Clarksville, TN – With the United States about to begin the largest vaccination program in the nation’s history, two Austin Peay State University (APSU) scientists – a virologist and a bacteriologist – said they have no concerns about receiving one of the shots.
“Personally, I plan to take a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available,” Jane Semler, bacteriologist and APSU professor of Allied Health Sciences, said. “However, I think we all need to recognize that, although the news about vaccines is positive, it may be several months before any vaccine is widely available.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved emergency use authorization of Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine. A White House coronavirus task force report recently said that “The current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations, or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring.”
But with some Americans fearful of any new vaccine, Austin Peay State University’s virologist argues the risk to a person’s health is greater without the vaccine.
“It’s more likely you’ll get COVID than have an adverse event from this vaccine,” Dr. Perry Scanlan, virologist and APSU professor of Allied Health Sciences, said.
Both professors are members of Austin Peay State University ’s COVID-19 Command Task Force. Semler previously served as a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Fellow, and she is the author of several academic articles on clinical laboratory science. Scanlan’s research focuses on infection control and infectious disease tracking, and he currently serves as editor-in-chief of Clinical Laboratory Science, the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.
“One thing that I think people worry about when taking a vaccine is that they will actually contract the disease from the vaccine rather than being protected against it,” Semler said.
“In the case of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines (the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines), this will not be possible since only one part of the viral RNA will be administered. It is not possible for the virus to replicate from only the spike protein,” Semler stated.
On December 8th, the United Kingdom began a national vaccination program using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Scanlan points out that the individuals in the UK and the U.S. who receive the vaccine will help accelerate much-needed research.
“Once they start vaccinating people, there’s going to be a lot of data really fast,” Scanlan said. “They are going to have tons of subjects that they will be able to study.”
According to Pfizer, the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%. While this is encouraging, Semler points out that this means the drug won’t protect everyone.
“There is still a great need for people to remain vigilant in avoiding crowds, wearing masks, washing hands and staying at home when ill or in quarantine,” she said. “I think the biggest ‘risk’ from any of the vaccines is that not everyone will be protected and, thus, it will still be important to minimize potential spread of the virus.”
She cited a newly released study by the CDC, confirming that mask-wearing does reduce the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.
“While we hope for a vaccine, we all need to do our part to minimize the spread of the virus today,” she said.