More Covid-19 FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 

  1. Coronavirus-19 could become endemic

          Q:  What if a vaccine cannot be proven to give immunity – will the disease rely only on treatment intervention to keep it in control?

A:  There are viral diseases for which attempts to find a vaccine have failed.  HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is one of these.  This means the disease is referred to as being endemic.  An endemic disease can only be controlled by two interventions: avoiding actions that allow it to infect others and by developing therapeutics that mitigate against it from becoming so severe they disable or kill those who contract it.  On Wednesday, June 3, the World Health Organization stated that coronavirus-19 is at a point where it could keep circulating around the world and would soon require a “massive effort” to counter it.  Mike Ryan, the WHO emergencies expert, stressed how little is really known about this disease when he said, “I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear  This disease may settle into (becoming) a long term problem.”

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  1. Politics and vaccines

          Q: Why is the U.S. spending so much money to produce millions of doses of a vaccines that haven’t yet been approved for distribution?

A: It was previously discussed (FAQ 34) that The US government had awarded up to $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca to develop a potential vaccine for coronavirus-19.  This contract is to complete a combined Phase II and III clinical trial that was reported to take months to complete, followed by evaluation and potential licensing.  Production of the vaccine and delivery of the product in syringes would usually then follow – taking perhaps several more months before the vaccine could be administrated.  This timetable is consistent with several recent estimates given by CDC and FDA officials.

The news service Reuters has now reported the contract was given “after president Trump demanded a vaccine.”  “This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine…”  Reuters now reports the Department of Health and Human Services has stated the US has now secured 300 million doses of the new vaccine in its push for October vaccinations. (emphasis added).  It was also reported by Reuters that “AstraZeneca recognizes that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical program with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk.”  This is only 5 months away.  Is the trial vaccine being manufactured and packaged now – before the clinical trials have begun?

In other news reported on June 1, the US awarded another $628 million contract to boost the availability of manufactured vaccines to the public.  As Alex Azar, secretary of US Department of Health and Human services said, this “will help get a vaccine to American patients without a day wasted.”  The contract was awarded to another federal agency The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) that funds disease-fighting technology.  BARDA has already invested over $2 million in vaccines, diagnostics and therapies.  This new grant will support several organizations and groups competing to be the first to develop a coronavirus-29 vaccine.  These include Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Inc., Novavax, Inc., and Vaxart Inc.

This multiple funding of several groups to have a manufactured vaccine available to the public just before the next election raises several concerns:

  • Under these contracts, are AstraZeneca and other groups now manufacturing and packaging their trial vaccines in millions of syringes ready for immediate distribution if and when they are approved and licensed?
  • Will there be enough time for the 35,000 people participating in the combined AstraZeneca Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials – and the tens of other thousands for other manufacturers’ clinical trials to show the safety and effectiveness of each trial vaccine?
    • Would the existence of millions of already packaged vaccine ready for distribution affect the decision to license a trial vaccine if problems are identified in the clinical trials?
      • If a trial vaccine shows only marginal immunity is achieved, would there be pressure for the FDA to approve it anyway?
      • If the clinical trial shows that a trial vaccine actually infects a small number of healthy people who end up with COVID-19, might this be judged as not a safety issue?
    • If other pharmaceutical companies now conducting clinical trials later find that their products are more effective or safer than the first one licensed, what disruption might result if only the first one is immediately available?
    • If more than one vaccine is finally licensed, but each has different effectiveness or safety issues, how might this be resolved.
  • If any vaccine is licensed that later demonstrates problems in general use, how would this affect the public’s expanding distrust of all vaccinations? (In the history of polio vaccine, it was found after it was approved some of the people actually became paralyzed by the vaccine.)

One has to also remember that vaccines create antibodies specific to a particular disease to ward off future infections.  But there is still no evidence that the coronavirus antibodies grant lasting immunity preventing anyone from contracting COVID-19.

 

  1. Demand for vaccination

          Q:  How many people really want a vaccine?

A:  On June 2, the results of an ABC News/Washington Post poll were announced.  It was found that 27% of those surveyed are unlikely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus-19.  A breakdown shows that 45% of strong conservatives, 40% of Republicans, and nearly 40% of evangelicals said they were unlikely to get vaccinated, even of it was provided at no cost.  Of those not likely to be vaccinated, 15% were definitely, and 12% were probably not willing to get the caccine.  Half of this group stated they didn’t trust vaccines in general, and a quarter didn’t feel it was really necessary at this time.

 

  1. Getting ready for school in September

        Q: Is there anything new concerning opening of schools in the fall?

A: The CDC updated its guidance for K-12 school administrators, teachers and patents on June 3.  The new guidance includes information on three levels of community exposure to coronavirus: no community spread, minimal to moderate community spread, and substantial community spread.

  • No community spread:
    • Teach and reinforce hygiene procedures;
    • Intensify cleaning and disinfection procedures;
    • Monitor and plan for absenteeism;
    • Assess group meetings and events; and
    • Require sick students and staff to stay home
  • Minimal to moderate community spread:
    • Cancel field trips, assemblies and large gatherings;
    • Cancel or modify classes where students are close to others.
    • Increase space between desks to at least 6 feet;
    • Stagger arrival and departure times;
    • Limit nonessential visitors; and
    • Limit access by students from other schools (e.g. for robotics, etc.);
  • Substantial community spread:
    • Follow local health department guidance for community-wide actions;
    • Consider extended (longer than 2 weeks) dismissals;
    • Cancel field trips and after-school activities; and
    • Consider distance-learning methods.

Schools are encouraged to revise their emergency plans to give specific advice on specific areas.  Every school in Connecticut for several years is required to have an emergency plan.  Parents should feel free to ask for a copy of the coronavirus-19 section of their school’s plan to learn of their school’s expectations for managing this pandemic.