The first vaccine against covid, made by the companies BioNTech and Pfizer, will begin to be administered this Sunday in Spain.
These are the main doubts about these injections, answered with the information provided by the health authorities that have already approved the vaccine, such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS).
How do you get the vaccine?
The vaccine requires two injections, at least 21 days apart, into the deltoid muscle in the upper arm. Each prick includes 30 millionths of a gram of tozinameran, a molecule with genetic information about the new coronavirus.
Can it hurt?
The vaccine, whose trade name is Comirnaty, usually produces very mild reactions. Effects observed in its experimental stage included slight pain at the injection site (in 84% of those vaccinated), tiredness (63%), headache (55%), muscle pain (38%), chills ( 32%), joint pain (24%) and fever (14%).
The incidence of serious adverse reactions, however, was very low: about 0.6%, a reassuringly similar figure to that seen in people who did not receive the vaccine, but a saline water injection for comparison.
Can a person with allergies be vaccinated?
The US health authorities have detected six cases of serious allergic reactions as of December 19, after about 272,000 people vaccinated. The leaflet itself warns that the vaccine should not be administered to people with excessive sensitivity to any of its ingredients.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is the main suspect in causing these extraordinarily rare allergies , a compound found in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as many traditional medications, such as some constipation drugs. Polyethylene glycol is harmless to the vast majority of the population.
“As with all vaccines, Comirnaty must be administered under close medical supervision, with the necessary medical treatment available,” explains the Spanish regulatory agency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that people with severe allergic reactions to food, pets or even oral medications can be vaccinated , although 30 minutes of observation after the injection is recommended, compared to 15 usual minutes.
If something happens to me, is it because of the vaccine?
Not necessarily, it may be a coincidence. As physician Robert Wachter explained three weeks ago, if 10 million Americans receive the vaccine, 14,000 will die, 4,000 will have a heart attack, and 14,000 will be diagnosed with cancer over the next two months.
“And none of this will have anything to do with vaccines,” said Wachter of the University of California, San Francisco.
Can children get vaccinated?
No, at the moment the health authorities only recommend the vaccine for people over 16 years of age. The manufacturing companies have already announced new studies to evaluate the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in children.
Can pregnant women or nursing mothers get vaccinated?
Experiments with pregnant rats do not suggest any harmful effects of the vaccine during pregnancy, but there is still little data in women.
The European Medicines Agency recommends that pregnant and lactating mothers consult a health professional about their benefits and risks. The institution, however, states that ” no risk is expected during breastfeeding.”
How effective is this vaccine?
The authorization of this vaccine is based on one of the largest clinical trials in history, according to the virologist Agustín Portela, from the Spanish agency.
Efficacy was studied in about 36,000 volunteers: half were given the actual vaccine and the other half received injections of saline water for comparison. Among the 18,000 vaccinated, there were eight with covid symptoms a week after receiving the second dose, compared to 162 cases in the same period in the unvaccinated group.
This 95% efficacy, according to the European agency , is similar in women and men, in different racial and ethnic groups and in patients at risk, such as people with asthma, diabetes, lung disease, hypertension or obesity.
Can mutations in the virus reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine?
The recent identification of new variants of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom and South Africa has raised alarms about the unlikely possibility that they affect the effectiveness of vaccines.
The BioNTech / Pfizer injection is actually a recipe for some human cells to make the real vaccine: a harmless fragment of the virus, its spike protein, with which the body’s defenses are safely trained. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin sent a reassuring message on Tuesday.
“Although this new variant [detected in the UK] has multiple mutations, it only changes 1% of this protein. And that means that 99% remains the same, “Sahin said in an interview.with German public television.
The doctor and businessman believes that it is “very likely” that the defenses induced by his vaccine continue to attack the spike protein even though it has changed by 1%. The results of the experiments to confirm your hypothesis will arrive in a couple of weeks.
Should I keep wearing the mask after the vaccine?
Yes, this vaccine is very effective in preventing covid in those vaccinated, but it is still unknown whether it also prevents them from having asymptomatic infections and being contagious.
People receiving injections will have to temporarily continue wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and avoiding poorly ventilated areas. The goal is to vaccinate more than 70% of the population in the coming months. Only then will the pandemic end.