A virologist answers your top questions about a COVID-19 vaccine
WINNIPEG -- With several companies announcing promising COVID-19 vaccine data, Manitoba could be rolling out some doses by early next year, according to health officials.
However, what does it mean if a vaccine is 95 per cent effective? Additionally, is the COVID-19 vaccine being rushed out?
CTV News Winnipeg sat down with virologist Dr. Jason Kindrachuk to find out the answers to Manitoba’s top vaccination questions.
WHAT IS VACCINE EFFECTIVENESS?
Companies such as Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca have all announced COVID-19 vaccine data that shows high rates of effectiveness.
Kindrachuk explained that vaccine efficacy is the reduction in overall clinical symptoms of a disease in a vaccinated group compared to an unvaccinated group.
He added the fact that some of these companies are reporting efficacy rates as high as 95 per cent is “astounding.”
“We were hopeful of maybe 60 or 70 per cent at best,” he said.
“I think it puts us in a historic pace for vaccine development.”
IS THE VACCINE BEING RUSHED OUT?
For those worried about whether the vaccine is being rushed out, Kindrachuk said to remember that tens of thousands of volunteers get vaccinated during the third phase of clinical trials.
“I think that’s a critical point for people to understand,” he said.
“These clinical trials are not just a few dozen people, these are massive cohorts of people where they’re looking at not only the decrease in the amount of disease that people are encountering when they’re naturally infected, but also they’re still monitoring for safety and any sort of adverse reactions.”
IS IT SAFE?
Kindrachuk said in the past, there has been a lot of misinformation about the safety of vaccines, noting that adverse effects happen in a very small number of people.
He said people should consider that for the mRNA vaccines, which include Pfizer and Moderna, they are creating the protein that people’s immune systems recognize from the virus.
“So it’s not like you’re getting injected with a virus itself,” Kindrachuk explained.
Kindrachuk recognized the scrutiny over this vaccine will be much greater than what we’ve seen in the past due to the global coverage of the pandemic.
“I think everything we’re going to see is going to really harken back to the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and the vaccine production process,” he said.
WHEN WILL LIFE RETURN TO NORMAL?
Kindrachuk said even with a vaccine, the pandemic is not going to end overnight.
“What we have to do is actually get the vaccine distributed across the globe,” he said.
“Really, this is going to be an insurmountable effort in many ways to try and get the vaccine to every corner of the globe as quickly as possible to try and curb transmission.”
He noted that people should recognize the process of getting people vaccinated and lowering transmission rates will take months.
“For us, we have to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing as far as distancing and masking up until a point that we start seeing those transmission rates are dropping in our community and other communities across the globe.”
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
Kindrachuk said they don’t know yet how long the vaccines will protect people from COVID-19, though initial data is showing a year or longer.
“We’re hoping to see long-term protection, but unfortunately with vaccines, we don’t have a formula that just says you get this amount of protection for this length of time,” he said.
“We have to wait to find out.”
- With files from CTV’s Nicole Dube.