As many Yakima Valley residents weigh whether to get vaccinated, they’re asking questions about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as other methods of intervention.
Earlier this month, state public health experts fielded some of those questions in a candid online question and answer forum.
Here are answers to vaccine questions from Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, and Kathy Bay, the state Department of Health’s clinical and quality assurance section manager — as well as Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Marty Brueggemann.
The Yakima Herald-Republic will be running these questions and answers over the next few days.
If a person has had COVID-19, do they have natural immunity or do they still need to get vaccinated?
Recent research indicates that natural immunity from contracting COVID-19 likely does not last as long as the protection provided by a COVID-19 vaccine, Bay said. Those who are vaccinated after getting COVID-19 tend to have “much longer lasting immunities and don’t feel the disease again when they are exposed,” Bay said. She said she recommends getting vaccinated if you’ve had COVID-19 in the past.
Lindquist conceded that this is counterintuitive, since natural immunity through exposure to things like chickenpox is known to be more effective than the corresponding vaccine. But he echoed Bay, saying that has not been found to be the case with COVID-19 — the vaccine is more effective than natural immunity in this virus’ case.
Should individuals get tested for antibodies after getting COVID-19 or a COVID-19 vaccine?
No. Antibodies are not a marker for immunity, but instead are a proxy, Lindquist said. He said the presence of antibodies shows that the body had a response to COVID-19, but does not indicate whether or not someone is immune — making a test unhelpful.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines experimental?
No. All three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. went through the necessary vetting protocol required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The process was fast-tracked in response to the urgent need of a treatment, and the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were approved for emergency use.
On Aug. 23, the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the FDA, which required six months of follow-up data.
The mRNA technology used in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have been used in the past for vaccines to fight rabies and Zika, among other things, said Lindquist. “So this technology has been around for quite a while.”