The Covid-19 Hezitorial
The Uncertainty Is Whether Vaccines Stop One From Spreading the Coronavirus
At issue is whether those people who are vaccinated remain silent spreaders and thereby place unvaccinated people at risk.
Surprisingly, the prophylaxis is likely to continue to be wearing a mask.
YONKERS, NY — December 13, 2020 — While some new COVID-19 vaccines seem to prevent serious illness, it is still uncertain whether they will curb the spread of COVID-19. Those pharmaceutical firms who have gained U.S. approval, such as Pfizer and Moderna, seem proficient at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Yet uncertainty remains whether their vaccines will ameliorate the spread of COVID-19.
There is a valid basis for that statement because the Pfizer and Moderna trials tracked only how many vaccinated people became sick with Covid-19. That may well infer that some vaccinated people get infected without developing symptoms and could silently transmit the virus to those with whom they come in contact specifically because those people with whom they have come in contact have stopped wearing a mask.
If it is ascertained that vaccinated people are silent spreaders of the virus, they will come to be recognized to exacerbate and maintain circulating the virus within their respective community, putting unvaccinated people at risk. It seems that many people believe that once they get vaccinated, they will no longer need to wear masks. How wrong they will be. Vaccinated people will need to keep wearing masks as they could still be contagious.
Science knows the answer, and it is easily understood.
In most respiratory infections, including COVID-19, the nose is the main port of entry. The virus rapidly multiplies there, causing the immune system to produce a type of antibody that is specific to mucosa, the moist tissue lining the nose, mouth, lungs and stomach. Should the same person be exposed to the virus a second time, those antibodies, as well as immune cells that remember the virus, rapidly shut down the virus in the nose before it gets a chance to take hold elsewhere in the body.
The COVID-19 vaccines, in contrast, are injected deep into the muscles and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, where they stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This appears to be enough protection to keep the vaccinated person from getting ill.
Experts espouse that mucosal vaccines, like nasal spray or the oral polio vaccine, are better than intramuscular injections at fending off respiratory viruses.
The next generation of coronavirus vaccines may elicit immunity in the nose and the rest of the respiratory tract, where it is most needed. Or people could get an intramuscular injection followed by a mucosal boost that produces protective antibodies in the nose and throat.
The coronavirus vaccines have proved to be powerful shields against severe illness, but that is no guarantee of their efficacy in the nose. The lungs – the site of severe symptoms – are much more accessible to the circulating antibodies than the nose or throat, making them easier to safeguard.
Vaccinated people who have a high viral load but don’t have symptoms ‘would actually be, in some ways, even worse spreaders, because they may be under a false sense of security’.
The trials have so far analyzed only blood, but testing for antibodies in mucosa would confirm that the antibodies can travel to the nose and mouth. Volunteers in the Johnson & Johnson trial will undergo an analysis matching blood and saliva samples from volunteers to see how the two antibody levels compare.
Only people who have virus teeming in their nose and throat would be expected to transmit the virus, and the lack of symptoms in the immunized people who became infected suggests that the vaccine may have kept the virus levels in check.
Vaccinated people who have a high viral load but don’t have symptoms are likely to be under a false sense of security undermining what the pharmaceutical and scientific community can do.
There are many takeaways, the most crucial is that the nation awaits the efficacy of vaccine being rolled out, and even while most people become vaccinated, wearing a mask is crucial. That is because those who are asymptomatic do not realize they are spreaders.
People must coalesce with respect to best practice as it is presently understood. It is up to each of us to do our part.
Disappointing is the report that France’s Sanofi and Britain’ GSK vaccines have hit a snag. Their efforts will delay their launch to late 2021. It seems results for older adults, 50-plus had a low immune response.
Until the promises of science regarding efficacy are proven, wearing a mask is prudent, and best practice, as is social distancing, and getting tested. Call family and friends and communicate over the Internet.
The new “normal” may linger for another 6 months or a year or more. But with everyone engaged to the best of their ability, we’ll all get back on track, perhaps not like yesteryear, but better than the present.
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I protect you. You protect me. Wear a mask!