COVID-19 vaccines effective at reducing infections, not just symptoms

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Zach Gilbert
NEWS EDITOR

COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective at not just reducing the symptoms associated with coronavirus but also preventing infections as well. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Though some have feared that COVID-19 vaccines may prevent the vaccinated from being hospitalized while still allowing the continual circulation of “silent infections,” a recent CDC study shows that this is thankfully not the case.

New data – collected from 4,000 health care workers, first responders, delivery workers and teachers who were vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines between December 2020 and March 2021 – reveals that vaccines have caused a 90% reduction in all infections. When people aren’t getting infected, they can’t transmit coronavirus to others either.

Some still remain worried about new virus variants, a few of which could possibly evade antibodies generated by the original COVID-19 strain. However, experts like Paul Offit – of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – remain hopeful, as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown some solid efficacy against currently known variants and good efficacy against one in particular – the B.1.1.7 strain that originated in the U.K.

Offit is also optimistic about the success of the vaccines overall, looking to Israel – where most of the population is already vaccinated – and how their scientific data has shown rapidly decreasing deaths and hospitalizations.

“Nothing is foolproof, but people will be much safer mixing with others who are vaccinated than those who are not,” Offit recently said.

The CDC’s study also puts to rest any fears that the terrific clinical trial results for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines wouldn’t hold up in “the real world,” especially given their small sample size.

The results of this study showed that there were 161 infections in the control group of 994 unvaccinated people, whereas, in contrast, among the 2,479 vaccinated participants, only eight became infected between their first and second doses, and only three were infected after being fully vaccinated.

Offit also made sure to note that COVID-19 vaccines don’t just induce antibodies, as they additionally instigate cellular immunity as well, stimulating the production of specialized virus-fighting cells known as “T-cells.” T-cells work against a wider range of variants than antibodies, and they last longer than antibodies as well. In Offit’s words, they are what gives the vaccines the power to “remember” and fight a pathogen months later.

Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at UCSF, echoed Offit’s enthusiasm, stating that she does think the vaccines will “effectively end the pandemic,” because of the T-cells’ ability to defeat different variants of COVID-19.

“I do understand it almost seems too good to be true that the vaccines will get us out of this,” Gandhi said. “But they will.”

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