One shot of the COVID-19 vaccine does not “make you immune”: Doctor

The United Kingdom has imposed strict blockades due to a possible new strain of coronavirus. Doctor of Emergency Medicine Dr. Hiral Tipirneni joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video transcription

We have Dr. Hiral Tipirneni. She is an emergency physician in Arizona, where she was also a former congressional candidate. Dr. Tipirneni, it’s great to talk to you this morning. I want to ask about the silver lining of the vaccine in the context of what Anjalee was just talking about. And I want to ask clearly. That is, does the threat of a new strain, as we see in the UK, really have implications for the development or effectiveness of vaccines as we continue to see the launch of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well, thank you for introducing me today. And, as she said, I mean, there are always more strains that can move. We know the science behind this. And what’s really important is just to make sure we’re tracking the data, let us guide you. At this time, we have no reason to believe that this vaccine that we have changes in efficacy is based on this. But, again, it’s about monitoring the data, watching the numbers coming out of other places and seeing what science tells us.

If any changes need to be made, we need to be careful about that. But right now, I think we are in good hands with this current set of vaccines that we have, and the launch so far has been very robust and effective. And we should let science and data guide us as we move forward.

SEANA SMITH: Hey doctor, Seana is here. So it sounds like a vaccine, we’ll probably be fine. But I think the problem from now on is what Anjalee just said, and that might not be as detectable in tests. I’m curious how this could potentially complicate our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yes, absolutely. I mean … and as you all know, we didn’t have a comprehensive national testing strategy. So we have already struggled with that compared to so many other countries around the world. So I think it’s a very real concern to make sure that we have accurate testing strategies, that we have the right one – whether it’s the actual test or the development materials and so on. And that’s why, again, and we know that, right.

We know that the CDC is pursuing this, we know that the NIH is aware. This is another reason why we should still be part of the World Health Organization, because these pandemics, the reason why we have been so protected in the past, are because we managed to stop them before they reached our shores.

In this case, we have to be very vigilant and we have to make sure that we receive the data, that we know what science tells us and that we are proactive. And that just means that all our health agencies and organizations need to be synchronized and really have – the radar needs to be very focused on that. Because right now, we’re at a turning point with the vaccine here. And we certainly don’t want to lose any of the progress we’ve made.

But this means that all of us, including people who have not been vaccinated, as well as those who have, must maintain a very high level of vigilance. This means that we still wear masks, yet we maintain social distance, nothing should change in that arena until we have that larger volume of our population truly vaccinated and truly protected.

And that brings a good point, because we have to put an end to that moment. We are still many months away from the large-scale inoculation of the population. But we see at this moment the rhythm of about a quarter of a million cases, new cases, every day. A lot of areas affect the capacity of the hospital when it comes to these ICU beds. What do you see on earth in Arizona? Are you optimistic based on what we see, the numbers we can safely reach to the point where there is widespread vaccination, despite the growing search?

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yes, I mean, look here in Arizona. Things are worrying, right. We know that our ICU bed capacity is strong, we know that the numbers, the number of cases have increased, our positive test percentage floated by about 20%, sometimes higher. So all of these are obviously very worrying indicators of this current growth. And, as you all know, we recently had a Thanksgiving holiday, we have Christmas holidays and the New Year is coming, and there are still a lot of people who don’t necessarily follow public health guidelines.

Our governor has been very lax in applying anything. We don’t have a mask warrant, we still have tables inside, all of these things are worrying. So I would really warn everyone out there. The vaccine is amazingly good news, but realize that a single shot doesn’t make you immune and we need to have most of our population protected and immunized and actually truly immune to infection, and it will take a long time, many months.

So, until then, we should all continue to follow the same public health guidelines, stay home if you are sick, wash your hands, wear a mask when you are around others who are not in your household, to limit the size of assemblies. I would avoid eating indoors and just try to stay home as much as possible, because we are not out of this crisis. We’re … there’s a light at the end of that tunnel, but we have to work hard to get there.

SEANA SMITH: And talking about doing a lot of work to get there, Doctor, that list of vaccinations we got over the weekend, the CDC panel signed that second group of four people over the age of 75, front-line workers, also. I’m curious what you think about this list and who you think we should get vaccinated for first.

HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Yes. Look, I mean, obviously with our first batch. I think it was absolutely right. The second type of category, I think we are talking about the people with the highest risk. You know, we have those essential front-line workers, whether they’re the first to respond, the clerks, the people who aren’t able to work from home. They are permanently exposed to this risk. And I think it’s very important for those people to be immunized, and I think that’s an appropriate category that’s prioritized.

I think we need to make sure that we follow science in allocating this vaccine, that it should not be based on position, privilege, wealth or anything like that. It should be based on the highest risk and ensure that we inoculate those populations that are most likely to be exposed to the virus or have very lethal or dangerous complications of the virus.