COVID-19 VACCINES

- WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW - 

 

While we recognize that many people having differing opinions regarding vaccines in general, the information below is merely meant to inform as part of a basic overview. Where possible, we’ve provided quotes from well-respected scientific journals, historical facts and up-to-date information from Health Canada, but we’ve also tried to keep it straight-forward (things are changing so rapidly, it’s also hard for us as doctors to keep up, so please bear with us).

There’s no way we’d be able to keep up the information as it changes daily, so either please ask your family physician in person for more up-to-date information, or check out the official Health Canada website about COVID-19 vaccines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT PHASES

Source: https://www.alberta.ca/covid19-vaccine.aspx

Our clinic won't have the COVID-19 vaccine. To our knowledge, this will only be administered at specific sites, yet to be identified.

Click HERE for the official Alberta website above for more up-to-date information. These are the rollout phases currently planned:

Early Phase 1: December 2020

Immunizations were offered to key populations, with a focus on acute care sites with the highest COVID-19 capacity concerns in Edmonton and Calgary:

  • Health-care workers in intensive care units

  • Respiratory therapists

  • Staff in long term care and designated supportive living facilities

Phase 1A: January 2021

Immunizations are being offered to key populations across the province:

  • Respiratory therapists

  • Health-care workers in intensive care units

  • Staff in long term care and designated supportive living facilities

  • Home care workers

  • Health-care workers in emergency departments

  • All residents of long term care and designated supportive living, regardless of age

  • Health-care workers in COVID-19 units, medical and surgical units, and operating rooms

  • Paramedics and emergency medical technicians

Phase 1B: February 2021

Timeline subject to change depending on vaccine supply

Immunizations will soon be offered to key populations:

  • Seniors 75 years of age and over, no matter where they live

  • First Nations, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Metis Settlement

Phase 2: April to Sept 2021 – continue targeting populations at risk

  • Work to identify sequencing for Phase 2 groups is underway. Decisions will be made in the coming weeks.

Phase 3: Fall 2021

  • Anticipated start of roll-out to the general public

If you’re interested in delving a bit deeper as you read this, you can click on the underlined links below.

 

OVERVIEW

While the whole COVID-19 situation and everything leading up to this point can be described in one word (“unpredictable”), what excites us is what the new COVID-19 vaccines have in common with mRNA-Based Personalized Cancer Vaccines

In other words, the COVID-19 technology isn’t new, a similar method has been used for years to fight cancer, using your body’s own immune system to fight cancer.  

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/cca/if-cca-immunotherapy-information-for-patients-and-families.pdf

WHY IS THE COVID-19 VACCINE DIFFERENT?

Simply put, it’s an mRNA vaccine (messenger ribonucleic acid). Although the technology has been around for a while, and there are similarities with cancer immunotherapy, never before have these specific mRNA vaccines - such as the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that have now received emergency use authorization - been approved for use in any disease.

 

HOW IT WORKS

The mRNA molecule is essentially a recipe (code) that’s injected into your body, telling the cells of the body how to make the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus. The cell then displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune system recognizes that the protein doesn't belong there and begins building an immune response and making antibodies (without harming other normal cells). After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them.

SOURCE: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/vaccines/type-mrna.html

           

These vaccines can be made quickly, are cheaper and generally considered very safe.

MORE INFORMATION: https://www.nature.com/articles/nrd.2017.243

 

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is made using this newer technology, and was the first one released in Alberta in December 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for a VIDEO overview and ingredient list:

https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/pfizer-covid-19-vaccine-ingredient-list

 

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA technology, too. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is also being prepped for emergency authorization.

 

WHAT IS A VACCINE

The word vaccine, and vaccination, actually comes from the name for a pox virus—the cowpox virus, vaccinia, to be exact, as outlined in Edward Jenner’s famous Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae. This reminds us that it is 200 years since Jenner published his initial evidence that inoculated cowpox (although some believe it may also have been horsepox) was a safe alternative to inoculated smallpox (variolation) for the prevention of smallpox.

YOUR BODY REACTS, AND REMEMBERS

Traditional vaccines use “bits and pieces” of a virus, or a “live, attenuated virus” which means it’s a weakened version. It isn’t supposed to be capable of infecting and harming the body, but still makes your immune system “remember” it as something to attack in the future. Your immune system still starts the same reaction as if you were sick, but then says “Hang on, there’s nothing bad here, but let’s remember this thing just in case”. That’s why some people feel achy, tired and can have a low-grade fever after a vaccination.

Typically, these vaccines have to be grown in something. As an example, for more than 70 years, seasonal flu vaccines are mostly grown in eggs.

This is why people with egg allergies have to be cautious with traditional vaccines.

 

 

 

YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

Think of your immune system (your white blood cells, and especially lymphocytes for the purposes of this article) as microscopic soldiers, with various ways of fighting…. They can chomp the foreign body (eg. a virus) like Pacman, or they shoot their “bullets” called histamine.

Sometimes the immune system over-reacts and freaks out at the slightest foreign body (allergic reactions), which is why you’re typically treated with an anti-histamine (like Benadryl or Reactine, etc.). But that’s a whole other topic…

 

You’ve probably already heard about people getting allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. This is just the immune system doing its job, and sometimes it over-reacts. A lot more information is still needed on this, but essentially what it comes down to is "benefit vs. risk".

 

INNOVATIONS AND THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE

Think about the COVID-19 vaccine this way… what other alternative do we have at the moment?

Much of the advice the medical profession has been giving to patients is similar to what physicians told patients in 1918, just after World War I had ended and the Spanish flu arrived on Calgary’s doorsteps (stay at home, wear a mask, wash your hands). This still remains vital and solid advice and should be adhered to at all times… but finally we are incorporating new technology.

We don’t yet know all the details about this new vaccine, but what we do know is that children are growing up today not knowing what Smallpox is (Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980), and we no longer require vaccination or treatment for Smallpox. Children today also don’t know what Polio is, and their parents arguably have never met anyone with polio (although possibly their grandparents and great-grandparents probably will remember the Iron Lung)

Polio crippled tens of thousands of Canadians until the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955. Canada was certified "polio free" in 1994, although the polio vaccine still forms part of the Alberta Vaccination Schedule.

 

So yes, there’s still a lot we don’t know about COVID-19 and this new vaccine. Change and new medical technology can be overwhelming and sometimes we just don't know if it will work, but it can also be life-saving. When the stethoscope was first invented around 200 years ago, doctors mocked their colleagues who started using them. That quickly changed once they saw the benefits.

SUMMARY

There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the world, but if you look past the typical news articles and look up some of the amazing medical breakthroughs that are happening at the moment, it makes us very hopeful for the future.

So much of medicine over the past few thousand years has been trial and error. Think about it… penicillin was discovered by accident on mould in 1928. One hundred years ago, if you got strep throat, you just suffered through it, or it spread to other organs, and chances of dying were very high.

There were no antibiotics in all the wars in history, prior to the penicillin breakthrough, and the single biggest cause of death in war was not combat, it was infection

X-rays, the ECG, CT and MRI machines… what else is there to discover? Throughout history, technology has typically improved healthcare. We as the human race have to experiment, we have to explore and create, and we have to push the boundaries and think outside the box for the benefit of the human race.

As physicians, we are in favour of anything that improves disease outcome, and overall improves our patients’ quality of life.

 

As such, as the bizarre COVID-19 journey continues into 2021, we remain hopeful.

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