Chad Sanborn, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist from KIDZ Medical Services, urges everyone to stay vigilant and rigorously adhere to social distancing guidelines. He’s one of the first to roll up his sleeve for the vaccine.
Dr. Sanborn has been a consistent voice of steady information since the onset of the coronavirus and is the father of two school-age girls. His advice to parents is: Don’t let your guard down!
Dr. Sanborn and his family practices what he preaches.
- His family will be alone this Christmas.
- They plan to “see” the grandparents, who live 5 miles away, in a shopping center parking lot with lots of space between them.
- Everyone will wear masks and there will be no hugging.
We had a lot of questions about the vaccine and Dr. Sanborn gave us an up-to-the-minute and researched assessment.
- You cannot catch coronavirus from the vaccine
- It does not become a permanent part of your DNA or your cells
- It will not allow big companies or the government to “track” you
- The vaccine plus social distancing and masks are really the way that we can defeat this virus
Why is the second dose of the vaccine necessary?
Basically, the most recent part of the study led to its approval for Emergency Use Authorization, Phase III, which was designed to see if two doses prevented people from getting sick from COVID-19.
This was the most recent part which was based upon earlier Phase I and Phase II information, which allowed them to determine which dose of vaccine and what intervals were safest and worked best at making antibodies (e.g. one big dose vs. two smaller doses, three weeks apart vs. a longer interval, etc.).
They found that the two recommended doses worked better at preventing coronavirus symptoms than one. The efficacy after one dose was 51%, which goes up to 95% after two doses, so I strongly recommend everyone finish their two-dose vaccine course.
Why isn’t the vaccine approved for people under 16?
It’s not that it won’t work or is unsafe in younger kids, it simply wasn’t studied in this age group. Everyone enrolled thus far was 16 yrs and older. Now that it has been shown to be safe and efficacious in older teens and adults, studies will be taken to ensure it is effective and safe for children <16 yrs in the coming weeks to months.
Certain groups of people weren’t included in vaccine trials. How do we know the vaccine will work for them?
The main groups excluded from the trials up to now were people with suppressed immune systems, children, pregnant women and people who recently had COVID-19 infection. As the vaccine does not contain live viruses, it should be safe for people with weakened immune systems, but we don’t know how well those individuals will mount a protective immune response.
We will be giving the vaccine to people with a history of coronavirus infection during this rollout and we will see if they will get additional protection from the vaccine. Finally, we will be performing studies to assess the safety and efficacy for pregnant women, children, and immune-suppressed individuals in the immediate future.
Can you stop wearing a mask once you’re vaccinated?
No. It’s still crucial to social distance and wear a mask for now, at least. While the vaccine seems to do a really good job at keeping you from getting sick with COVID-19 symptoms that’s what the 95% vaccine efficacy is actually referring to. We do not know how well it protects us from actually getting infected. That data should be released over the next 1-2 months.
While you have less of a chance of getting sick after getting vaccinated, without masks or social distancing, you may actually have a higher chance of acquiring asymptomatic infection and give it to others who can’t receive or haven’t been vaccinated yet.
That’s why we have to continue to be smart, wearing masks and social distancing to stop the spread from people who don’t know they are infected. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are a huge part of the way this ends, but it will take months to vaccinate enough people to be able to let down our guard some.
When can I see older family members who’ve been vaccinated?
I would recommend caution, particularly if the older family members have underlying medical problems like a suppressed immune system where their vaccine could possibly be less effective. I would also definitely recommend staying away at least until 1-2 weeks after the older family members have completed their vaccine series.
Chad Sanborn, MD, Board-certified in pediatric infectious diseases, KIDZ Medical Services. He has been working as a pediatric infectious disease physician in Palm Beach County for more than 10 years. He treats patients with a wide range of infectious diseases such as MRSA, recurrent fevers, skin and bone infections, parasitic infections, HIV, recurrent viral infections, and also provides counsel in travel medicine.