It’s been approximately three months since the first COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization (EUA) in the United States. On December 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was available for most individuals 16 years and older. Just a week later, the FDA issued its second EUA, this time for the Moderna vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19.
At the end of February, the COVID vaccine from Janssen Biotech, a pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson, received its FDA approval. Administered as a single-dose, it was roughly 67 percent effective in clinical trial participants in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease occurring at least 14 days after vaccination.
The Role of Social Determinants of Health
Vaccines have been utilized for more than a century to curb and sometimes even eliminate the spread of infectious diseases. In fact, each year, vaccination prevents 2.7 million cases of measles, two million cases of neonatal tetanus, one million cases of pertussis, 600,000 cases of paralytic poliomyelitis and 300,000 cases of diphtheria.
Along with preventing disease in those who receive them, vaccination offers a multitude of advantages, including reducing the likelihood of disease transmission, decreasing antibiotic use and lowering diagnostics and treatment costs, numbers of ambulatory care visits, medical interventions and hospitalizations.
Even with these benefits, some individuals choose not to take advantage of certain vaccines. The term for this is vaccine hesitancy, which is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) Hesitancy Working Group as the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services and describes it as a complex behavioral phenomenon influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.
According to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 44 percent of U.S. adults are still on the fence or unlikely to be vaccinated for COVID-19. For some individuals, it’s due to their perception that the vaccines were approved in a rush and haven’t been proven to be safe. For others, misinformation and lack of access to balanced and accurate information is a major contributor to low vaccine confidence. In many developed countries such as the U.S., the internet and social media have played a big role in prompting anti-vaccination movements and shaping vaccination decision-making.
Where people live and work along with other factors also influence vaccination decision-making. These factors are included in social determinants of health (SDOH), which the WHO defines as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and circumstances that are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels.”
For example, a study published in the Journal of Community Health noted that individuals who had lower education, income or perceived threat of getting infected were more likely to report that they were not likely/definitely not going to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the journal Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, some of the other SDOH that influence vaccination are:
- Household living conditions
- Healthcare access
- Philosophical and cultural beliefs
- Religious affiliations
- Urban vs. rural residence
We at Providertech are doing our part in aiming to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy due to SDOH by participating in a study along with the Mayo Clinic Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research and other entities. The focus of the study is employing a proactive organized population-based outreach approach by leveraging health information technology with tailored navigation support to address various mistrust and social barriers like the ones mentioned earlier in this blog.
The goal of this study is to find out whether primary care physician endorsement from a patient’s own provider with or without interactive digital communication plus navigation is more effective in promoting trust, willingness and uptake of COVID-19 vaccine than non-tailored messages delivered from the clinic. Providertech’s population health platform will be used in the study to enable bidirectional communication through SMS.
COVID-19 Vaccines: Myth vs. Fact
Every American has the right to make their own decision about vaccinations, but we’d like to clear up some popular myths surrounding these vaccines that might be hindering some individuals from receiving them. Remember, not everything you see on the internet and/or social media is true!
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines were developed too quickly and rushed to market.
FACT: Although these vaccines were approved as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, cutting-edge research on messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, which is what the Pfizer and Moderna shots are, has been conducted for decades. Scientists, physicians and government agencies globally have invested a large number of resources to ensure results from the testing of these vaccines was published as soon as possible after being reviewed and approved by multiple independent advisory panels.
These vaccines underwent the exact same rigorous FDA process as all other vaccines and have been scrupulously tested for safety in humans. The CDC is meticulously tracking any adverse reactions to the approved FDA vaccines and have found rare occurrences of any serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, other reasons the COVID-19 vaccines were able to be developed so quickly are:
- While the vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, some of the testing steps were conducted on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
- Vaccine projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
- Some types of COVID-19 vaccines were created using messenger RNA (mRNA), which allows a faster approach than the traditional way that vaccines are made.
- Social media helped companies find and engage study volunteers, and many were willing to help with COVID-19 vaccine research.
- Because COVID-19 is so contagious and widespread, it did not take long to see if the vaccine worked for the study volunteers who were vaccinated.
- Companies began making vaccines early in the process — even before FDA authorization — so some supplies were ready when authorization occurred.
MYTH: Individuals who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered from it don’t need the vaccine.
FACT: Some initial research has shown that individuals are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it, a term called natural immunity. However, scientists don’t know how long any natural immunity from the novel coronavirus lasts. There are severe health risks associated with COVID-19, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone who contracted SARS-CoV-2 be vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least 90 days after being infected. Those who received monoclonal antibody therapy or convalescent plasma as a treatment also should wait 90 days before receiving any COVID-19 vaccine.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines alter a person’s DNA.
FACT: mRNA vaccines, which we discussed in a previous blog, are designed to make the virus’ spike protein, which enables the virus to attach to cells in an individual’s body. Unlike other vaccines which trigger an immune response by putting an inactivated germ into the body, mRNA vaccines cause an individual’s body to develop antibodies to the spike protein. This is what prohibits the virus from attaching to cells if it enters the body. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 or affect an individual’s DNA in any way.
MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines include a tracking microchip designed to control the general population.
FACT: There is absolutely, unequivocally no microchip or any other type of tracking device in the FDA-approved SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen all have released fact sheets that include the ingredient lists – none of which contain any electronic components – for their vaccine. The rumor that started this falsehood started due to a comment made about digital vaccine records.
Successful mass vaccination is critical to reducing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. Providertech’s vaccine management program can help healthcare providers effectively and efficiently vaccinate their patients while protecting their privacy. Contact us at (877) 629-5629 or [email protected] to learn more!