Greek citizens had the opportunity to receive answers to questions, fears, and concerns about coronavirus vaccination from experts in the field during an online open event, entitled: “Why should we ALL be vaccinated?” organised by the Department of Medicine of the University of Thessaloniki.
Following are some of the key questions answered:
I am an athlete and I have a good immune system. I haven’t been ill for years. Why should I get the vaccine since I have a low risk of getting ill?
An athlete has very little chance of getting seriously ill but the virus does not discriminate. Especially the mutant Delta strain which affects young people, adolescents and children. Therefore, this group of people should also be vaccinated because this is how they help themselves, but at the same time it is an act of social solidarity because they can come in contact with vulnerable groups and transmit the disease.
I already caught the virus in the past. Why should I get vaccinated? How long after? Is natural immunity better?
There is no official opinion on whether those who were infected in the past should be vaccinated. The prevailing view in the medical literature at the moment is that they should probably be vaccinated at six months.
What is the mRNA vaccine? Will the mRNA change my DNA if I get the vaccine? Can doses of the vaccine be used to gradually change our DNA?
MRNA is a messenger molecule that contains information: an instruction to form the spike protein. Under no circumstances can it enter the nucleus where the DNA is well stored. DNA cannot be changed. The reason for two doses is because with the second dose a high concentration of neutralizing antibodies is generated. In no case can the DNA be changed with either the first or the second dose.
Can someone transmit the virus after being vaccinated? Do I need to take precautions
All vaccines are effective in preventing disease. However they are not 100% effective. Fully vaccinated individuals are more likely to develop an infection with milder symptoms than non-vaccinated individuals after exposure to the virus and new mutations. Vaccinated people can transmit the virus, so protection measures such as masks. safe distances need to be maintained.
Is there a risk of getting the virus after the vaccination? If so, then why should I get vaccinated?
Someone who has been vaccinated can get sick because the vaccine does not provide 100% protection. But a vaccinated person which gets the virus is likely to have only mild symptoms.
What should I do if I am vaccinated and come in contact with a person who is covid postitive?
The vaccinated person does not need to do anything specific. Safety measures and mask wearing should be observed especially in areas with a high concentration of people.
Do vaccines protect against mutated coronavirus strains? What about the Delta and upcoming Mu mutations? Are vaccinated people more likely to get infected by a mutated strain?
Despite the prevalence of the Delta mutation, there are five major studies internationally that show that the vaccines have at least 75% efficacy against the virus with their efficacy against this variant maintained. Some studies show an even higher efficacy percentage that reaches 90%.
The Mu mutation although a a mutation of interest for the World Health Organisation, is not a mutation of concern. This means that it will be observed and monitored for the time being but since it is not a cause for concern we are proceeding normally with the available vaccines. The percentage of vaccinated people who get infected from the new mutations is much much lower than those who are not vaccinated. There is a possibility that the vaccinated person will get infected but it is much smaller than the unvaccinated person, but he / she will have mild symptoms without treatment.
How do I trust a vaccine that has not been tested and approved within a few months
The vaccine was approved in a short period of time because due to the speedy and unprecedented cooperation and due to the funds invested by all countries but also due to the fact that the approval for different phases was done simultaneously. The safety and control rules have been followed, there was just more funding and more collaboration to speed up processes that used to take as long as two years to complete. The vaccines have been tested by international organisations, they have been approved and now this approval is being extended.
What does ‘urgent approval’ by the FDA and European Medicines Agency mean and what is the difference from the previous types of approvals?
In emergencies, regulators provide for fast-moving procedures to authorize a product that meets all efficacy and safety standards. The European Medicines Agency issues the so-called conditional marketing authorisation designed to allow circulation as soon as sufficient data is collected in emergency situations.
The US FDA does the same thing with the so-called emergency license that allows the temporary use of a drug under certain conditions until it is completed in the next period and the regulatory authorities are provided with continuous data on monitoring the safety of these products. In the US they have reached the point of completing this control, getting the Pfizer vaccine and soon Moderna vaccine will be fully available and permanently remain on the market, thus giving the legal protection to various bodies and companies and organisations.
I have a chronic illness. I’m afraid to get vaccinated because I do not want to burden my body. Should I get a vaccine? Which people should not get the vaccine?
There is no contraindication to vaccination unless the vaccinated person has an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine. Virtually anyone can be vaccinated. The first vaccine studies involved patients who had multiple underlying diseases and the vaccine did not appear to cause an outbreak of an underlying disease. The important thing is that the underlying and chronic diseases are risk factors for serious illness and hospitalisation and therefore priority was given to their vaccination.
Why should I vaccinate my children (12-17 years old) since the disease at this age is mild? Is this just to protect unvaccinated adults?
Children aged 12 and over should be vaccinated not only to protect vulnerable adults but also themselves. The disease may be milder in children but not always. Till this day hundreds of teenagers have been hospitalised, some were admitted to the ICU and a small number died. As long as we continue to see an increase in cases in children in recent months so will serious illness as a percentage continue to increase in the coming months. With the opening of the schools both the disease and the transmission will be greater. That is why they must be vaccinated for their individual protection but also for social protection.
Can children with allergies be vaccinated?
Simple allergies in children are not a contraindication to vaccination. However, children who are allergic to any of the components of the vaccine or who have been allergic to the first dose cannot be vaccinated.
Do you recommend an antipyretic before vaccination?
Precautionary use of paracetamol or other medications is not recommended. If the candidate for vaccination has a fever, it is better to postpone the vaccination. The candidate can take antipyretic after the vaccination if they have symptoms.
What are the most common side effects after vaccination in children, adolescents and adults, and in what percentage do they occur? Are there many people who have suffered permanent injuries or died from the vaccine?
Serious side effects are minimal. More than 5 billion doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide. The main, but rare side effects of thrombosis were attributed to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. MRNA vaccines seem much safer. A small new complications of mRNA vaccines involve some cases of pericarditis, but for an unvaccinated person who gets infected by the virus the incidence of pericarditis and myocarditis is significantly higher. The main side effects are local and mild.
Which coronavirus vaccines have been approved for children? Why do children under 12 not get vaccinated?
The mRNA vaccines have been approved. There are no studies for younger children and therefore there is no requirement for them to be vaccinated.
Does mass vaccination of the population building a wall of immunity or does it create resistant strains of the coronavirus?
If the virus circulates uncontrollably, especially in immuno-compromised populations, the possibility of more variants increases. This is why it is highly recommended for immuno-compromised people to get vaccinated. Especially if this happens in large middle and low income countries then the problems can be even more. If by a ‘wall of immunity’ we mean the prevention of serious infection, then the more people are vaccinated, the less pressure there will be on the health system.
Are vaccines safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women?
More than 150,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated and registered in a database in the United States. There is absolutely no problem for the fetus, for the woman and for the newborn. Pregnant women are more at risk if they get infected by the coronavirus, so it is highly recommended that they get vaccinated. There is no contraindication to breastfeeding. Fertility is not affected.
The event was attended by the Rector of the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki, Nikolaos G. Papaioannou, the President of the Department of Medicine, Kyriakos Anastasiadis, the Vice President of the Department of Medicine, Stefanos Triaridis, the Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Theodoros Dardavis , professors Theodoros Kontakiotis, Symeon Metallidis, Konstantinos Natsis, Anna Papa-Konidari, Emmanouil Roilidis, Lemonia Skoura, as well as the professors of the Department Georgios Papazisis and Emmanouil Smyrnakis. Answers were also given by:
Marios Themistokleous, Secretary General of Primary Care of the Ministry of Health.
Elias Mosialos, Professor of Health Policy, London School of Economics.
Athanasios Tsakris, Vice Rector of EKPA, Professor of Microbiology, Member of the Committee of Experts of the Ministry of Health.
Sotirios Tsiodras, Professor of Pathology – Infectious Diseases, EKPA, Member of the Committee of Experts of the Ministry of Health.
Maria Theodoridou, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, Chairman of the National Vaccination Committee.
Athanasios Exadaktylos, President of the Panhellenic Medical Association, Member of the Committee of Experts of the Ministry of Health.
Nikolaos Nitsas, President of the Medical Association of Thessaloniki.