Coronavirus Emerging Science

Emerging science on Covid-19: 15th November 2020 update Q&A with Dr. Simon Collins

Previous articles in this series are archived here (19th July) and here (3rd October).

Big news on the vaccine front!
Yes, I sounded optimistic in the 3rd October interview and have been vindicated. Let's wait for a confirmation of safety for the Pfizer vaccine from the U.S. regulator - the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). That will occur in late November or early December. The next questions will be:

  • How long does the vaccine protect for?
  • Is the 90% effectiveness mentioned by Pfrizer applicable in the over-70's also?
  • Do any safety concerns emerge in the first few months of vaccine use? (the answer to that is likely to be 'no').

Some of the other candidate vaccines are likely to be effective also. The first is not always the best and if we're lucky, an even better vaccine will emerge from among the others.

Are you satisfied that the FDA is sufficiently independent of government to resist pressure to approve the vaccine because of political imperatives?
Yes. The FDA people involved in the decision are sufficiently independently-minded to push back against outside pressure. If they need more safety data before making a determination about the vaccine's safety, they'll ask for it.

Will you accept a dose of the Pfizer vaccine if it's offered to you?
Yes. I think the science behind the vaccine is good. It was for the same reason that I received a dose of the Ebola vaccine made by Merck in D. R. Congo a year ago where I was working there.

And news on the IgG antibody blood test front also?
Yes. I went into some detail about antibody persistence in the 3rd October interview. Since then, two things have happened:

  • A patient who had a positive antibody test during the summer returned to be re-tested and was negative
  • HIQA (Ireland's 'Health Information & Quality Authority') published a review of research papers on the subject of antibodies ("Evidence summary of reinfection and the duration of antibody responses following SARS-CoV-2 infection" HIQA, 11th November 2020). IgG antibodies remain positive in most patients six months after infection but some papers show the IgG antibodies becoming undetectable in proportions of patients ranging from 20% - 30%. It depends on which paper you read. I think the summary is that most patients make antibodies and the great majority of them maintain the antibodies at least six months after infection – but a minority do lose detectable IgG antibodies.

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