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We need to adjust expectations for COVID vaccine



(Photo AP / Ted S. Warren, File)

We are still waiting for the COVID vaccine to be released and a virologist has some questions about how to test the vaccine. Dr. William Haseltine taught at Harvard and raised some concerns about some vaccine trials. He joined Seattle’s Morning News for discussion.

“First of all, I think most people expect vaccines to prevent infection. That is not the criterion for the approval of these vaccines. In fact, they assume that everyone – vaccinated or not – is likely to be infected. A measure of success is the difference in the symptoms of the infected person. That very criterion tells you that they expect everyone to be vaccinated in both arms of the trial. It’s probably something that opens the eyes of most people, ”he said.

It doesn’t differ much from the design of the flu vaccine, which is part of the problem with Haseltine.

“Actually, that’s how flu vaccines were designed, and that’s the second surprise that I think of for most people. The influenza vaccine is not designed to prevent infection. They are designed to prevent serious illness, so that’s the next question. What are the tests to prevent? Can a mild illness like a cold, headache, cough fever or other serious symptoms cause you to be hospitalized? And the answer is in the initial submissions that stopping most people from critical illness and preventing them from dying was not part of the approval process, ”he said.

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Haseltine also added that there are misconceptions about the exact effect of such a vaccine, even if it resembles a flu vaccine.

“Hopefully this vaccine will work like a flu vaccine, and that says a lot because first, it says what it can and can’t do. Flu vaccines do not prevent pandemic flu, and we know that because we have had vaccines for many, many generations now and they have not stopped seasonal flu. I don’t think we can take into account any vaccines being developed today to prevent seasonal COVID, ”he said.

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“The flu vaccine reduces disease symptoms in 30 to 50% of people vaccinated, the other 50 to 70% get sick as if they have never been vaccinated – another thing you can expect from this. this. The third thing the flu vaccine doesn’t seem to do well is slow transmission. That is, the number of people who have been infected, and so you can expect this vaccine to work similarly. In other words, it won’t slow down the infection. It will reduce mortality and possibly reduce mortality, of course very well. But only in some people, not everyone ”.

If anything, he believes we need to adjust our expectations.

“I have a fear that it is the notion that having a vaccine will make people more lax their behavior than they are now… I support vaccines in general. I even support these vaccines. But we have to adjust our expectations and make sure we’re clear about what they’re going to do and the safe procedures. “

Listen to the Seattle Morning News on week mornings 5 ​​- 9 am on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Register with podcast here.


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