As a doctor at NYU Langone Health, today it was my turn to get theagainst SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes .
In addition to attending patients in my office, I perform procedures as a gastroenterologist who can expose me to the aerosolized virus.
This was me last April in the COVID wards, stunned by the devastation.
I am now surprised – and thrilled – that vaccines were developed in less than a year. I know that some people were discouraged by the termdue to fear that vaccines are being developed too quickly. But the record time from the publication of the SARS-CoV-2 gene sequence to the start of Phase 1 safety tests has been achieved due to decades of previous research that developed so-called “vaccine platforms”.
On December 15, I interviewed the director of the National Institutes of Health, and he gave me an easy-to-understand analogy for these platforms. Imagine that there is a factory making some kind of widget. “You find out how to make widgets very well, and then you can change the design a little bit, and you can make a different widget, but very fast, because you already have the assembly line there. It’s more or less what we are doing with these platforms. vaccines. “
Although vaccines against COVID are being developed in record time, this was not so much a sudden jump as a gradual reduction in the time we need to develop a vaccine.
According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2003, it took 20 months from selecting a genetic sequence for the SARS virus circulating at that time to the first human injection of a vaccine. With H5N1 (bird flu) in 2006, that time was reduced to 11 months. H1N1 (swine flu) took 4 months,, 3.25 months. Like against COVID-19, the SARS-CoV-2 sequence was posted on January 10, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Moderna started work on January 11, manufacturing started on January 14 and the Phase 1 trial started on March 16, 2020 – just about two months after the viral sequence was known. What a scientific tour de force!
Operation Warp Speed started on May 15 and helped speed up testing of vaccine candidates by reducing red tape, but I trust public health officials, includingI was assured that no corner was cut. I reviewed the at public meetings of the FDA advisory committee that reviewed applications for emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and I agree with the FDA’s decision that, based on the current scientific evidence available, the benefits of these vaccines outweigh by the risks a lot. was authorized for over 16 years old, Moderna for over 18 years old.
Researchers are investigating some serious issuesthat have occurred in about 1 in 45,000 people so far who have received the Pfizer vaccine, and they will be on the lookout for any other unexpected side effects in the future. It is too early to know the exact incidence of these reactions. This morning, I went to Dr. Fauci for information on allergic reactions, and he sent me a message: “One of my divisions here at NIAID is planning a study to explore all of this – incidence, mechanisms, etc.”
For me, the benefit of being protected far outweighs the highly unlikely risk of a serious side effect.
For me, getting the vaccine was exactly the same as getting a flu shot. I felt a little pinch and I’m still fine two hours later. Nothing more.
What I felt most was a mixture of emotions – okay. I was taken aback by crying when I started describing how I felt about our CBS News camera. I think the weight of all these months – taking care of patients, trying to keep myself, my loved ones, my friends and so many others safe, along with the stressful work of reporting the pandemic – has caught up with me.
I felt a wave of relief, although I know that it will still be a challenge to obtain sufficient immunization. I was grateful that vaccines are becoming available less than a year after we recognized that there was a new coronavirus.
And I was amazed at the scientific achievement. I know logically about the decades of research that led to my immunization. I understand how a small piece of genetic code – messenger RNA – hidden within a protective lipid nanoparticle creates immunity to SARS-CoV-2, bypassing the immune system and making it think that it is being attacked by the virus. But there is also a part of me that sees this amazing achievement as pure magic.