As more Americans get their second Covid-19 shot, questions still remain about when the pandemic will end – and how vaccines will ultimately help quash the virus.
In this second part of a two-part interview with Dr. Archana Chatterjee, who serves on the Food and Drug Administration’s independent advisory committee that reviews and evaluates vaccines and related medicines, she discusses cases of infection after vaccination and getting the shots to kids. Last week she talked about variants and deaths and adverse reactions potentially associated with the shots.
The following is an edited version of the exchange with Chatterjee, who is dean of the Chicago Medical School, and is speaking based on her own views and not those of the FDA. She said she could not discuss the vaccine submitted for emergency approval by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson Report last week.
TheStreet: Now that millions of Americans have concluded their second dose of the vaccines, we're seeing some high-profile cases of people -- like U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts -- who are testing positive for the virus more than a week after completing the second dose. How do you read this?
Chatterjee: If you recall, the authorization for both Pfizer's (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and Moderna's (MRNA) - Get Moderna Inc. Report Covid-19 vaccines was based upon the data that showed efficacy in reducing symptomatic Covid illness. The fact that people are testing positive for the virus after vaccination could indicate a few possibilities: First, that there has not been sufficient time to mount an adequate immune response. Second, for some reason the vaccine did not produce an adequate immune response there are many reasons this may happen in individual cases. And, third, the vaccines are not 100% effective, so around 5% of people who are vaccinated may not be protected.
TheStreet: Can people who are testing positive after vaccination transmit the virus to others?
Chatterjee: That has not yet been answered by the scientific data available. The theoretical answer would be "potentially, yes." It is possible that vaccinated individuals may have a lower "viral load" and therefore, be less likely to transmit the infection, but this is purely speculative at this point.
TheStreet: Do you believe that for this vaccination rollout to work, kids will have to be part of the program?
Chatterjee: We know, actually, that children might not get as sick as adults, but they can transmit the virus. And, children are a quarter or so of the general population. So, if you just do the math, if you want to have (about) 75% of the population vaccinated, you would have to vaccinate 100% of adults, which you know is impossible to do. So, vaccinating children will be part of the longer term strategy of getting the pandemic under control. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.