'Expedited, not fast-tracked': Virologist explains the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine
WINNIPEG -- With some Canadians still nervous about the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially due to the speed at which it was created, one virologist is emphasizing that the vaccine has been “expedited, not fast-tracked.”
“There actually is a big difference with that,” said Dr. Jason Kindrachuk on Tuesday, the day before the first round of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations begins in Manitoba.
“In the expedition of this vaccine, what they’ve been able to do is actually overlap a lot of the different clinical phase trials that they would normally do.”
Kindrachuk added the companies involved in making the vaccine did rolling data drops offs with Health Canada and other health regulators, which also helped to speed up the process.
“All of the safety protocols that have been followed in the past through any of these types of trials, have been followed to a tee with this and probably under the greatest scrutiny we’ve seen in history with vaccines,” he said, noting that tens of thousands of people were immunized as part of the clinical trials.
With reports of people experiencing allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, Kindrachuk said people need to focus on the numbers, which show these were isolated incidents and along the lines of what is seen with other vaccines.
He said they’re still trying to find out if these adverse reactions were even related to the vaccine.
“We have to take a step back and say that through the tens of thousands that have taken it so far, we haven’t seen those severe adverse events that have stopped the vaccine from being moved forward,” Kindrachuk said.
WHAT ABOUT KIDS?
Kindrachuk said the Pfizer trial showed everything we need to know for those ages 16 and older.
“The unfortunate reality is that there were some kids between the ages of 12 and 15 that were enrolled in that Phase 3 trial, but the numbers were too low to actually provide us with enough evidence to say whether or not the vaccines were safe and/or effective,” he said, adding that researchers are now trying to expedite the cohort of these ages in the U.K. However, Kindrachuk noted, even though there’s no vaccine for kids yet, they also seem to be the focus of less severe disease and may be more naturally protected.
WHEN WILL IT KICK IN?
Kindrachuk explained that a person’s immune system will determine when the vaccine kicks in.
“Our antibody development begins somewhere between seven and 14 days post-vaccination, so that’s when we start getting that immune bump,” he said.
“Our antibodies develop and we know that three weeks post-vaccination, that’s when we go back and get that boost. Basically, our immune memory is solidified and we should be good to go.”
As for when things will go back to normal within society, Kindrachuk didn’t have an answer, saying it’s still unknown whether the vaccine stops people from transmitting COVID-19 or if it just suppresses severe infection.
“I think we’re still trying to figure out what that looks like in a population,” he said.
Kindrachuk said that even post-vaccination, people will need to follow public health recommendations until transmission rates drop and show COVID-19 isn’t circulating within the community.
- With files from CTV’s Nicole Dube.