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Coronavirus vaccine: Answering your questions with UofL professor Dr. Ruth Carrico

The Pfizer COVID vaccine is now here in Kentuckiana – we know it is 95% effective. But there are things we still don’t know about the vaccine.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The vaccine is just beginning to roll out – and many have questions about how it will work, when you will be able to get it, and how it will affect certain groups.

WHAS11's Rose McBride spoke with Dr. Ruth Carrico, a nurse practitioner and UofL professor specializing in infectious diseases, about some of the concerns shared with us on Facebook live this morning.

Do you recommend that cancer patients take the vaccine? Is that a group that has been studied some of these clinical trials?

Dr. Carrico: The question is, if I'm immunocompromised, what should I be thinking about with this vaccine? Is the risk of the disease greater than the risk of the vaccine?

If an individual is immunocompromised, when is the best time to give them a vaccine? Well, the answer is easy. You give them the vaccine before they develop the disease. Our question now is, when will an individual develop COVID - and what will their individual response be to the disease? The decision may not be entirely clear cut.

If a woman is pregnant should she be getting the vaccine now or is it best to wait until after she has a baby?

Dr. Carrico: So, we don't have any evidence that that the vaccine will have any effect on the development of the child. Do we know this from clinical trial? No, no, we don't. Pregnant women have not been studied, so we don't have data.

Then there are the questions about, 'can COVID impact my developing baby?' and we know the answer to that is yes. We know that COVID represents a risk to the pregnant woman, and the baby.

What do we know about the vaccine in children and how that will affect them?

Dr. Carrico: All of the trials now have been on individuals 16 years of age and older. We do know that illness among children is mild. Our focus now is on where is the greatest impact. 

Where is COVID being seen where the end result is death? Right now the biggest impact that we're seeing is in the older population. Studies are already going on, in the planning and early phases to look at this vaccine in the pediatric population.

What do you think that the rollout is going to look like to vaccinate as many people as possible?

Dr. Carrico: I can store the vaccine vial of a Pfizer vaccine in this minus 70 or minus 80 environment, you know that's as cold as Antarctica.

So whatever our system is it has to be based upon how do we protect the vaccine, how do we make sure that after all of the activities, the vaccine dose I'm giving is going to work.

A drive through vaccination is ideal because we still have to remember that we're dealing with an infectious disease, so we don't want people lined up and packed into buildings.

Can you explain why we're still going to have to follow a lot of these safety protocols [masking, social distancing] even if we have gotten the vaccine?

Dr. Carrico: One of the questions that we will have to answer is the durability: how long does protection last from the vaccine?

We won't know how long the vaccine works, until we're able to study it longer.

How long after the vaccine is administered will it take full effect?

Dr. Carrico: Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. So let me use the Pfizer vaccine as an example - you will get dose one today. Your body will start using that. Within about two weeks you will have in the benefit of dose one. Dose two needs to be administered within 21 days, and I need an additional two weeks or 14 days, for immunity to be into effect and I'm looking at about 35 days after my first dose.

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You can watch the full Facebook live here

*Questions and responses edited for brevity

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