COVID-19 Chapter 13: Vaccines, Take 2

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We’re back with another episode in our Anatomy of a Pandemic series on COVID-19. This time, our subject matter is the one everyone has been waiting for: vaccines. In this episode, with the help of two amazing guests, we attempt to answer all of your burning questions about the new vaccines for the virus that causes COVID-19. We walk you through the ins and outs of the technology behind these vaccines, the safety and regulation steps required for their approval, and some of the logistical challenges involved in their distribution. For this info-packed episode, we were so fortunate to be joined by Dr. Maria Sundaram (interview recorded Dec 14, 2020), postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto Center for Vaccine Preventable Diseases and fellow at ICES and Dr. Orin Levine (interview recorded Nov 24, 2020), Director of Vaccine Delivery at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As always, we wrap up the episode by discussing the top five things we learned from our experts. If at the end of this interview, your curiosity about vaccines is not quite satisfied, check out the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker website, which is an incredible resource for pretty much anything you could ever want to know about these vaccines.

To help you get a better idea of the topics covered in this episode, we’ve listed the questions below:

  1. Can you break down what the three potentially successful COVID-19 vaccines are and how each of them work?
  2. What are in these vaccines? What are the ingredients and what do they do?
  3. There has been some misunderstanding that these vaccines have the potential to give you COVID-19. Can you explain why that isn’t possible?
  4. Why are people being advised to wear a mask even after getting vaccinated?
  5. What does the timeline look like for these vaccines until we can go to the doctor or pharmacy and get one?
  6. Is it a valid concern that this vaccine was developed so rapidly? And could you walk us through some of the steps being taken to ensure safety and efficacy of a vaccine?
  7. Can you talk about what emergency use authorization means and whether we’ve seen this before and under what circumstances?
  8. Why should people be no more scared of this vaccine than the usual vaccines, like MMR and seasonal influenza?
  9. How likely is it that additional side effects we haven’t yet seen or long-term side effects will emerge later on?
  10. What do we know about the risk of vaccine-induced antibody-dependent enhancement with this vaccine?
  11. What do we know so far about the efficacy of these vaccines? Can you walk us through efficacy vs effectiveness in terms of vaccines?
  12. What do we know so far about how long immunity is expected to last from the various vaccines that are close to completion?
  13. What are some of the issues with clinical trials in vaccine development in terms of getting a representative subsection of the population and what does this mean for who may be able to get a vaccine once one is ready?
  14. Why do you still need to get vaccinated even if you’ve already had COVID-19?
  15. For our listeners who may know someone who is hesitant to receive the vaccine, what advice or reassurance can you give them that choosing to get one of these vaccines is a better option than taking your chances with COVID-19?
  16. What are the biggest hurdles to vaccine distribution here in the US?
  17. What are the biggest hurdles in terms of global distribution of the vaccine? And what is being done to address some of these challenges in vaccine access?
  18. We’ve heard about some countries pre-purchasing large stocks of vaccines, how may that affect the global availability especially in lower income countries?
  19. How might the availability of several different successful COVID-19 vaccines affect how different countries build their vaccine supply or distribution chain?
  20. Could you talk about how skepticism surrounding vaccines plays into not only vaccine development but administration, and what can be done to rebuild trust in those communities?
  21. How do you think this pandemic will change the way that we view either emerging infectious diseases or vaccines in the future?

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