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I'm a Doctor and Here's When it's Safe to Get a COVID Vaccine

It might take some time, he says.

Vaccines have significantly reduced the prevalence of diseases. Since discovering the first smallpox vaccine, hundreds of millions of lives have been saved worldwide because of strong and trusted vaccination plans. 

Undoubtedly, the positive impact of vaccination on global health is remarkable. Vaccination coverage has improved dramatically over the past decades, yet globally over 13 million children were not vaccinated in 2018. There is an abundance of data to support that vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective ways to prevent diseases. 

But, how to feel confident if a COVID-19 vaccine is safe for everyone? Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

It Might Take Some Time

In the COVID era, folks are wondering when to feel safe about a coronavirus vaccine. History tells us that increased vaccine coverage has led to declining diseases, and for COVID-19, we should expect that too. 

I have many requests from people wondering what to do if there is an announcement of a new vaccine. They heard on the media that the United States could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine in October. 

While COVID-19 is still careening across the states and global cases have reached over 30 million, understandably, we are all excited for a vaccine. 

Over 50 percent of Americans say they would get the COVID-19 vaccine, but that is not enough. Looking at the data, we are not anywhere close to heard immunity against COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed my predictions that the United States still has a "long way to go" to reach herd immunity against COVID-19. 

It might take some time before the general public gets a coronavirus vaccine because of the rigorous clinical data review needed before getting a vaccine candidate into a healthy person. 

To be able to provide people with a vaccine, rigorous clinical testing is required. The scientific community, academic centers, and pharmaceutical companies are collaborating at full-steam to develop a safe and effective vaccine. Until then, we will have to continue to wear masks, wash our hands frequently, and practice physical distancing. 

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Says You Can Catch COVID This Way After All

Those Most at Risk Should Get the Vaccine First

Sweden is a country that has adopted a "herd immunity strategy," and recently, we learned that approximately 15 percent of people who had COVID-19 there now have symptoms for more than 8 weeks. That means that they got COVID-19 and their symptoms lingered for a long time. 

Herd immunity can potentially drag the damaging effects of the coronavirus for years. Being sick for almost two months is costly, and I wrote about a Florida Doctor who got COVID and needed intensive care.

Infection disease specialists and healthcare experts argue that herd immunity is a potentially dangerous strategy. In practical terms, this could mean over a million new deaths from COVID-19. As we approach the end of the year, it's essential to recognize that over two hundred thousand people will be missed during thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Many healthcare and essential workers have been risking their lives to keep us all safe and serviced. They are most at risk of getting infected with COVID because of their frequent exposure to the virus. 

In my opinion, they should be the first to receive the vaccine, once one is safe and available. Doctor Zeke Emmanuel, a healthcare expert and an American oncologist proposed prioritizing health care workers and adults above age 65 or have underlying health conditions to be the first to get the new COVID vaccine.

A vaccine is a solution to returning to our much desired everyday life. Still, clinical data transparency from the vaccine studies will help us, Doctors and scientists, to encourage the population to feel confident about a new vaccine. We have never seen the amount of scientific collaboration between health agencies, drug companies, and doctors, so I feel confident that good news is on the way. And once the phase III studies are completed and the clinical studies are published and publicly available, it will be necessary to proceed with peer-review. This evaluation by a scientific group is vital to understanding the possible results and implications.

We need people who have similar competencies as the researchers who published the studies to evaluate and weigh in the research. This form of self-regulation by qualified healthcare experts is common practice in approving new treatments. 

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Transparency is Essential

In clinical studies, especially in vaccine clinical trials, there's extensive clinical data review. The amount of scrutiny that the information collected in such studies go through is exceptional. And there's also a safety monitoring board composed of independent groups of doctors and scientists, who analyze the data, make sense of it, and decide whether a vaccine is safe or not. 

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial was put on hold due to suspected adverse reaction in a participant in the U.K. As I pointed out at the time, safety pauses are common in clinical trials. Usually, there is a standard review process to review safety data. It was reassuring to see this; it is medicine at work. That is how science works. 

Transparency is essential and vital in these times, especially when folks are attempting to politicize science. We have reliable healthcare experts, and there is no need for everyone to become a vaccine specialist. 

When the multiple COVID-19 vaccines clinical studies have fully completed, the results will be analyzed by clinical scientists, biostatisticians, and then be published in peer-reviewed journals. When that happens, healthcare experts will weigh in and shed light on the best approach is for effective and safe vaccination. 

In the meantime, wear your face mask, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leo Nissola, MD
Leo Nissola, M.D. is an award-winning immunologist and scientist. Follow him on Instagram @DoctorLeo and on Twitter @LeoNissolaMD. Read more about Leo
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