NHF: Vaccination and COVID-19 Update

by: Dr. Leonard Valentino, Chief Executive Officer, National Hemophilia Foundation

So, where are we with vaccines for COVID-19? Well, let’s first start with our progress on coronavirus infections. To date (as of 12:30 pm ET on February 22, 2021), there have been 27,879,604 cases reported in the US resulting in 489,060 deaths of Americans! This staggering number can and will be reduced by the available and soon to come vaccines. According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker, 56.3 million vaccines have been administered in the US. The good news is that both mRNA vaccines been shown to be highly efficacious in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease and severe disease, but there is a significant challenge to get more people vaccinated before the coronavirus variants take hold in the US.

Thus far, three variants: the UK (B.1.1.7), South African (B.1.351) and the Brazilian variant (P.1) have resulted in 1277 cases occurring in 42 states, B.1.351 has infected 19 people in 10 states, and the P.1 has resulted in three cases reported in two states. The concerns with these variants are the potential for an increase in transmissibility or propensity for reinfection of individuals along with reduced effectiveness of the available vaccines. Fortunately, early studies have found that both mRNA vaccines—the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines—appear to be effective against the U.K. variant.

People in the bleeding disorders community and some more broadly in the USA express concerns about the risks associated with the vaccines and are hesitant to receive the vaccine. About half say they don’t have enough information about the vaccine’s side effects or effectiveness, with higher shares of younger, Black, and Hispanic adults citing these information needs (KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor). The most recent information indicates that about 20% of Americans will definitely not or only take a vaccine if required. The United States Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports that non-serious reactions are reported in about 372 out of every million (0.037%) administered doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccines (https://vaers.hhs.gov). The most frequently reported adverse events are pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache and muscle pain. Each is more common after the second dose.

The bottom line is, when you are eligible for a vaccine, please roll up your sleeve. The vaccines are safe for people with bleeding disorders. If you have specific questions, check the COVID-19 FAQ on our website and please speak to your HTC providers to get additional information. Remember, until we are all safe: wear a mask, stay six feet apart, and avoid crowds.