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Virginia Tech infectious disease epidemiologist weighs in on coronavirus vaccine

Published: Feb. 6, 2021 at 12:00 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - At Virginia Tech, an infectious disease epidemiologist is giving us new insight on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Kate Langwig says it’s one of the safest things you can put in your body and the speed the vaccines were developed should not worry you. She says researchers have been working on vaccines for other forms of coronavirus so the power of the ones on the market will not only protect you, but others around you.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been in high demand, but they require two doses to reach its fullest potential.

“There is some evidence that they start to be effective after a single dose, but we’re still aiming for two doses because that’s how the studies were initially designed,” Langwig said.

Langwig has focused her research on vaccine response and how it varies from person to person. Langwig said the variants that keep popping up might mean we need another booster shot down the road, but it’s still important to get this one as soon as you’re eligible.

“If we can shrink the population size of people that have this virus, we’re going to give it less chance to adapt and change,” she said.

Langwig said the good news is researchers have been creating vaccines for different forms of coronavirus for many years.

“Changing these strains at which these vaccines target isn’t the same as starting over from scratch,” she said. “It should take far less time for us to modify the vaccines to be a little more specific to the strains that will be circulating at that time.”

This is something that happens each year with the flu, changing each time we face it.

Some people can’t get this vaccine because they have a history of allergic reactions or religious reasons. Langwig said we need to get it to keep them and others who can’t get it to stay safe.

“The sooner we get vaccines and get this under control the safer our society is going to be and we’re going to be better off protecting other people,” she said.

Langwig said scientists don’t have enough research yet on the variants and how the vaccine stands up against them now, so we could need a booster shot or possibly one every year like the flu.

The good news is if another vaccine needs to be developed to target them, it won’t nearly take as long because the research is already there.

“The vaccines that we’re currently using in the U.S., which are extremely effective and excellent, 95 percent effective, basically as good as we could have hoped for weren’t tested in places where these strains were circulating,” Langwig said. “As a result we may need to optimize vaccines in the future to target those strains in the future.”

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