Should I get the Covid 19 Vaccine? Aaron Zamzow from Fire Rescue Fitness asks a Scientist (PHD- Harvard School of Public Health in Genetics & Complex Diseases) for advice.
There are a lot of discussions around most houses and firehouses about the Covid 19 vaccine. As first responders we are one of the groups that are first in line to receive it. But, is it safe? And does the data support that it is effective?
Instead of listing tons of resources and spitting up what I found, I decided to interview one of the smartest people I know, Dr. Jeremy Stuart. Dr. Stuart is a long time friend who, by the way has his PH.D from the Harvard School of Public Health in Genetics & Complex Diseases. He took some time out of his busy day to address my concerns and questions. Please click the link below for the interview.
Here are some follow up interview questions.
- Who is Dr. Jeremy Stuart and why do you know more than the average person when it comes to the Covid Vaccine?
Dr. Stuart.-"I went to U of MN for my Genetics & Cell Biology degree. I received my master’s in public health from U of MN while working in a genetics laboratory on the St. Paul campus. I then received my Ph.D from Harvard School of Public Heath in Genetics & Complex Diseases. I focused on cancer biology. Finally, out of school, I steered my career towards start-up technologies and was lucky enough to be one of the co-developers of a next-generation sequencing technology (the technology that can now sequence a human genome in 1 day versus 15 years). In the past decade, I have worked at clinical startup companies, and I currently am the laboratory director and CSO of Precision Genetics. We are a molecular lab that performs COVID testing for all the major hospitals in SC. I have no conflicts of interest when it comes to talking about the vaccine. Quite the opposite as vaccines will eventually get rid of COVID testing."
- What do you know and understand about the vaccine technology? Is this new? Has it been used before? Is it safe?
Dr. Stuart- "Traditionally, vaccine development is 2 basic steps: (1) Make a protein of interest that would generate an immune response (2) introduce the protein into a person so that their immune system can create antibodies and remember the protein next time it is seen (presumably from an infection).
There are lots of ways to do step 1. Before modern medicine, mothers used to inoculate their children by deliberately introducing smallpox pustules into the skin. Nowadays, we can manufacture specific proteins and introduce them in a much more controlled manner.
mRNA vaccines do the same thing except they do it another way. mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of the virus. Our immune systems recognize that the protein does not belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19.
mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV), so while they are newer, there is a lot known about them."
- What to tell people when they say the process and testing has been fast-tracked and not transparent?
Dr. Stuart- "It has certainly been fast-tracked, but no corners have been cut. The FDA process is rigorous, and with the stakes so high, no vaccine manufacturer or regulator is going to hide anything. It would destroy the industry and public trust for years to come. Much of the speed in development has been the manufacturing. The government has given money for the vaccine makers to mass produce their vaccine while they test it. Usually, companies will test the vaccine first to make sure it works. Then they will mass produce.
As far as transparency, I think it is more an issue of communication and outreach. The data is publicly available on the FDA and vaccine manufacturer’s websites. What is lacking is a public health campaign to inform people that it is available. In my opinion, this has been a shortcoming of the whole COVID-19 vaccine effort."
- What does the data look like? Do you trust it and why?
Dr. Stuart- "The data varies by vaccine maker, but the data looks exceptionally good for the first two vaccines that are scheduled to be released. 90-95% efficacy in prevention, and 100% efficacy in severe symptoms. I do trust the data for the reasons I explained above but also because I know a lot of scientists and regulators. They are people just like you and me. They punch a clock and their lives have been about doing their job with integrity. I would never lie about my work. Why would they?"
- What have you found to be the side effects of the vaccine? There has been a question about Guillain-Barre Syndrome with the vaccine? Is this safe for kids?
Dr. Stuart- "The most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. Of note, more people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose. There also may be severe allergic reactions, although these will be rare (1/1M people). This is why health care workers are instructed to have epinephrine on site in case an allergic reaction is observed.
The Pfizer vaccine is instructed to be used in ages 16 and over. They do not have enough data in kids yet to make a determination. And, there has been no found relationship between the vaccine and infertility and/or Guillain-Barre Syndrome. There have been some social media stories about these topics but the data and the science shows them to hyped up and false. Again the data and science does not lie..."
- Will you be taking it?
Dr Stuart- "Hell yes."
A special FRF "THANK YOU" to Dr. Stuart. We are planning to do a follow-up interview so please comment, give some feedback and/or ask questions. You can contact Aaron by clicking here.
Stay safe, stay healthy and stay positive!
Other resources that are good to reference and check out:
- Michael Osterholm- podcast (click here for them)
- WHO- https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/covid-19-vaccines
- IAFF Covid Vaccine information: https://www.iaff.org/coronavirus/#vaccines
- First responders willing to set example by getting COVID-19 vaccine first. https://abc11.com/covid-vaccine-nc-distribution-pfizer/8128268/
- No, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t cause infertility in women. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/12/10/covid-vaccine-debunking-claims-causes-infertility-sterilization/6497018002/