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Newsletter #2: COVID Vaccine and Long Covid

December 2020

Covid–19 News


I decided to focus my second newsletter, once again, on Covid-19.  As most of you know, the Pfizer Covid-19  vaccine as well as the Moderna vaccine have now been approved for emergency use. The AstraZeneca vaccine is not far behind.  The currently available immunizations require 2 shots, approximately 3 weeks apart.  We are getting hundreds of questions in the office.  Below are some of the most representative.


Is the vaccine safe?  All indications are that the vaccine is both safe and over 90% effective.  Unfortunately, we do not know about the potential for long-term side effects. As with most medical treatments, we must decide for ourselves if the benefits outweigh the risks.  At this point, especially in high risk groups, I certainly think that the data favors getting the vaccination.


I heard the vaccine was made from aborted fetuses, is that true?  No, the coronavirus vaccines do not contain fetal cells. Both the Vatican and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the use of coronavirus vaccines as ethical. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use clones of a cell line derived from embryonic tissue from a 1970s-era abortion during laboratory testing, but not production. The AstraZeneca and J&J-Janssen vaccines, not yet approved in the US, use a similar cloned cell line to enable production. But the fetal cells are not present in the resulting vaccines.  All fetal cell lines used originate from the 1973 cell line.  No new aborted fetal cells are being used.


What about the allergic reactions?  There have been a handful  of severe allergic reactions-primarily in patients who have a known history of severe allergies.  If you are the type of person that needs to carry an EPI-PEN for severe allergic reactions, you should certainly discuss receiving the immunization with your physician.  The CDC suggests caution if you are allergic to any of the components of the vaccine.  Good luck figuring that one out. 


Here’s a list of ingredients:


According to the FDA, "the Pfizer /BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine includes the following ingredients: mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose". Unlike the Flu vaccine, the Covid vaccine does not contain eggs.


When can I get the vaccine?  It depends.  The CDC has recommended a specific rollout based on your risk of exposure and potential for severe side effects.  These are listed below.  However, each state may alter these recommendations.  I would encourage you to check on regularly for more information regarding immunization sites..  The current recommendation is as follows:


The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that phased vaccine rollout goes to the following groups first:

Phase 1a: Front-line health care workers and people in long-term-care facilities.

Phase 1b: People 75 and older and front-line essential workers, in the following categories:

  • First responders such as firefighters, police

  • Teachers, support staff, day-care workers

  • Food and agriculture workers

  • Manufacturing workers

  • Correction workers

  • U.S. Postal Service workers

  • Public transit workers

  • Grocery store workers

Phase 1c: All people age 65 to 74, people age16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers. The high-risk medical conditions listed are:

  • Obesity

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

  • Heart condition

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Pregnancy

  • Smoker (current or with a history of smoking)


What about side effects?  For the vast majority of people, the side effects have been relatively minimal.  About  15% of people developed transient local symptoms(sore arm). Others developed transient systemic reactions, primarily headache, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or fever. These are transient reactions, which indicate a person's immune system is responding to the vaccine, and typically resolved without complication or injury.  These symptoms seem to be a bit worse with the 2nd injection.  Again, because we only have about 10 months of data, long-term side effects are unknown. You may want to contrast this with recent reports of Long Covid-19 Syndrome.

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