Existing COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and are based on long established science, a former CDC researcher told Rome Rotary on Thursday.

“One of the reasons why (the COVID-19) vaccines could be produced so quickly is because all this basic science was already in place at the start of the pandemic,” said Trudy Rey, who has a PhD in molecular genetics and biochemistry and writes for the Virology Blog.

Rey, who now works as a patent agent specializing in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical device patents, worked on vaccine development as a postdoctoral fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The question: Why was it so easy to develop this vaccine? The answer: All the science was already in place.

In a series of YouTube videos, Rey speaks about a number of topics including mixing and matching vaccines, false information concerning vaccines and outright conspiracies involving the origin of the virus.

First off, vaccines aren’t intended to prevent a virus, she said, they’re meant to protect a person from severe disease, hospitalization and death.

It’s important to recognize the difference between a disease and the infection caused by a virus. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes the disease COVID-19.

Infection happens when the virus enters the body and begins to multiply. Disease comes from the damage done to your body and cells, often shown when symptoms of an illness appear.

Question: Will those vaccinated get infected? The answer, Rey said, is yes, but it’s much more complicated than that. When a person gets vaccinated they also develop a high level of antibodies that fight the virus.

That lasts for a time but the level eventually begins to decrease, which is natural.

“Antibodies are supposed to go down, otherwise we’d be walking lymph nodes,” she said.

The immune system is just that — a system of layered defenses that fight against disease. Even when those antibodies decline, portions of the system with longer memories still kill the infection. That’s why those who are vaccinated have milder cases of the disease.

However, there are those who need the additional antibodies to fight off the virus itself, prior to it becoming a disease. That’s why the FDA is recommending a third dose of the vaccine for those who are over 65, immunocompromised or suffer from other medical conditions.

Question: Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for children? Yes, she said. The question isn’t whether or not the vaccines are safe at this point. Rather, the testing is to determine the appropriate dosage for younger children.

Question: Should a person get vaccinated after they’ve had COVID-19? Yes, the current recommendation from the CDC is that those who’ve recovered from the disease should still get the shots.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weekly report published in August references a study that showed unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be re-infected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.

“These data further indicate that COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and that vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfections,” the report states.

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