Clearing up COVID-19 confusion, part 1: Vaccines

January 17, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be unpredictable and, at times, confusing. It can be exhausting trying to keep up.

Unfortunately, it’s not over yet, so we need to steel ourselves and continue the safety precautions we’ve been taking since the beginning.

Scientists have evidence from the last two years that helps us understand how to stay safe and avoid serious illness or death.

The COVID-19 vaccine is the safest and smartest way to protect yourself from COVID-19, but there’s some misinformation about it out there. We’ll try to clear up some of the confusion here.

Vaccine myth: The Pfizer vaccine isn’t FDA approved.

In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for people age 16 and older. That emergency use authorization (EUA) has been expanded over the last year to include anyone age 5 and older.

In August 2021, the FDA officially approved the Pfizer vaccine for ages 16 and older. As part of the official approval, the agency reported that the vaccine would be “marketed as Comirnaty.”

Before vaccines are officially approved, they’re known by the name of the company that created them. Once they’re licensed for use in the U.S. by the FDA, most vaccines are given a name. Even the Varicella Virus Vaccine Live (chickenpox vaccine) has a name: VARIVAX.

Pfizer simply named their officially approved vaccine Comirnaty. It’s still the same vaccine that was approved by the FDA and is used under the EUA for people age 5 to 16.

Vaccine myth: More breakthrough cases mean vaccines don’t work.

This myth has been given more credence in recent months as the omicron variant has ramped up in the U.S. Vaccinated people are getting infected. They likely can spread it to others while they’re most contagious. Therefore, the vaccine isn’t doing a lot of good according to the myth.

A few key points debunk this myth:

  • While the vaccines’ protection against infection is not as high with newer variants, especially the omicron variant, if you are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and received a booster, the chances of catching omicron are 70% lower than if you are not vaccinated. If you are vaccinated but have not received a booster, the chances of catching omicron are 30% lower compared to being unvaccinated. The protection against severe infection is even stronger, 70% reduction if vaccinated, but not boosted, and expected to be much stronger if boosted.
  • Severe COVID-19 pneumonia requiring hospitalization predominantly occurs in those who have not been vaccinated or who are immunocompromised.
  • More vaccinated people are being infected during this omicron wave, not because the vaccines don’t work, but because omicron is highly contagious, and more people overall are being infected. The variant has spread like wildfire and is very easy to catch.

While those who are vaccinated and infected with omicron can still feel sick, it is typically short lived and not likely to develop into pneumonia. However, the highly transmissible omicron variant can still be transmitted to others, including the most vulnerable.

Anyone, including vaccinated people, with symptomatic COVID-19 should consider themselves contagious and follow the recommended quarantine procedure laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What's the point?

For the unvaccinated, COVID-19 can be extremely dangerous. For those who are up to date with all COVID-19 vaccines, not immunocompromised, young and without other health conditions, it may seem like COVID-19 isn’t a big deal.

But even if you don’t get severely ill, you may pass it on to someone else who is vulnerable and requires hospitalization, not to mention the impact on lost work. The rapid spread of the omicron variant has resulted in hospitals being beds filling up, ICUs reaching capacity, and increased increasing number of COVID-19 deaths.

Edward-Elmhurst has COVID-19 vaccine appointments available to ages 5 and older, including booster doses for ages 12 and older. It is easy to schedule a vaccine appointment. You do not need a MyChart account. Schedule your COVID-19 vaccine now.

The information in this article may change at any time due to the changing landscape of this pandemic. Read more about COVID-19.

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