People who receive one of the Covid-19 vaccines may become the next super-spreaders because they could believe they are safe from transmitting the virus.
Harvard University public health student Rushabh Doshi made the warning on KevinMD – a platform founded by Dr Kevin Pho for medical professionals to share their insight.
While the various vaccines against Covid-19 and its variants do prevent most from developing serious symptoms and dying, the main products may not prevent the virus continuing to spread.
‘The Covid-19 vaccinations prevent disease, but we know little about if it prevents reinfection and further viral transmission,’ Mr Doshi wrote.
People who receive the Covid-19 jab may become the next super-spreaders because they could believe they are safe from transmitting the virus. Pictured: Principal Pharmacist, Syed Anas Gilani vaccinates Principal Pharmacist, Davinder Manku in Dudley, England on January 25
‘In fact, vaccinated populations that act under the assumption that they are immune and therefore cannot spread the virus may prove to be the next super-spreaders.’
Mr Doshi said vaccinated members of the public who fail to understand they may still be carriers of the virus ‘pose an immediate threat to the unvaccinated’.
He said this is important to note due to a ‘slower than expected vaccination rollout to the general public’.
The Australian Government aims to have as many people vaccinated as possible in 2021 – but the rollout will be in stages.
Residents at the front of the line for the jab include quarantine and border workers, frontline health care workers, aged care and disability care staff and aged care and disability care residents.
Mr Doshi urged health authorities to educate the public about the vaccines and for recipients to still be aware they could contract and spread the virus, even if they are largely safe from becoming seriously unwell.
‘As the population begins to receive the vaccination, scientists fear that social distancing measures and mask-wearing behavior will ease up,’ he wrote.
‘We must carefully educate a population dealing with serious virus fatigue and malaise that although receiving the vaccinations seems to prevent serious illness, we are unsure if they significantly reduce community transmission of the virus.’
Harvard University public health student Rushabh Doshi explained that little is known about whether vaccinated people can still spread coronavirus
The ongoing risk of infection had led Australia health officials to warn that restrictions – on international travel, on large gatherings, the use of masks et cetera – will likely need to remain in place for months while the vaccine rollout continues.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd tempered expectations that jabs will lead to life returning to pre-pandemic settings, even after the Pfizer vaccine was approved for use in Australia.
The two major unknowns are whether coronavirus vaccines prevent transmission of the virus and if booster shots will be needed each year, similar to the flu.
‘That just reinforces for us how important it’s going to be – even though we might get the vaccine rolling out across Australia – that people still adhere to the public health measures,’ Professor Kidd told ABC radio on Tuesday.
Australia has enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which recorded a 95 per cent efficacy rate in late-stage trials, for about five million people.
Aged care and disability residents will be among the first to receive it with the program set to start in late February, two weeks after the first 80,000 doses are due to arrive.
Workers in quarantine, borders, frontline healthcare, and residential aged care and disability are also in the first phase.
However the limited supply of the Pfizer jab meant the bulk of Australians are likely to receive the AstraZeneca jab, which is yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, but which is anticipated to be rolled out in March.
The AstraZeneca jab has a lower efficacy rate of around 70 per cent, but is much easier to transport and store than the Pfizer version, which requires extremely cold conditions – beyond the capacity of most GP surgeries – and is also much cheaper to produce.
The two vaccines are considerably different in how they operate. The Astra Zeneca product operates like most vaccines – putting a small amount of the weakened virus into the body so the immune system can create antibodies which destroy it, so if a subsequent real infection of the virus enters the system, the antibodies are already present and ready to attack it.
By contrast, the Pfizer vaccine uses an innovative gene altering technology, ‘teaching’ cells how to produce a particular protein which triggers the immune response if there is a subsequent Covid-19 infection.