HOUSTON – A panel of medical experts gathered Thursday for an Ask 2 Live discussion aimed at answering your questions about the coronavirus vaccine.
Memorial Hermann’s infectious disease specialist Dr. Linda Yancey, UTHealth’s infectious disease expert Dr. Charles Ericsson and Dr. Thomas Giordano, chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine were part of the panel.
Here’s a look at answers to some of the questions that were asked during the discussion.
When can the general public get the vaccine?
The first doses of the vaccine will be given to essential workers and people living in long-term care facilities. Ericsson said he believes it may be the spring before the vaccine is widely available to the general public.
When can we expect to see an impact on the pandemic because the vaccine becomes available?
Ericsson said it may be the summer or fall before we could see the so-called “herd immunity” for which many are hoping, but that all depends on how many people get the vaccine. He said a survey of workers at Harris Health showed 59% said they didn’t want the vaccine right away. Ericsson said he is confident in the data and wants to get that herd immunity as quickly as possible.
Are there specific age groups that could have side effects or reduce immunity?
Giordano said younger people had stronger side effects from the vaccine, according to clinical data. He said that’s because a younger person’s immune system is more robust.
Yancey said that it may be counterintuitive, but the more your arm hurts after vaccination the better that vaccine is.
Is the second dose necessary?
Everyone on the panel said, yes. They also said that the second dose must be from the same manufacturer as made your first dose.
Giordano said people should not leave the clinic after getting their first vaccination without a plan to get the second shot.
Is the vaccine recommended for people with diabetes?
Yancey said, yes. In fact, she said, those are exactly the type of people who should be getting the shot. She said people with some preexisting conditions are at a higher risk of complications from the virus, which makes them getting vaccinated even more important.
What does the efficacy rate mean?
Giordano said the 95% efficacy rate means that you are protected at that rate from developing the coronavirus disease. However, you can still be infected by the virus without developing the disease. He said that means you should still be wearing a mask even after you are vaccinated.
Can I visit my elderly parents after I get vaccinated?
All three of the panelists agreed that it would still not be safe to visit your elderly parents even after you receive the vaccine because it’s possible you could still have the virus and infect them.
Ericsson said that it may not be safe until herd immunity is achieved, but data will need to be collected to know the answer to that question with certainty.
If I’m participating in a trial, can I still go get the vaccine?
The answer is yes. However, Giordano, said trial participants have an obligation to report their wishes to the company running the trial so that accurate data can be tracked and reported.
If I’m sick with coronavirus can I still get the vaccine?
Giordano said it would be a bad idea and doing that won’t make you get better any faster. He said a person who has an active infection going to a clinic full of people who are getting vaccinated could infect a lot of people.
He said people who are sick with coronavirus should wait until about 90 days after they get over the illness before getting vaccinated because they have natural immunity for that amount of time.