DEARBORN — On Tuesday, May 18, community members attended a virtual town hall on COVID-19 vaccination held by ACCESS, the ACC, the Protect Michigan Commission, the MDHHS, Unity Community Family Services and The Arab American News.
Panel members included Evone Barkho, MD; Sawsan Jamil, MD; Farah Jalloul; Imad Obeid, MD; Madiha Tariq, MD; Zafer Obeid, MD and Fayrouz Saad.
The town hall highlighted health outcomes in coordination with persisting and overcoming the pandemic.
There are currently three authorized vaccines in the United States, including the Johnson and Johnson DNA/Adenovirus vaccine, as well as the NIAID Moderna and BioNTech Pfizer mRNA vaccines.
The Pizer (12+), Moderna (18+) and Johnson & Johnson (18+) vaccines are 95 percent, 94.1 percent and 66.3 percent effective, respectively.
The Pfizer vaccine and the moderna vaccine are both given in two doses, three weeks and four weeks apart, respectively. The J & J vaccine consists of only one shot.
When the CDC gave mask guidance, this comes after long studies and having less cases or severity of COVID (after getting vaccinated). The disease will be very mild and virus transmission will decrease – Evone Barkho, MD
How effective is the vaccine against new COVID-19 variants?
A question asked about the effectiveness of the vaccines against new COVID-19 variants that emerge.
Imad Obeid compared the purpose of the vaccine to convalescent plasma, which is when antibodies are generated from the body’s immune system to the novel coronavirus. Moreover, convalescent plasma refers to therapy that uses blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to help other people recover (passive immunity).
“The convalescent plasma still neutralizes those (newer) variants and is still effective as shown in lab testing,” said Obeid, a pulmonologist in Warren. “The vaccine should be able to protect us as well.”
According to Obeid, the vaccine also generates an immune response in the body against COVID-19. It helps the body develop immunity to the virus without actually getting the illness.
After receiving the vaccine, the body is left with memory immune cells that will remember how to fight the virus in case of infection in the future. These various immune cells perform different functions, including the process of making antibodies that can kill and neutralize the virus if someone does get infected in the future.
The vaccine, as mentioned by the panelists, supports the body and trains it to protect against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its associated COVID-19 disease.
Jamil, an OB/GYN in Warren, elaborated on how the vaccines are manufactured and how they do NOT damage DNA nor cause COVID-19 illness.
“It is not a live vaccine that will come and control cells (like how a virus will),” Jamil said.
She said the vaccine is indeed very safe, for it is only made from a noninfectious particle from the virus and does not encompass anything else of the virus at all.
Objectively, the COVID-19 vaccines are made using the spike protein, a noninfectious particle on the virus’ surface. Its purpose is to be recognized by the body’s immune system and hence create a defense system for the body against COVID-19 and prevent transmission or spread.
This should not be a stigma. Ask a nurse, doctor or pharmacist about the vaccine – Farah Jalloul
Are there any complications of the vaccine? How can the vaccine help with COVID-19 complications and symptoms?
Obeid stated that COVID-19 can have numerous symptoms, including physical and some psychological and cognitive ones.
Shortness of breath and fatigue are common because of muscle weakness and deconditioning during a COVID-19 infection. Chest congestion, pains and cough are also common.
Psychological impacts are anxiety, depression and/or fogginess experienced related to being hospitalized or staying at home. Obeid added that some patients can experience PTSD from being admitted to the intensive Care Unit (ICU).
A few patients who suffered from COVID-19 may need some rehab or physical activity, as this is not only a lung issue, but can also lead to impacts of muscle weakness and deconditioning.
If someone were to get infected after being fully immunized by the vaccine, the length of illness will be much shorter, preventing development of chest pains or shortness of breath. For its part, the vaccine will prevent damage that will be caused to an individual infected with the virus.
Having a comprehensive response for vaccine administration
“The process of receiving the vaccine is easier now than it was before,” Jalloul said. Finding the closest vaccine pod can be done utilizing vaccines.gov, dialing 211 or contacting local pharmacies or vaccine centers to schedule appointments.
“Some places even allow walk-ins!” she added.
Madiha also said the response of the public health system needs to be open and comprehensive. One does not need insurance to receive the vaccine, as any vaccine clinic will provide service. Yet, those who have insurance should bring their card to the vaccination center.
Experts suggest this does not mean all vaccinated people can ignore wearing masks or social distancing in clinical settings, airports, train stations or even the mall
New guidance and the CDC
This year is very different than 2020 and when the global pandemic was first issued.
“When the CDC gave mask guidance, this comes after long studies and having less cases or severity of COVID (after getting vaccinated),” Barkho said. “The disease will be very mild and virus transmission will decrease.”
New guidelines are constantly being released about lifting mask requirements for vaccinated individuals whether vaccinated individuals are together or attending some public places. However, experts suggest this does not mean all vaccinated people can ignore wearing masks or social distancing in clinical settings, airports, train stations or even the mall.
Epidemiology and herd immunity: How can vaccination help us “be normal again?”
The level of herd immunity and R-nought (Ro) are two values often used by infectious disease epidemiologists to attest to the infectiousness of an infectious disease, like COVID-19.
Ro reflects the average of people who can become infected from a person who is already infected during the course of disease; this value differs between pathogens and even between different strains of a certain pathogen.
The lower the Ro, the less infectious the pathogen is; an Ro of 2 means a person infected can spread the virus to two other people.
The Ro value of SARS-CoV-2 virus is between 1.4 to 3.9, with values being in a range given different pathogenicity of new variants and strains.
Herd immunity is the minimum percentage of people who need to be immune to the disease in the community in order to prevent an outbreak.
Moreover, epidemiologists and public health experts emphasize herd immunity is a function of vaccination and less transmission of the virus in a community/population.
“This should not be a stigma,” Jalloul said, illuminating the importance of discussing the vaccine rather than opposing it immediately. ”Ask a nurse, doctor, or pharmacist about the vaccine.”
To understand more about Ro or herd immunity, click the link to launch a simulation guide. https://sph.umich.edu/covid/student-projects/activity-rohi.html