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Utah health leaders discuss why people need both doses of COVID-19 vaccines

Posted at 3:43 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-12 00:43:07-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Tuesday, the first group of people in the world received an initial dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Briton; while the U.S. could soon be offering protection from the virus if the vaccine is approved for emergency use by the FDA.

READ: FDA backs safety of Pfizer vaccine as first Britons get the 'jab'

The FDA, which is expected to approve the vaccine this week, has released a briefing document of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.

A graph from the briefing has been circulating online, even capturing the attention of Utah Governor-Elect Spencer Cox who retweeted it Tuesday.

The issue with the graph, is people are interpreting it as if one dose could be enough or that one dose could have long term effectiveness when there is no data to support that due to the fact everyone in the study received two doses, Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, Division of Infectious Diseases Chief at U of U Health, said.

“Between 14 and 21 days it looks like people who got the vaccine got fewer cases of COVID than people who didn’t, but that number of people is way too small to draw any good conclusions about efficacy,” he said.

The reason there is so much confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine is based on the very large study, which had people either receive a placebo or two doses of the vaccine, Dr. Swaminathan said.

“We don’t know that if you get just one dose, you may not be protected after two, three, four, five, weeks. Because everybody in that study got that booster dose,” he said.

READ: Utah sees 23 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday

Having more than one dose of a vaccine is very popular to help build up immunity, Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Medical Dir. Community Health and Prevention with Intermountain Healthcare, said.

“It is allowing your immune system to recognize the thing that is not itself, and develop antibodies, but it has to be reminded again,” she said.

While everyone is anxious to get life back to normal, it is important that it is done right, Dr. Sheffield said. That means people getting two doses and receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the way they were studied and approved.

READ: Frontline Utah healthcare workers could get COVID-19 vaccine next week

Very few vaccines reach this level of efficacy and the way everyone has come together to protect the world has been unheard of, Dr. Audrey Stevenson, Family Health Division Director for the Salt Lake County Health Department, said.

“This has been a worldwide effort. This hasn’t only been Big Pharma in the US, it has been a worldwide effort in trying to come to a solution that is going to protect the world,” she said.

Vaccines are the most effective way to get this or any pandemic under control, Dr. Stevenson said.

“It’s really important for us to think about being vaccinated in order to finally stop this pandemic,” she said.

When deciding on whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine or if people have any questions surrounding the vaccine, Dr. Swaminathan urges people to talk with their personal healthcare provider who knows their personal medical history.