Dr. Fauci and his team at NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) published an excellent summary of what we know so far (and what we are still learning) with all the COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline – with an excellent summary table. To those of us data-nerds, this table looks like a giant beautiful excel spreadsheet. (If you are a highschool or college student and you LURV excel spreadsheets, you will also LURV epidemiology – come join our MPH program!) =) To those of us who want the pandemic to end quickly, this table looks like gold. Let’s go through the main highlights:
✅ PICTURE 1 – This shows the current EUA approved vaccines for Pfizer (left) and Moderna (right). These likely look familiar to you by now – they show the efficacy of these vaccines and also indicate when dose #2 occurs.
✅ PICTURE 2 – This Table (Table 1) shows the current CDC distribution priority lists.
✅ PICTURE 3 – This Table (Table 2) is the big beautiful vaccine summary of the current 7 vaccines in the pipeline. ◾ The EUA-approved vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are at the top, followed by the next-in-line for EUA approval (J&J). ◾ The table also contains information on the dosing schedule (1 or 2 shots), study sample in the Phase 3 trials (30,000-45,000 people), efficacy against normal and severe disease, side effects, and storage. ◾ The paper goes into more detail in each of these trials and findings.
✅ PICTURE 4 – An excerpt from the paper talking about the mRNA vaccines. We’ve talked about that here already – but, we need to keep remembering this was not new technology made is 10 months. A TON of ground work has been laid on mRNA technology development and that foundation was used to jump-start the process for the mRNA vaccines. No rushed science here!
✅ PICTURE 5 – An excerpt discussing the biggest unknown (and debated) question: Do the vaccines prevent infection and transmission OR symptomatic disease? In other words, do you still need to wear a mask after vaccination?
◾ Based on Picture 1 (showing the efficacy) the current vaccines do a fantastic job (better than 90% of all other vaccines on the market right now) at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 (INCLUDING severe disease and less severe disease that is associated with long COVID-19).
◾ It’s important to restate what I just said: You do not want long COVID-19 or severe disease. We probably all know someone suffering with that right now with months-long fatigue, breathing problems, lung damage, heart problems, and more fatigue. The median age of long COVID-19 is 44 years and 90% are women – uhm, hello to that group of women! I see you.
◾ Ok, back to the picture. In the Moderna trial, 14 participants who received the vaccine shed the virus compared to 38 participants who received the placebo. This SUGGESTS reduction in viral shedding and transmission and more studies are currently being done to get a definitive answer.
✅ This.is.the.scientific.process – especially during a pandemic. Learning as you go while doing what you can with what you have. What we have is lots of data with rigorously designed trials, independent reviews, two EUA with great efficacy, and some grit. Part of the scientific process (shout out to Mrs. Dodd, Mr. Acosta, Ms. Streiber, my favorite science teachers who sponsored my science fair projects and gave me a college textbook to read on DNA in 10th grade) is hypothesis building, testing, critically evaluating, concluding, recommending, and doing it all over again. The social media age has made this harder to communicate due to misconceptions about the scientific process or conclusions or study designs or…So, I want to encourage patience and trust in the process. I’m not saying to not be critical or ask questions. I’m saying to do your research carefully with experts and trusted voices. That’s one reason why I am highlighting this study – the authors have earned the right over decades of solid scientific work to speak into the pandemic. They are trusted.
✅ Now, today I’m headed over to my excel spreadsheets for my own data today. Today, my team (100% all-female-team, shout-out to the Drs.) and I are analyzing data on children in need of surgical care in Somaliland, the 4th poorest country in the world. Let’s hear it for the data and scientific process! It’s a pathway to hope and help to most in need – for both vaccines and our regular work.
-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist