CLEVELAND — Here we go! Let's take a look at more of your COVID-19 vaccine questions as we take a peek at the mailbag.
Question: Why can't these companies just make the vaccines faster?
Even though President Biden said he plans to invoke the Defense Production Act to provide more vaccines, it still won't provide much needed doses overnight for a few reasons. Remember, these are drugs and every step must be cleared by the FDA. Expanding or establishing production lines in repurposed facilities can take months if not a year or more because of what's involved.
These companies say they're already running at capacity, but remember, they're also providing vaccine for several other countries. In some cases, they claim they're dealing with raw material shortages, but they haven't given us details. And the president can't just order a private company to share its patented or trade secret technology to another company. That's a legal hurdle at the very least. Whatever steps they eventually take, safety, purity and security have to be paramount considering we plan on giving these drugs at least half of Americans.
Question: Can people who are undergoing cancer treatment get the vaccine?
Not right now, cancer is not included on Ohio's underlying conditions list. Also there's scant research available because that group of people was not included in clinical trials. This is something patients must discuss with their oncologists. According to the American Cancer Society says many expert medical groups are recommending that most people with cancer or a history of cancer get the vaccine, but some treatments, like chemo, radiation or immunotherapy can affect the immune system which might make the vaccine less effective. Again, talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
Question: When we can expect those other vaccines from other companies to start showing up?
I think patience is the word for 2021 because unfortunately we're going to have to wait a bit longer. Johnson & Johnson's one dose vaccine will likely be the next out of the gate here in the U.S. It's expected to announce clinical trial results soon and seek FDA emergency-use authorization. However, it's been reported that it won't be able to deliver as many shots as planned because of manufacturing delays. Hopefully that's not the case. The FDA has raised questions about AstraZeneca's late-stage trial, so we may have to wait until Spring for that one, even though it's being used in the UK and India. Novavax is still recruiting for its big trial, so that one is a few months off and Merck just scrapped it's two vaccine candidates after they failed to produce immune responses in early testing.
Question: Why is there confusion about the Pfizer vaccine's additional dose and what does it mean for us here?
Pfizer's vaccine vials were thought to contain enough for five doses, but it turns out if a special syringe is used, pharmacists can get a sixth dose out of the vial. That's great and it adds into the number of doses Pfizer is selling to the US. However, there is concern of a shortage of that special syringe. Governor DeWine mentioned this during his Tuesday COVID-19 briefing. Cleveland Clinic told me they're not having an issue with it and reportedly the federal government is working with Pfizer to make sure those syringes are delivered with vaccine shipments.
For those who do not have internet access, we want to give these phone numbers again. UH patients can call 216-844-3339. Clinic patients can call 216-444-2538. If you don't use those systems, call the United Way's 211 helpline or the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging at 844-304-0004 for help with registration and appointment transportation information.
And one last reminder, please do not give out any personal information, like your medicare number, social security number or banking information over the phone if anyone calls regarding your vaccine appointment. These vaccines are free and you will not be asked to pay for them. You may be asked for your insurance when you get to the pharmacy, but no one will call and ask for payment over the phone. Nor can you buy an appointment.
More COVID-19 vaccine resources and information:
- COVID-19 vaccine in Northeast Ohio: Here's where to find information on providers near you
- COVID-19 vaccines in Ohio: How you can make an appointment at a store near you
- Walgreens now offering COVID-19 vaccines by appointment in Ohio
- 3News' Monica Robins tackles your toughest COVID-19 vaccination questions