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Task Force discusses vaccine complications, combatting new variants

Beacon has vaccinated nearly 250 people

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Apr 28, 2021


Beacon of Hope Community Program Director Nancy Buthman told the Pine Island COVID-19 Task Force at its April 19 weekly meeting that the Beacon had given approximately 243 vaccinations, with the second dose to complete the immunization scheduled for May 4.

Task Force board member Dr. James Koopman said, in regard to the recently learned vaccine complications, where the alternative is having no vaccine, any vaccine is better than no vaccine.

“This syndrome associated with these two adenovirus mediation vaccines is a very unique syndrome, there’s just no doubt that the people that died, died from this particular syndrome … it’s directly caused,” said Koopman. “That’s always additional to what the other causes are. There’s nothing else that causes this syndrome. I think hopefully we’re going to be able to say that we have a sensitive enough system to pick up something that’s quite rare.”

Task Force member Dr. Daniel Hanley said he does not believe the Johnson & Johnson shots should ever have been paused.

“What they were trying to do was emphasize the importance of these severe and very rare side effects to the doctors, and tell them not to treat them with Heparin,” Hanley said. “At the time of the decision making process, they decided to pause it out of caution, however, we still need the shots, more importantly, maybe not for us in America, but we are the world leader right now in vaccinations and we need to reassure the world that these Johnson & Johnson shots are not only effective, but very safe. They are very safe and they don’t want people doubting that. They are extraordinarily effective, extraordinarily safe. They are the key to ending the pandemic. We are already seeing in this country that we are getting control.”

He went on to say all the discussion regarding side effects, risks and the fear factor are in his opinion, unhelpful and concerning, since we still lack control of the pandemic. Hanley would like to encourage anyone who is able, to get vaccinated.

While Koopman said he supports Hanley, he has real concerns about approving either John & Johnson or Astrazenica vaccines in the face of the known mechanism that has now been clearly identified.

“I do think that, that clear identification of the mechanism is now going to make it very difficult to approve these vaccines,” Koopman said. “If we’re making the decision on one vaccine versus another vaccine. If we were making the decision on any vaccine versus no vaccine, that’s a closed case.”

Hanley said since corona viruses are here to stay, the vaccines are likely to become booster shots in the future.

“These pharmaceutical companies know what they are doing,” Hanley said. “They are not going to put out a product that they know is going to cause their company irreparable harm. These things happen. We’re in phase four of clinical trials basically. Of course there are going to be more complications.”

Hanley reported that he has gotten approval to dispense the vaccine at his Ancuram Clinic in Bokeelia. He plans to service the high risk people on the island first. If anyone has not been vaccinated who is homebound or needs his help, he is available.

Koopman emphasized that there is a difference between someone doing whatever they like within a small group of vaccinated people, and a larger number of people, including those who can infect others.

“The real danger in this pandemic is going to be if the British variant opens a path for further drifting, which I suspect it could,” said Koopman. “If you have a large number of vaccinated people exposed in a narrow amount of time, you’re going to increase the chance of new variants occurring. If you have a large number of vaccinated people mixing with a large number of unvaccinated people, that’s a big risk.”

Koopman maintains that Lee County still has a positive testing rate of 8 percent and that this percentage needs to be brought down before the dominant British variant creates more escape mutants. According to Koopman, the things that can bring down the positivity rate are vaccinations and the continuance to remain socially distant.

“We need to put those two together at first so we can relax the social distancing with confidence,” said Koopman. “But it’s still going to be a while before we reach adequate levels to bring that down.”

As a reminder from the Task Force: If you received your first shot from the Beacon, please don’t forget to go back to complete your vaccination with the second shot on May 4.