Vaccine Science in the Context of COVID-19
Dr Jessica Stokes-Parish (PhD, RN) and Romy Blacklaw (IPN, RN) provide a refresher via webinar on vaccine science and summarise the development of COVID-19 vaccines during the current pandemic.
With the urgency of the pandemic, researchers and developers collaborated globally to develop a safe vaccine. Building on decades of experience with coronavirus research (e.g. SARS & MERS), advancement of mRNA therapies (for cancer and viruses) and early identification of the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2, scientists were able to apply lessons learned to the current situation. On top of this, huge financial investment and the innovation of the internet (to communicate) paved the way for this rapid development to achieve such resounding success.
Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines have extensive safety testing behind them – in the clinical trials, tens of thousands of participants were enrolled, some of the highest numbers ever seen. Since the commencement of administration, millions of doses (billions when you include other vaccines) have been delivered.
After any vaccine is registered and starts to be given to people, vaccination experts and regulators continue to monitor vaccine safety in several ways. Australia’s safety monitoring is robust, including passive and active measures of surveillance. This safety information is publicly shared via AusVaxSafety.org.au and TGA.gov.au. As an example, in the 2000s, passive and active surveillance identified febrile seizure episodes related to a particular brand of the annual FluVax in children. This active monitoring resulted in the vaccine being pulled from the market within 7 weeks of its rollout.
A major part of the webinar was exploring common myths and misunderstandings about the vaccination (some addressed above regarding development), and highlighting the need to be vigilant in critically appraising content we see online and in our conversations. “Misinformation spreads 6 times faster than facts” is the common saying and is backed by research on social media. Vaccinations and infectious diseases are one of the more common fields with rampant misinformation – HIV, Zika Virus and more. We addressed topics such as the vaccine manipulating DNA (FACT: It can’t – the vaccine mRNA doesn’t enter the nucleus of the cell), long term effects of vaccines (FACT: Most vaccine adverse events occur within 6 weeks of vaccination. The vaccine itself only lasts in the body for a few days, two weeks at most).
To help pick out myths and misinformation, you might find the mnemonic “CRABS” helpful.
C-Conflict of Interest: Is there a political, financial or other conflict underpinning this message?
R-References: Are there references cited, if yes – are they credible references?
A-Author: Who is the author? What is their expertise? Are they well-regarded in their profession?
B-Buzz words: Are there buzz words present that prey on your emotions? Death or other negative tones?
S-Scope of Practice: Is the author overreaching their scope?
To hear more from Jessica and Romy, you can find them at @j_stokesparish and @theimmunisationnurse on social media
For a limited time, you can NSWNMA members can view the “Vaccine Science in the Context of COVID-19″ webinar on Member Central.