A timely topic at the Wednesday, March 17, meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC) as evidenced by how well it was attended. Returning to the stage was Professor Andy Barraclough. He has spoken to the Club several times, including a talk about what vaccines are beneficial for expats living in Thailand, and another about misleading information about vaccines. Additionally, he has provided other informative and interesting talks about Tuberculosis, Dengue Fever, and the Corona Virus.
He is the Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Director of Training at the Empower School of Health. He regularly hosts and presents webinar conferences and on-line trainings through both Empower School of Health and the World Health Organization.
With the global effects of Covid-19 and the seemingly rapid development of several vaccines, Professor Barraclough spoke about what he considers to be fears, facts, and fiction regarding these vaccines. Although his presentation contained numerous slides, he only highlighted certain key points and noted that the information shown is available from many sources, which he included links to on the slides. With his permission, the Club has made all the slides he used available at: http://www.pcecnews.com/permNL/PCEC Covid Vaccine Facts Fears Fictions.pdf.
He began his presentation with his usual disclaimers and caution that it is not intended to be professional medical advice or a personal or specific medical recommendation. Further, that you should always seek qualified medical advice with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Professor Barraclough also noted that it is just over one year since Covid 19 was identified and much was not known. Some is still not known. The situation continues to develop – new variants are arising, and better data and analysis are being produced every day. Further that he has tried to use current information but you need to be aware it is a rapidly changing situation.
In the first few slides, he described the Covid-19 virus noting that it has protrusions which he refers to as “knobs” and that these knobs are very sticky, meaning it’s far less likely to be shaken loose and is therefore presumably more effective at invading our cells. The knobs stick to the body’s ‘hairy’ cells as you grow your own knobs – on the outside of cells. He then discussed the body’s immune system and its ability to develop antibodies.
This was followed by some very informative slides about the three main approaches in developing the Covid-19 vaccine along with identifying which approach was used by the different pharmaceutical companies that have developed the vaccines currently in use or having applied for approval for use. Professor Barraclough noted that so far, the vaccines approved are for “emergency use” and described what this means. Further, this designation does not mean there is believed to be any problems with the vaccines, only that there is not yet adequate data because of time for normal regulatory authorization. He also described the process that vaccines go through for regulatory approval, much of which is “down time” between phases noting the vast majority of it is spent writing grant applications, having them rejected, pleading for funding, and trying to get volunteers. However, for Covid-19, there was much less downtime as governments waived manufacturer liability and accepted some candidates might fail. Further, they provided needed funding to speed up the process, noting that the USA Government alone spent $9 billion toward this effort in less than one year.
He described the phases of development of a vaccine. First is the exploratory preclinical steps before beginning Phase I, which is for testing the vaccine’s safety & immunity in humans. This is followed by Phase II to determine the vaccine immunity, dose & safety. Phase III involves the vaccine’s ability to produce the intended result & safety. Phase IV involves monitoring surveillance post marketing.
Generally, it’s not possible to make any assessment of effectiveness and safety of a vaccine until data is published which does call into question the probity of regulatory authorities providing authorizations before clinical trial data is available. Professor Barraclough noted the different approaches between the East and West in granting approval.
In the East, it appears vaccines were put in use before certain phases in the usual process were completed. The Russian vaccines were in use before Phase III trials and the Chinese vaccine in use before Phase II trials. However, all are considered likely to be effective noting that the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, trial data for Phase III has now been published.
In the West, AZ trial (AstraZeneca) data was fully published, but optimal dosage and optimal time spacing between doses were not clearly established at the time of approval, which is viewed as generally acceptable for emergency use but messy. Additional data has now been published and the situation clarified.
He then spoke about the myths surrounding the Covid-19 vaccines mentioning that the sheer volume of “Fake News” is staggering. He cited several myths and what the facts really are. For example, some people over 80 have died after having the Covid vaccination which he said was perfectly true; but unfortunately, quite a lot of people over 80 die every day – about 1 in 15 per year in the UK. However, the fact is that case fatality rates have reduced since vaccinations started in Israel and the UK.
He concluded his presentation noting there are still unknowns about the vaccines, such as will the vaccine become a yearly injection like the flu vaccine or how effective is the first vaccine injection without getting the second one? He then answered many questions from the audience including when the Covd-19 vaccines will be available for Expats in Thailand. His response was there is no clear answer at this time.
After the presentations, MC Ren Lexander brought everyone up to date on the latest events. This was followed by the Open Forum conducted by Les Edmonds where attendees can make comments or ask questions about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya. For more information visit the PCEC’s website at https://pcec.club/. To view a video of his presentation, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBoSoth8l-I.