As a respiratory disease expert, Dr. Kenneth Kim is no stranger to the coronavirus and COVID-19 research. Kim – an Innovation Advisor at UCI Beall Applied Innovation who specializes in clinical trials and research – has conducted over 800 clinical trials and published over 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.
At Kim’s clinical research facility, Ark Clinical Research, physicians conduct COVID-19 vaccine and treatment trials for 50 to 100 people a week.
Q: What are the differences between the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines?
A: The Pfizer vaccine has an efficacy of 95 percent, while Moderna’s is 94.1 percent. The disadvantages of both are that they require two doses and cold storage. They also contain a preservative called polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is thought to be related to the allergic reactions that have occurred from the vaccines.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the FDA, doesn’t need cold storage, just regular refrigeration. It was also designed to be administered in one dose, although Ark Clinical Research is conducting a two-dose regimen now.
Q: Why do the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses?
A: In preliminary animal data, researchers found that one dose does not yield a sufficient immune response. That’s why they have a two-dose regimen.
Q: How long after the second dose will the vaccine take effect?
A: Studies check for an improvement in protection two weeks after the second dose. While the criterion is after two weeks, you could be protected before then.
Q: Can you still be a carrier even after you’re vaccinated?
A: There’s not enough data to know whether vaccinations actually prevent you from transmitting the virus to somebody else. Regardless, it’s important to keep wearing a mask and social distancing even after receiving the vaccine because that minimizes aerosol transmission.
Q: Do the current vaccines protect against the new coronavirus variants?
A: There’s not enough evidence yet to know whether the new variants will be covered by the current vaccines. But it’s more than likely that you’ll at least get partial protection.
Q: With the vaccine in distribution, how much longer will we have to follow mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines?
A: The minimum is going to be at least a year. This virus has been deemed by a number of academic people to be endemic in the human population, meaning we are going to have to adjust to COVID-19 being in the human population for the foreseeable future.
Q: Many are skeptical of the vaccine due to how rapidly it was developed. What would you like to tell those skeptics?
A: The risk of having an anaphylactic reaction is a few in a million doses. It’s better to take the vaccine than put yourself at risk for a moderate to severe COVID infection. Yes, most people who get COVID recover without any problems, but you’re trying to prevent yourself from getting hospitalized. The vaccine’s side effects are minimal compared to what you’re trying to prevent.
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Main Graphic: Kate Wokowsky, UCI Beall Applied Innovation