At a virtual press conference held by the WHO Dec. 28, 2020, officials warned there is no guarantee that COVID-19 vaccines will prevent people from being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and transmitting it to other people.
In a New Year’s Day interview with Newsweek, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reinforced the WHO’s admission that health officials do not know if COVID-19 vaccines prevent infection or if people can spread the virus to others after getting vaccinated.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization in December 2020 for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna to release their experimental mRNA vaccines for use in the U.S., the companies only provided evidence from clinical trials to demonstrate that, compared to unvaccinated trial participants, their vaccines prevented more mild to severe COVID-19 disease symptoms in vaccinated participants.
COVID-19 vaccines designed to prevent severe disease
According to WHO officials, while it appears the vaccines can prevent clinically symptomatic COVID-19 clinical disease, there is no clear evidence COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing asymptomatic infection and transmission. During the press conference, WHO chief scientist and pediatrician Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said:
We continue to wait for more results from the vaccine trials to really understand whether the vaccines, apart from preventing symptomatic disease and severe disease and deaths, whether they’re also going to reduce infection or prevent people from getting infected with the virus, then from passing it on or transmitting it to other people.
I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on.”
Swaminathan said the COVID-19 vaccine was designed to first prevent symptomatic disease, severe disease and deaths. Dr. Mark Ryan, MPH, who is executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, agreed with Swaminathan and added:
So the first primary objective is to decrease the impact the disease is having on people’s lives and, therefore, that will be a major step forward in bringing the world back to some kind of normal.
The second phase is then looking at how will this vaccine affect transmission. We just don’t know enough yet about length of protection and other things to be absolutely able to predict that, but we should be able to get good control of the virus.”
SARS-CoV-2 eradication via mass vaccination is a ‘moonshot’
Ryan also pointed out that the decision by WHO to try to eradicate the SARS-CoV-2 virus “requires a much higher degree of efficiency and effectiveness in the vaccination program and the other control measures” and that it is likely the new coronavirus will “become another endemic virus, a virus that will remain somewhat of a threat but a very low level threat in the context of an effective vaccination program.”
Ryan cautioned that, like with measles and polio, there is no guarantee of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 virus through mass vaccination programs. He said:
“The existence of a vaccine even at high efficacy is no guarantee of eliminating or eradicating an infectious disease. That’s a very high bar for us to be able to get over. First, we have to focus on saving lives, getting good control of this epidemic, and then we will deal with the moonshot of potentially being able to eliminate or eradicate this virus.”
Azar says get vaccinated but still mask up
In a Dec. 22, 2020 interview, HHS Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News that the current “consensus” among health officials is that people who get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine should still mask up and practice social distancing. He said:
We’re still studying some fundamental scientific questions though, such as, once you’ve been vaccinated, do you still need to wear a mask to protect others, could you still be carrying the virus even though you’re protected from it …
If you’re getting vaccinated right now, still social distance, still wear a mask, but all these [recommendations] have to be data and science-driven, so we’re working to generate the data there so that as we go forward, we’ll be able to advise people on a foundation of data.” Read Full Story >