COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A With Peter Pitts

December 17th, 2020


Liberty HealthShare offered members the opportunity to access to a virtual webinar, “COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A,” with health expert and former FDA commissioner, Peter Pitts. We received over 600 questions from our members and Peter provided answers for our members regarding treatments, vaccine development and safety, distribution and more!

We believe that our members are wise healthcare consumers who make informed decisions for themselves and their family and our goal is to provide our members with information from an expert in the field of healthcare policy.

You can view the replay of the webinar here.

The comments and opinions that Peter Pitts expressed in this virtual webinar are his own and not those of Liberty HealthShare.

Q. Do you recommend this vaccine and will you be taking it?

I plan to get vaccinated and I want to get vaccinated as early as possible. All the vaccines that are going through the FDA will be safe and over 95% effective.

Q. What do you say to those who are concerned that the COVID-19 vaccine came to market too quickly?

This is a legitimate concern. The vaccines that will be approved by the FDA will be safe and effective.

Q. Do those who are young and healthy need to get the vaccine?

Yes, if you are young and healthy and you become infected with COVID-19, you will probably have a mild impact, similar to the flu or you may be asymptomatic. However, this doesn't mean that you cannot transmit the disease. One of the important things to understand about vaccines is that it protects you as an individual, as well as everyone around you.

We are all in this together and vaccines play an incredibly important role in keeping our nation healthy.

Q. If someone has had COVID-19 already, should they still get the vaccine?

Yes. If you've had COVID-19 once, you can get it again. There are many instances where people have had it and gotten it a second time.

Q. How many different vaccines do we have coming to market right now that you can discuss?

I believe that by Christmas we will have two vaccines available and approved by the FDA, one by Pfizer and one by Moderna, these are both RNA vaccines. The US has purchased hundreds of millions of doses of these vaccines, which means we'll be well on our way to vaccinating groups of people, such as healthcare workers, public safety officials, as well as senior citizens, especially those in retirement facilities.

Q. There are some mild side effects associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, what about any long-term effects? Should people be concerned about getting this vaccine?

These are very important questions to be addressed to make an informed decision. You may experience a mild headache or fatigue, muscle ache or perhaps some soreness where you got the injection, but these symptoms should pass very quickly.

Many treatments may have a side effect and you should weigh the side effects against the benefits. I would say that being vaccinated against COVID-19 and being able to regain our normal lives is worth the slight discomfort that these vaccines may provide.

Q. Do you feel that with the upcoming vaccines, the end of the pandemic is in sight?

I believe that if we all do the right thing and get vaccinated as soon as we can, we will beat COVID-19 perhaps by April or May, but definitely into the summer and we can look forward to a healthier 2021.

Q. Can you still get COVID-19 after you get the vaccine?

No vaccine is 100% effective. Pfizer and the majority of vaccines, which will be approved initially by the FDA are 95% effective. There is a chance that you can get vaccinated and still contract COVID-19, but it's extremely unlikely.

Q. Are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions and compromised immune systems likely to have any other side effects? Will the “at-risk” get the vaccine like the general population?

Anybody that is vaccinated has the opportunity to experience mild side effects. The important thing to recognize is that the known side effects will in no way endanger at-risk populations. These side effects will not affect the ability to have immunity and are unlikely to be life threatening.

Q. What is the general analysis of what is inside this vaccine?

Well, again, all of these vaccines are different, but the ones that we will see in 2021 are based on mRNA technology.

Q. Do they really contain mRNA messenger units that tell your body what to produce to in order to create immunity against COVID-19? Have we ever used an mRNA before?

That's a great question. This is new technology; it has been around for about six years. We haven't used it in any type of vaccine, but we've understood it and that's the important thing. It's very well understood from both from a developmental perspective in how it works in the human body, as well as from a manufacturing perspective.

It's very exciting for me that these vaccines actually are more effective and safer than the previous generation of vaccines. We've really done tremendous science, mRNA technology is going to move forward, not just for COVID-19, but for all vaccines that are coming for other diseases afterwards.

Q. In the news recently, the FDA in England approved their vaccines before we did. Why is this and is this something that should concern us? Why wasn't it approved in the US?

Not all regulatory agencies address, review, and approve in the same way. The US FDA only reviews the data once it's complete. That’s one reason why the UK regulatory experts were able to move a little bit earlier and that’s because they review the information as it is presented and not as a complete package.

Another reason is that in the US, we have an advisory committee of vaccine experts to help the FDA review the vaccines and ensure we have agreement to move forward. We are making sure the science is solid to ensure we are doing the right thing and gaining public trust.

The FDA is being very cautious by calling the advisory committee. This is a signal to the public that these decisions are trustworthy, science-based, and we have confidence in the final decision.

The US approval process doesn't take longer: it's simply different. It’s important to understand that different countries do things in different ways.

Q. What is Herd immunity and what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated for us to get to that point?

Scientific evidence says that we need about 60% inoculation rates to achieve Herd immunity. 

Q. Will the virus mutate?

Of course it will, that's what viruses do to survive. Which is why for the foreseeable future, we will have to get an annual flu and COVID-19 shot.

Q. Many people want to be able to get back to normal, including not wearing a mask when they’re out. When do you see that happening?

I believe that while we are all getting vaccinated, we will have to continue to wear masks, maintain proper social distancing and enhanced personal hygiene. I also believe that by mid-2021, if the inoculation rates look good and are progressing, we will be able to loosen those restrictions a little bit.

Unfortunately, for the time being, we are going to have to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Q. How does the vaccine process work?

That's a great question. Rather than getting a single shot, we will need to get two shots, three weeks apart. This is why innovation is important, as we get better, targeted COVID-19 vaccines will be able to move to one injection.

Q. How long will these vaccines keep us protected from COVID-19? How long are we looking at before needing another shot?

The current science is telling us that we are going to have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 every year.

Q. How much this vaccine is going to cost?

The cost will be similar to the annual flu shot, about $40.

Q. What's the sharing policy of Liberty HealthShare for COVD-19 vaccines?

If you are experiencing symptoms and your doctor recommends that you should be tested for COVID-19, the cost of the COVID-19 test will be shareable through your Liberty HealthShare membership. Once COVID-19 vaccines become available, the vaccine will be subject to the AUA and shareable according to our current Sharing Guidelines. You can read more about your Liberty HealthShare membership as it relates to COVID-19, here.

Q. What are the biggest misconceptions and what message would you like to share?

Getting vaccinated isn't only about keeping yourself healthy, it's about keeping your family, your neighbors, your community, your state, and your country healthy as well.

We're all in this together and we believe in the concept of health sharing and helping keep each other healthy. The reason to get vaccinated is help yourself and help everybody that you love and all your neighbors stay healthy.

Q. What would you say to those people who feel uncertain about the vaccines?

We live in a world where we come into contact with people every day. Everyone wants to go on outings, see friends and spend holidays with loved ones. The only way to accomplish this is to beat COVID-19 and we can help do that by getting vaccinated.

People have to make their own informed choices, and my belief is that the vaccine is safe and effective.