DENVER — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee on Thursday voted to recommend emergency approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. While a final decision from the FDA isn’t expected for the next several days, the vaccination campaign – if approved – will mark a major step that could finally conquer the outbreak.
Denver7 Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski sat down with Dr. Richard Zane, who is leading UCHealth’s novel coronavirus response and vaccination efforts, to answer some of the questions you may have about the vaccine. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tony Kovaleski: Why should we feel confident the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?
Dr. Richard Zane: People should feel confident because of the way in which it was tested. Even though it was expedited — meaning the amount of time it took to make this vaccine, it is truly unprecedented — no corners were cut. It was essentially done with a lot more energy and money than has ever been done before. But it is highly effective, and it was tested on tens of thousands of people.
TK: If someone has already had COVID-19, do they need the vaccine?
Dr. RZ: The recommendation is yes, they should be vaccinated. However, if you are currently symptomatic with COVID-19, you should wait until symptoms have abated.
TK: Are there any known side-affects to the vaccine?
Dr. RZ: The side effects that have been reported are minor side effects that are commonly associated with first vaccines. Meaning, the first time you’ve been vaccinated, they are muscle aches, pain at the sight of the injection, low grade fever for less than 24-hours. Some people have reported nausea and diarrhea. And most of the people have reported the symptoms were abated with Tylenol or Motrin.
TK: How long will it take to get enough people vaccinated before we see an impact?
Dr RZ: We will likely see impact with 30 or 40%. But the number to get herd immunity is over 50% and ideally, 60 or 70%.
TK: What do you say to people who just don’t trust the vaccine?
Dr. RZ: I would plead with you and ask you to really reconsider. This has been a vigorously tested herculean effort to bring forward this vaccine. Now being vaccinated is not just a matter of individual protection, it’s really a societal obligation. We have an obligation to do our part to end this pandemic and part of that is getting vaccinated.
TK: Will he take the vaccine and will he recommend it to his friends and family?
Dr. RZ: I will get the vaccine as soon as it’s offered to me. Everyone in my family who is over the age of 18 will get vaccinated as well when it becomes available. I believe it’s safe. I believe it is one of the most remarkable advancements in medicine.