By Barbie Porter
Dr. Richard Vetter works at Essentia, Fargo, N.D. and is the chief medical officer at Essentia West. Vetter recently answered questions and discussed concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
• Are there microchips or tracking devices in the vaccine?
“No,” Vetter said.
• If one can get COVID-19 after being vaccinated, what is the point of getting the shot?
Vetter said, each of the COVID-19 vaccines has seen a small percentage of people still contract COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. However, one doesn’t know how sick they will get from the virus if they are not vaccinated.
“Some are OK, some get sick enough to be put in the hospital and other’s die,” he said. “It is a gamble. I’ve seen young, otherwise healthy people die from COVID.”
He added there is also a group of people who recovered from COVID-19, but have long-term complications.
“Six months after, a third are complaining of symptoms of fatigue, muscle ache, brain fog, shortness of breath, anxiety and depression,” he said. “Those who are vaccinated; no issues.”
• If vaccinated, and one gets COVID-19, can they transmit it to others?
“Early on, we didn’t know if those who are vaccinated could still spread it, so that is why wearing a mask was still recommended,” Vetter said.
After collecting and reviewing data, he stated those who are vaccinated have a low viral load, which means sharing it with others is “exceedingly low.”
• How can I trust a vaccine that was developed so quickly?
While COVID-19 was a novel (or new) virus, the scientists were already developing a vaccine for Ebola and SARs, Vetter explained. The platform and technology used to battle those viruses set the stage for an efficient method of addressing COVID-19.
Also, the government stepped in and backed the vaccine makers financially. Vetter said once a vaccine was identified, the companies were told to make them and the government would buy them regardless if it proved to be effective.
With companies not on the hook for a failed vaccine, the process was expedited and hundreds of thousands of vaccines were produced. All the while, trials on the vaccine were being conducted.
Clinical trials started in March of last year, Vetter said. Volunteer test subjects, totaling upwards of 40,000 people, were in the test group. Vetter explained no short cuts were taken when developing the vaccine. The difference was, when a vaccine was identified to be effective, there were already hundreds of thousands of doses available.
• What is the likelihood of those that receive a vaccine will have adverse effects 10 years from now?
Vetter explained the mRNA vaccines go into the outside nucleus of a cell and they are degraded by the body in short order.
“It doesn’t change the DNA,” he said. “It is degraded and naturally discarded.”
Vetter stated he was not aware of any vaccine creating health complications 10 years down the line.
He said there were rather immediate instances when people received a polio vaccine (years ago) and some developed polio. “But, that was also a live viral vaccine,” he said, and then reiterated the COVID-19 vaccines are not live vaccines. “Because they are not live vaccines, you don’t get it from the vaccine.”
• How long will the vaccine be effective?
“We don’t know yet,” Vetter said.
Immunity levels are being monitored and data collected to make accurate determinations on whether a booster is needed, and if so, when.
• Are there aborted fetuses in the vaccine?
Vetter explained vaccine technology in the 1970s-1980s used cells from aborted fetuses. He explained a virus can be hard to grow and cells were used to grow the viruses.
Vetter said the older technology was used to help develop the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but not the Moderna or Pfizer.
Vetter said, if one has moral objections with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, the person can call their health provider and request one of the other vaccines.
“Early on we didn’t have that option because we had limited supply and wanted to get the vaccines out as fast as we could,” Vetter said. “But, now we have plentiful supply.”
• Should those who contracted COVID-19 wait until their natural immunity expires to get vaccinated?
Vetter said, early on there was a recommendation to wait three months if one contracted COVID-19 and had natural immunity as a result. He explained, at that time the vaccines were in short supply. Therefore, if one had natural immunity, they could forgo the vaccine until more was available.
Now, Vetter said once a person is no longer symptomatic it is safe to get vaccinated.
He added people can also get the vaccine in conjunction with other vaccinations as well.
• Does the vaccine protect against the other variants of COVID-19?
Vetter said the vaccine has show to be 90 percent effective at protecting the vaccinated against the three most common variants of COVID-19.
Vetter said, there is the probability the strain can change to the point the vaccine is less effective against preventing hospitalization and death. The scientific and health community are monitoring the variant changes.
• Will the vaccine impact fertility?
Vetter said the question has become more of a concern for young women. He said there is no evidence the vaccine impacts fertility.
He added OGBYN doctors are now asking patients to consider getting vaccinated even if they are pregnant, as pregnancy comes with an increase chance of complications with COVID-19.