DHHS answers questions about speed of vaccine development, side effects

RNA technology, government funding, and high volume of trial participants contributed to vaccine's rapid development.

Tens of thousands of residents in Lancaster County have registered to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but many still have unanswered questions about the vaccine and whether or not they should get it. On a Facebook Live session, Dr. Gary Anthone of Nebraska Health and Human Services said the vaccine can play a key role in helping communities progress towards a sense of normalcy.

“We’ve been doing what’s called non-pharmaceutical interventions: wearing a mask, avoiding crowded places,” Anthone said. “Now we have a vaccine that’s available, and the vaccine is just like these two non pharmaceutical interventions without having to really do those physical things.”

Anthone echoed the sentiments of Gov. Pete Ricketts, saying the goal in Nebraska’s COVID response has always been about maintaining hospital capacity, something the state has had success with as of late.

“Think of receiving the vaccine as not only benefiting yourself, but also benefiting the community,” Anthone said. “So we would definitely encourage everyone to get vaccinated when it’s your time to get vaccinated.”

Anthone also discussed the vaccine’s rapid development. He notes three factors that helped accelerate development of the vaccine: Scientific breakthroughs with RNA technology, significant funding from the government, and tens of thousands of participating in vaccine trials.

“The American public stepped it up and volunteered for these trials,” Anthone said.

The high volume of trial participants enabled the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to go through three phases of trials and provide data to demonstrate the effectiveness of the vaccine. That data was turned over to the U.S Food and Drug Administration and was approved after it showed that two doses of the vaccine could reach an 95% effectiveness rate.

“All those factors made it possible for us to do this at this warp speed type process,” Anthone said.

Still, some Americans who have received the vaccine are reporting side effects. DHHS health program manager Sara Wilson says mild side effects like sore arms and fatigue are to be expected.

“People should know going in they may experience some of that and then plan for it,” Wilson said.

Wilson does advise that people with a history of allergies or have had severe allergic reactions to ingredients in either of the two vaccines consult with their doctor before getting the vaccine.

“If you have any underlying health conditions that give you some concern, you want to talk to your health care provider,” Wilson said.

Wilson says that people who have received the vaccine and are experiencing side effects should report them to their health care provider. Additionally, there are online tools, VAERS and V-Safe, where people are able to report side effects if they have them.

How long will the vaccine protect people from COVID-19? As of now, health officials are still looking for answers.

“We’re still studying how long the vaccine is effective for,” Wilson said. “We know that it provides you immunity from COVID-19 for some period of time but exactly how long, that is we’re still figuring out.”

Categories: Coronavirus, Lancaster, Nebraska News, News