COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ: Ask & Answered

Yesterday at work, I attended a COVID-19 Conversations event with Dr. Eric Topol, the Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, Professor, Molecular Medicine, and Executive Vice-President of Scripps Research.

Dr. Topol answered a lot of great questions, and I am sharing my learnings with the rest of you who may be wondering the same things about the COVID-19 vaccines. These are my notes from Dr. Topol as of June 14, but please do your own research if you want to learn more and stay up to date on this topic.

Does having COVID-19 in the past protect you from variants?

No, although being infected with COVID-19 gives you protection for at least a year, it does not protect you from the variants. The Delta super spreader variant from India is ~60% more contagious than the UK variant which is already ~50% more contagious than the original Wuhan strain.

If you have had COVID-19 or even just 1 dose of the vaccine, you are still vulnerable to these variants.

Should you get the vaccine if you’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes. However, you do not need to get 2 doses. You only need to get 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to complement your antibodies from being infected with COVID-19 in the past.

Dr. Topol says that a person who has developed COVID-19 antibodies through prior infection AND gets 1 dose of the vaccine is even better than a person who only had 2 doses of the vaccine.

The reason why you don’t need the 2nd dose is because of the side effects, which he says are unnecessary (you don’t need to put yourself through those side effects).

What are the long term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Apparently, there has never been a vaccine with side effects that did not show up within 2 months. This means that we already know what the long term side effects are (e.g. blood clots from the non-mRNA vaccines which are exceedingly rare).

Overall, we have a collection of vaccines that are very safe and have over 90% efficacy and do NOT cause male or female infertility, modify your DNA, etc…

Is it safe for pregnant women to get vaccinated?

Yes, according to the studies, pregnant women are recommended to get vaccinated. The good news is that the immunity is also passed onto the babies who are born.

Can you still spread COVID-19 if you’ve been vaccinated?

Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, the chance of you harbouring the virus is very low and the chance of spreading it to others is even lower.

Note: this is the case with mRNA vaccines, but not as clear with the other vaccines and is also looking at peak immunity (it is still unclear over the long term and with variants).

Can unvaccinated people spread COVID-19 to vaccinated people?

Yes, but the vaccinated individuals will most likely have little to no symptoms.

Will we need boosters in the future?

We may not need boosters since the vaccines are very effective. However, higher risk groups may be recommended to get boosters for extra protection in the future.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine protect against other viruses?

No, you can still get infected with other viruses like the common cold that are from the coronavirus family.

When will society be “safe and contained” again?

Once we can get your numbers down to 1 case out of 100,000 people, then we’ve essentially “got it under control”.

Socializing outdoors has always been a low risk of spreading COVID-19. Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, it is safe to see other people who have been vaccinated.

Can you mix and match vaccines?

There are multiple reports that show that this can be quite effective with Astra Zeneca + mRNA or J&J + mRNA. However, we’re still not sure if this is advised yet. We still need more data when it comes to the other vaccines (e.g. Sinopharm).

Is it safe to travel once you’re vaccinated?

Once you’re fully vaccinated (2 weeks past 2nd dose), it should be safe for you to travel. Same with if you have been infected with COVID-19 and have had 1 dose of vaccine.

When will we get full FDA approval?

Full authorization is granted after the FDA reviews an application that is 10,000+ pages long. However, Pfizer and Moderna have been submitting their application paperwork in stages, instead of waiting to compile all 10,000 pages at once.

Hope this was helpful and answered some of your pressing questions about COVID-19!

Feel free to share this and remember to do your own research if you want to learn more and stay updated.