Considering getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available? The Carillon spoke with Dr. Curtis Krahn of Steinbach Family Medical, who thinks getting vaccinated against the virus is a good idea.
Could you explain basically what a vaccine is and what it does?
Very simply, a vaccine is a tiny, weakened, non-dangerous fragment of an otherwise dangerous organism. When injected into the human body it will produce an immune response strong enough that if your body is confronted with the real pathogen, for example the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it will recognize it as an intruder and be able to defeat it.
Older vaccines used portions of the actual organism itself. Some of the newer vaccines, including the messenger RNA viruses, such as the Pfizer BioNTech and Tech and the Moderna vaccine are much more elegant and really just present your body with a blueprint of a small non-dangerous portion of the virus rather than having actual viral particles. We don't have to be concerned about the possibility of injecting either human tissue or other animal particles (like the chicken eggs used to produce the flu virus) into our bodies. Also, the newer vaccines may not require preservatives, but that unfortunately means that they may need to be stored at significant sub-zero temperatures.
Are you concerned about the possible short-term or long-term effects of a brand new vaccine once injected, or do these effects tend to be so minimal that they don't warrant much concern?
I'm not really concerned about significant side effects. We know there may be some immediate side effects lasting 1-2 days and that's just part of the immune system ramping itself up as it would with a real infection. The effect of soreness at the injection site or perhaps a mild fever or fatigue is exactly the sort of response that you would get if your body were fighting a germ and building up an immune response to the actual organism. And there certainly are reports of more serious allergic reactions but those are extremely rare.
I know I've heard concerns about the unknown and I acknowledge vaccine hesitancy. I must say that within the course of my career vaccines have become much cleaner, purer and safer than they originally were. But even the old vaccines had effectiveness which far outweighed any possible risk they may have had….
I'm encouraged that we had the initial trials with 30 to 40,000 people failing to identify any significant health concerns with the vaccine…
My concern is not about people getting the vaccine — my concern is about people not getting the vaccine and allowing this pandemic to continue when we have the chance to stop it. I would encourage readers to look up reliable resources such as WHO, CDC and the Manitoba Shared Health websites. I also like ImmunizeBC from British Columbia.
Are you concerned the vaccines were approved and manufactured as quickly as they were? Or might this timeline be normal compared to other vaccines?
The rapid approval and manufacturer of vaccines is an indication of a couple of things — all of them good. It's astounding that by Jan. 11, 2020, shortly after the actual disease was recognized, we already had the genetic code for the organism which causes the disease. That allowed developers to get started producing a vaccine against the virus and by March 2020 the first vaccines were available for testing. That's not because it was a hasty slipshod process. It's because the world has thrown all of its resources against this illness, much as it ramped up technology and production in World War II. There has been a unified international collaboration to fight this pandemic and we're using technologies I could not even have been imagined when I started my medical career.
Would you be in favour of young, healthy people, with a low likelihood of being seriously affected by COVID, getting the vaccine?
I certainly would be in favour of immunizing young healthy people, even if they have a low likelihood of being seriously affected by COVID-19. This of course would have to be after others are immunized and only for vaccines approved in their age group. That's because some [people] will be the reservoirs that would otherwise keep the disease alive in the population of the world. And the more people who have that virus floating around in them, even if they don't appear to get very symptomatic, the more likelihood that we are going to get more dangerous mutations.
Do you expect mask usage to be common long after a great number of people in Manitoba are vaccinated?
Once we have immunity in the majority of the population we can stop having rules about masks. We can start getting together with family and friends. We can start living the rich, rewarding, socially wonderful lives that we have led before. I think the present generation will be a lot more cautious about their health but they will also celebrate the fact that we have an opportunity as a society to defeat some very real health concerns. I don't see masks as being representative of fear at this point, I see masks as representative of an ability to do something about a problem. But I'll be very happy when we no longer have the problem.