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WKSU is looking for the answers to the questions you have about Ohio in a project we call "OH Really?" It's an initiative that makes you part of the news gathering process.

OH Really? Checks COVID Vaccine Efficacy and Answers Questions About Travel

A photo of MetroHealth main campus
MetroHealth's Dr. Amy Ray and NEOMED virologist Dr. Angelo DeLucia, answer this week's questions.

As Ohio maps out who’s next-in-line for the COVID-19 vaccine, you’ve got questions on how effective the vaccine is and who needs to get it. In this edition of “OH Really?,” we’ll find out.

The COVID vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are said to be at least 90 percent effective. Gary from Wayne County wants to know if that means around 90 percent of the people being vaccinated will form an immunity. I spoke with Angelo DeLucia, a professor of molecular virology at NEOMED. He says the number derives from clinical testing.

“They enrolled 40,000 persons, and they separated them into two groups,” he said.

About half of those people were vaccinated.

“[And] 170 came down with COVID-19 symptoms,” he said.

And only 5 percent of those people with symptoms had been vaccinated, which leads to a 95 percent efficacy rate. This week’s question-asker also wanted to know how one determines if he’ll be in that 95 percent group or not. DeLucia said that’s something that is still not known.

“You will be greatly protected if you get the vaccine versus the population that does not, [according] to this clinical study,” he said.

But there are some complications.

“There are many more genetic variations that are possible, and we've seen before that efficacy does not always directly connect to effectiveness. But we're not expecting that in this case,” DeLucia said.

Moving to our next question: Brenda McShaffrey from Bath wants to know about health precautions for a family wanting to go on a beach house vacation this May. The age range of the group is from infant to over 65, and some of them will have had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by that time. I asked Dr. Amy Ray, MetroHealth’s medical director for infection protection.

"The first thing that I would advise is for those adults—the ones 65 and older—if at all possible, they should receive both doses of vaccine at least two weeks before their slated arrival time to a beach vacation home," she said. "Despite vaccination, they should still follow some basic precautions such as hand hygiene, masking if they're going to be in close vicinity with one another, and spending as much time outside as possible, which is probably the overall overarching goal of beach vacation. No vaccine is 100% protective."

Our next question comes from Dana, a 70-year-old man who has COPD and asthma and gets anaphylaxis from bee stings. So he wants to know if the vaccine is safe for him.

"I would say to this gentleman because of his age, his underlying lung disease, and his underlying heart disease that he would qualify as someone who is at risk of having severe COVID-19, and for that reason I would strongly advocate that he pursue vaccination," Ray said. "However, his caveat is anaphylaxis from bee stings. The current recommendations for patients with a history of anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction to anything, including bee stings, would be that at the time he receives his immunization that he be monitored for 30 minutes.

"After immunization, if he were a patient of mine, I'd advised that if he had an epinephrine pen it would be prudent to bring with him," Ray said. "The typical observation time for patients without a history of severe allergies is 15 minutes. What I would recommend for him is to obtain the vaccine in a clinical setting, not a drive-through setting. [Somewhere] where someone is watching over the vaccine recipients."

“OH Really?” is WKSU’s podcast which makes you part of the reporting process. Ask your question below.


Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.