Health experts say there’s way more pros than cons to the new COVID-19 vaccine

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – Many questions still linger in the Valley tonight as the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine gets one step closer to being administered in the United States.

The company filed for emergency authorization with the FDA Thursday for it’s single-use vaccine, and hopes to have thousands of vaccines shipped by March 1.

With around 66 to 72 percent total efficacy, many of you say you’re leery about the new vaccine, but local health experts say there’s no reason not to be excited about it.

“Even though you still get the disease, or may get the disease, you’re not going to get sick enough to where it would require hospitalization or result in a death,” Dr. Richard Vetter with Essentia Health said. Johnson and Johnson’s data shows the vaccine is 85 percent effective overall in ‘preventing severe disease and demonstrated complete protection against covid-19 related hospitalization and death.’

Vetter says in that aspect, the new vaccine is similar to why we get the flu shot, but points out influenza vaccines are only about 40 to 60 percent effective depending on that year’s strain.

“There is significant value in having a vaccine that keeps people out of the hospital and prevents people from dying,” Kylie Hall with NDSU’s Public Health Department said.

Many of you have also asked if you already have natural antibodies in your system, is this new vaccine better for those who’ve already had covid? That way, the highly effective doses, like Pfizer, can be saved for those who have not been infected.

“Logically it makes sense, but the problem is we don’t have data to suggest that’s the right approach,” Dr. Vetter said.

“The what-ifs are part of vaccine science, but in the short-term these vaccines are just getting emergency use, and while we studied them well enough to know they are safe and effective, we just don’t have all of the answers,” Hall said.

One of the big ‘what-ifs’ scientists are still trying to determine is how long of immunity one has, both with natural antibodies and those from the vaccine. Hall states vaccine recommendations will likely evolve as new information and findings come out in years to come, and urges you to listen to the science when making decisions.

“There could be data that shows that this vaccine is better than another one in preventing disease in the elderly, this one is better in diabetics, this one is better in xyz, but at this point in time, we don’t have enough vaccine to give preferential recommendations,” she said.

While local health experts say you can’t choose which vaccine you do or do not get right now, Vetter says that will likely change in the future.

“Once vaccine is more plentiful, then I think certainly we would want patients to have a voice and a choice as to what they want,” Vetter said. “For right now, because of the limited supply, when we have it it’s either take this or you wait.”

A new research study states if vaccination rates stay how they are today, it will take seven years for the United States to go back to normal, and while that does sound concerning both Vetter and Hall say, ‘Not so fast!’

“As more vaccines come to market, we’re going to be able to move through the population quicker and vaccinate more people,” Hall said.

“From my thinking and epidemiological thinking, we will be in a much different spot at the end of the year,” Vetter said.

As of today, at least five more COVID-19 vaccines are in Phase Three of their clinical trials.

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