As New York prepares to receive the new Covid-19 vaccines and begin distribution, Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital, answered questions about what we can expect.
Question: Based on what you’ve seen so far, do the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines look safe to you?
Answer: My early thought is the efficacy far exceeds what we could have hoped for, at 90 or 95 percent. A flu vaccine is 50 to 60 percent. As far as safety, Gov. Cuomo has put together an advisory panel to look at it that includes a Nobel Laureate as well as Dr. Bruce Farber; then the ACIP, (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) a non-political group of bright scientists and immunologists will review, and then I will review the data myself. I will be the first in line to take it, and whole leadership team will be in line to take it.
Q. After people are vaccinated, are they then able to transmit the virus to someone else?
A. The thinking right now is no. The possibility of remaining infectious is exceedingly low.
Q. Can people get Covid from the vaccine?
A. It’s impossible to get Covid from the vaccine. The two vaccines are RNA. They’e not (using) a live vaccine, not even attenuated (a weakened virus).
Q. Are you satisifed that the side effects some test volunteers are reporting are manageable?
A. With a vaccine, the side effects are muscle aches, low-grade fever for a day or two. That means if I get a vaccine, I’ll have antibodies and I’m ready to fend it off the disease. If my body is making antibodies, I have a reaction.
Q. How prepared are you to handle this vaccine?
A. We have the freezer, as a system, all sites have capacity to store and administer and do in accordance with whatever state agrees upon.
Q.: Will medical staff be required to be vaccinated?
A.: Mandating vaccines has been done. You can’t work in a hospital if you haven’t had a series of vaccines. You can’t work in a nursing home if not vetted for tuberculosis. Vaccine mandates have worked and helped protect people. Whether this pandemic will rise to that level remains to be seen but if Covid becomes a forever virus, then I’d say, mandating it might happen.
He had this advice: “Everyone’s at risk for spreading this disease, Unlike the flu, you can have no symptoms but can still spread it. So wash your hands, socially distance and wear a mask.”