COVID Questions: Experts Answer Pressing Questions During Fleet Science Center Seminar

Fleet Science Center hosted a panel of doctors and scientists to answer questions about the effects of COVID-19 vaccines

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The Fleet Science Center gathered medical professionals and scientists together Wednesday night, including some who helped create the COVID-19 vaccines and others who were part of approving them, to answer pressing questions about the vaccines' effects.

Those doctors and scientists took any and all questions about the effects of the vaccines. NBC 7 took part in the virtual seminar and got some answers.

Just as the pandemic came with many questions, so too do the three FDA emergency approved vaccines.

Here is one:  

Are they safe to take during pregnancy?

"They do not see any theoretical risks to pregnant women, and they did point out that pregnancy could be a risk for more severe COVID disease," Director of infectious Disease at San Ysidro Health Dr. Jeannette Aldous said.

It's also safe for nursing mothers and those trying to get pregnant, Dr. Aldous said.

Are they effective against COVID-19 variants?

In the three short months vaccines have been around, some things have changed.

Vaccine developer Dr. Kate Broderick said the predominant strain in the U.S. is now the U.K. variant, which is categorized as a "variant of concern" by the CDC. There are other mutated strains on the horizon.  

"It does scare me a little bit because they are really quite different from the original strain. I'm not terribly surprised that when you see the data some of the vaccines are less effective against these," Dr. Broderick said.

All the more reason FDA Advisory Committee member Dr. Mark Sawyer suggests you don’t skip that second dose of The Pfizer or Modern vaccines.

"The reason to get the second dose of the two-dose products is to boost your immunity to its maximum. To a level that is very high in hopes that it is going to ward off these variant strains," Dr. Sawyer said.

Should allergic reactions among recipients concern people?

The FDA was caught off guard not long ago by reports of allergic reactions to some vaccines, Dr. Sawyer said.

But he said the chances of having an allergic reaction are around 10 of 1 million doses. However, if you are allergic to polyethylene glycol or PEG, you should stay away from the mRNA.

"There is a component of the mRNA vaccines called polyethylene glycol or PEG. If you know that you are allergic to that you should make sure your provider knows because probably you shouldn't get those vaccines," Dr. Sawyer said.

Dr. Aldous shared some good news, although she admits making predictions in medicine isn't the best practice.

California COVID-19 Vaccinations

The map tracks the number of doses administered by a recipient's county of residence according to the The California Department of Public Health.

Source: The statewide totals for doses administered reflect Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Otherwise we used data from the California Department of Public Health
Amy O’Kruk/NBC

What's next?

"If we can keep the supply up, the advocacy going so we reach the populations most at risk, I do feel like I see a light at the end of the tunnel," Dr. Aldous said.

So many questions, but in the short amount of time the vaccines have been around, we've learned a few things.

The FDA will soon approve a vaccine for kids as young as 12 years old.

Also, right here in San Diego, a vaccine for children as young as 6 months old is in development and will be available this fall, Dr. Sawyer said.

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