COVID Q&A: Pittsburgh vaccine experts say we’re in a race to vaccinate and educate before it’s too late

by Oliver Morrison

The country is in a race against time. 

Public health officials are trying to vaccinate as many people as possible to limit how many Americans get sick and die and to stop the virus before it mutates and becomes even harder to stop.  

There is a second race that will become even more important as time goes on: the task of quickly convincing people that the vaccine is safe. Right now, tens of millions of Americans have yet to commit to taking the vaccine. Many others are not eligible for the vaccine, including everyone younger than 16. 

We spoke to two researchers in Pittsburgh about this challenge. Whichever spreads faster — the vaccine or the virus; vaccine science or vaccine misinformation — will determine whether many thousands of Americans live or die. We combined the interviews for clarity and brevity.

Paul Duprex is the director of the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, and Matt Moffa is the director of infection prevention at West Penn Hospital. 

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

Moffa: Both vaccines were found to be about 95 percent effective against symptomatic infection. So what that means is they study different endpoints of patients that became symptomatic and then they test them to see if they have COVID-19. And 95% of them were the group that didn’t get the vaccine.

The most common side effect with both of these vaccines is a sore arm. That’s usually the site of injection, typically relief through over-the-counter pain medication. Others got low-grade fevers, chills, headaches, fatigue. These are all actually signs that your immune system is is working for you and creating antibodies

Duprex: Even though they don’t work 100%, they still give us protection and it’s better to get a vaccine than it is to get the disease.

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COVID Q&A: Pittsburgh vaccine experts say we’re in a race to vaccinate and educate before it’s too late

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