunity, people are able to catch COVID-19 twice, which brings up more questions, as well.

Sheffield said the ability to catch COVID-19 twice shows waning immunity. Over time, the level of antibodies does degrade, eventually leaving the body until new ones are produced.

What we expect and have seen with illness is that many times you have to have many exposures to an antigen in order to get memory in your immune system, Sheffield said. Enough memory that you will always be able to quickly produce the immune cells you need.

The reason there will be two rounds of shots with the COVID-19 vaccine is to enhance the immune response and allow for the body to memorize it. A booster shot may also have to be administered for longer term immunity.

While many questions on the COVID-19 vaccine remain, only time will tell how effective the vaccine will be and how long the immunity from COVID-19 will last. Studies on vaccine effectiveness are done annually for the flu and the same will be done for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to officials.

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Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health hold joint press conference on COVID-19 vaccine - Daily Herald

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