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SARS CoV-2 Virus and COVID-19 Vaccine Information
SARS-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and COVID-19
Most coronaviruses, including those causing the common cold, are not associated with significant mortality. The novel SARS-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) identified in 2019 causes a collection of symptoms that can cause severe illness, which has become known as COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is contagious1 and infected persons can be asymptomatic2 or exhibit symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms include fever; chills; cough; shortness of breath/difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle, joint or body aches; rash; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.3
Complications of SARS-CoV-2 include pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, Acute, Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), acute kidney, liver, and heart injury, septic shock, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown), chronic fatigue syndrome, blood clots and death. Many complications may be caused by a condition known as a cytokine storm.4
Research on natural immunity from SARS-CoV-2 infection varies and suggests that durable immunity to the virus lasts for at least 20 months5 and may be life-long.6 An August 2021 retrospective study of Israel’s second largest HMO, yet to undergo peer review, found that natural immunity “confers longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease, and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant.”7
New ways to make vaccines including new technologies and production platforms, such as mRNA vaccines, have become favored over the older traditional ways to make vaccines in the COVID-19 vaccine race.8 9 Currently, four experimental COVID-19 vaccines and two licensed COVID-19 vaccine10 11 have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for distribution and use in the U.S.12 13 Of the six vaccines in use, four are mRNA vaccines (Comirnaty, Pfizer-BioNTech, Spikevax and Moderna), one utilizes a human adenovirus vector (Janssen) and one is a protein subunit vaccine that uses recombinant nanoparticle technology (Novavax). Over 360 different types of COVID-19 vaccines are being developed worldwide14 and several experimental COVID-19 vaccines may be given EUA status in the near future.15 16
U.S. Emergency Use Authorization does not mean that the FDA has evaluated all safety and efficacy data. Notably, in July 2021 the CDC reported that the fully vaccinated could still become infected and be capable of transmitting the virus to others17 and data from Israel reported vaccine effectiveness for the experimental Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be as low as 39 percent.18 While EUA status granted by the FDA facilitates access to vaccines in a public health emergency, this status shields vaccine manufacturers and providers from liability under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act).19 Under federal law, EUA vaccine recipients must “have the option to accept or refuse the vaccine” and be informed of its risks.20
NVIC encourages consumers to make informed vaccination decisions and to read the FDA fact sheet and other information and resources provided on our website.Click to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines…
SARS-CoV-2 & COVID-19
- A few coronavirus strains can cause very severe respiratory disease with significant mortality, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in China in 2002-200321 and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.22 SARS-CoV-2, which was identified in China in late 201923 and declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020,24 25 has a much lower mortality rate than SARS or MERS.26
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020 about 94 percent of COVID-19 related-deaths occurred in persons over age 65 and individuals with underlying poor health conditions.27 Among those the CDC consider to be at highest risk for severe COVID-19 disease are the immunocompromised; pregnant women; individuals with chronic heart, lung or kidney disease; the obese; type 2 diabetics; and individuals with cancer, Down’s syndrome, sickle cell disease and thalassemia. There are other chronic health conditions that might increase risks for severe COVID-19 disease, including asthma, high blood pressure, dementia and neurologic conditions, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and type 1 diabetes.28
- On Mar. 10, 2020, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) invoked the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, after declaring that the COVID-19 pandemic was a public health emergency. As a result, manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic are considered public health emergency “countermeasures”. The PREP Act shields manufacturers and vaccine providers from liability and vaccine injury compensation claims will be processed by the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).29 30 31
- As of July 22, 2022, there are two COVID-19 vaccines licensed for use in the U.S. Comirnaty,32 an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech with Pfizer, is approved for use in persons 12 years of age and older. Spikevax, an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna, is approved for use in individuals 18 years and older. The FDA has also issued emergency use authorizations (EUA) for four COVID-19 vaccines. Two vaccines utilize mRNA technology (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) and are authorized for use in infants as young as six months. One is a protein subunit vaccine that uses recombinant nanoparticle technology (NOVAVAX) for individuals 12 years and older. One vaccine, manufactured by Janssen is a COVID-19 vaccine that uses a human adenovirus vector (Janssen). While the Janssen vaccine remains authorized for use in persons 18 years and older, it is only available to individuals who are unable to or unwilling to receive another COVID-19 vaccine due to the risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) following vaccination.
IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine by reading all sections in the table of contents to the left, which contains many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
2 Rivett L, Sridhar S, Sparkes D, et al. Screening of healthcare workers for SARS-CoV-2 highlights the role of asymptomatic carriage in COVID-19 transmission. ELife 2020; 9:e58728.
5 Alejo JL, Mitchell J, Chang A, et al. Prevalence and Durability of SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies Among Unvaccinated US Adults by History of COVID-19. JAMA Mar 15, 2022;327(11):1085-1087.
6 Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Good news: Mild COVID-19 induces lasting antibody protection. May 24, 2021.
7 Gazit S, Shlezinger R, Perez G, et al. Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity: reinfections versus breakthrough infections. medRxiv Aug. 25, 2021.
13 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Third COVID-19 Vaccine. Feb. 27, 2021.
15 Knapp A, Rosenbaum L. Here’s What You Need to Know About Astra Zeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine. Forbes Nov. 23 2020.
16 Robert-Guroff M. Replicating and non-replicating viral vectors for vaccine development. Curr Opin Biotechnol. December 2007;18(6):546-556.
17 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination to Prevent COVID-19 Outbreaks with Current and Emergent Variants — United States, 2021. In: Emergency Preparedness and Response. July 27, 2021.
18 Anderson M. Pfizer shot 39% effective against infection in Israel; 91% effective against severe disease. Becker’s Hospital Review July. 23, 2021.
19 The PREP Act and COVID-19: Limiting Liability for Medical Countermeasures. Congressional Research Service. Apr. 13, 2022.
25 Fisher BL. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: NVIC Special Report. National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) February-June 2020.
27 Garg S, Kim L, Whitaker M, et al. Hospitalization Rates and Characteristics of Patients Hospitalized with Laboratory-Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 — COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1–30, 2020. MMWR 2020; 69(15): 458-464.
29 Congressional Research Service. The PREP Act and COVID-19: Limiting Liability for Medical Countermeasures. Apr. 13, 2022.
30 Garde D., Branswell H. 6 burning questions Congress could push Covid-19 vaccine makers to answer today. Stat News July 20, 2020.
31 Fisher BL. Parpia R. 2005 PREP Act and 1986 Act Shield Vaccine Manufacturers from Liability The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 10, 2020.