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Pine Island COVID-19 Task Force discusses protocols for first and second vaccinations

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Jan 20, 2021

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

The Pine Island COVID-19 Task Force meeting on Monday, Jan. 11, focused on vaccinations.

Task Force member Dr. Jim Koopman said he hasn’t found it reasonable to get the vaccination as of yet, while fellow board member Martha Huard said she waited in line for hers.

“I’m hearing they’re supposed to contact us for the second one,” said Huard, “but I don’t know how they’re going to do that for all of us.”

According to Huard, it is her understanding that the second vaccination is supposed to extend immunity, not increase it, but Koopman said it definitely boosts it.

“Most common vaccines — the longer you’re willing to boost, the better you are,” said Koopman, who added he is waiting for the Moderna vaccine, because it is constructed out of the entire spike protein.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for a person’s cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“I think most of the community-based ones (vaccines) are Moderna,” said Huard.

“I’ve read that if you get the second Moderna shot, that you should plan on taking the next day off of work,” said Jim McLaughlin.

Huard reported that friends and colleagues within the medical community seemed to have similar common flu-like symptoms after being vaccinated.

“I haven’t heard of anyone who wasn’t sick the day after the second shot,” said Huard.

She also said people seem to be under the impression that they have to receive the second shot 21 or 28 days after the first shot, when in reality, the second vaccination is effective, even seven or eight weeks after the first one has been received.

“I think you’re correct on that and it might be better in seven or eight weeks,” said Koopman, who is doubtful the Task Force will be able to find definitive answers, he said, because different agencies are likely to have different recommendations. Koopman said one of the most outstanding things he’s seen in the area of drifting is the tremendous variety in people’s responses with regards to the infection and vaccine. “There’s less variability in the vaccine than the infection. But you see this huge difference in what epitopes you’re developing an antigen to or how much you’re developing at all and how much it lasts,” said Koopman.

In terms of variants, he said, there have been different variants, such as from South Africa and England, as well as a number of other variants that have been detected.

The CDC website offers the following explantations of variants:

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus, a large family of viruses. Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. Scientists monitor changes in the virus, including changes to the spikes on the surface of the virus. These studies, including genetic analyses of the virus, are helping us understand how changes to the virus might affect how it spreads and what happens to people who are infected with it.

Multiple COVID-19 variants are circulating globally. In the United Kingdom, a new variant has emerged with an unusually large number of mutations. This variant seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death.

This variant was first detected in September 2020 and is now highly prevalent in London and southeast England. It has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.

Koopman continued … “As our analysis shows, you don’t expect to get re-infections or much drifting during the first epidemic. The fact that we’re seeing as much as we’re seeing is a very bad sign that drifting is going to be quite important. Of course, the drifting that occurred in southeast England was like 13 steps at once — 13 mutations altogether in one short time. The thinking is that people got this from post-immune serum or are immune-deficient individuals, such as cancer patients that had very prolonged infections so that all of the steps took place in one person.”

Koopman said while it was believed post-immune serum would be effective, it turned out not to have been used very much and where it has been used it has shown a risk of inducing variants.

Koopman explained it this way. “When you get an infection, you get a set of immune responses and then you start waning immunity and you can get re-infected and when this happens you already have some immunity, so your immune system puts a pressure on the vaccines so that the variants that can escape the immunity are the ones most likely to keep growing in you. This affects not only you, but also anyone else to whom you transmit the virus. That’s how it gets continually built up. They’re called escape mutants and you escape the immunity that’s been developed because you can still get re-infected if your immunity has waned. When you get re-infected the virus can drift and escape immunity.”

“Any reaction you have,” said Huard, “is your immune system responding to the vaccine and it means your immune system is building up and not that it is making you sick.”

“What you get injected with,” said Task Force member Sue Dahod, “is just instructions on how to make a little piece of the virus, where it attaches to your body. You don’t get the live virus. Your body is just responding to that by building up antibodies.”

Huard emphasized that the vaccine teaches your body to fight the virus, without actually having the virus.