Members of Salt Lake Community College’s faculty and staff encouraged COVID-19 vaccination during a virtual student forum on Wednesday.
SLCC hosted the forum to discuss COVID-19 vaccines and answer student questions following the college’s announcement of a vaccine requirement for spring registration. Panelists included members of SLCC’s biology department as well as clinicians from the Center for Health and Counseling.
“Right now, everyone who is 12 years of age and older should be vaccinated,” said Philip Howland, manager for SLCC’s medical clinic. “This includes women who are pregnant, women who may become pregnant and women who are breastfeeding.”
Howland acknowledged the probability of vaccine access extending to younger populations. On Friday, the FDA cleared Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, with the CDC expected to make a final ruling for emergency use authorization on Tuesday.
“The overwhelming evidence that we have regarding COVID-19 vaccinations is that they are safe,” Howland continued. “The [FDA] and [CDC] continue to monitor for safety and effectiveness of the vaccinations, and these are the most intensely studied vaccinations in U.S. history for safety.”
One student question asked if there is a concern for the development of antibody dependent enchantment with COVID-19 vaccines. ADE refers to when antibodies made as a part of an immune response bind to the corresponding pathogen and help it to infect cells instead of preventing infection.
“There has been absolutely no evidence to this, either in its current use, in lab experiments that were conducted prior and also through clinical trials,” said Kristen Taylor, an associate professor of biology.
“As an extension … if the COVID-19 vaccine caused ADE, we would see vaccinated individuals with an increased chance of severe disease, but we don’t see that in the data,” Taylor continued. “The majority of the severe disease and deaths that we see in the U.S. are people that are not fully vaccinated. The ADE and connection with COVID-19 vaccine has not been indicated at all.”
Another student’s question asked about the likelihood of developing myocarditis, inflammation of the heart’s muscle cells, after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Taylor acknowledged reported incidents of myocarditis due to COVID-19 vaccines but noted it is a “miniscule” incidence rate when compared to myocarditis resulting from COVID-19 disease.
Howland also discussed long COVID, saying he and colleagues see patients with both severe and mild cases experience continued symptoms beyond initial infection.
“These long haulers … are having symptoms of fatigue, brain fog and we don’t have a really great way to treat them right now,” Howland said. “But what we do have is vaccination – these are highly effective, safe and really represent the best way for us to protect our health and for ending the pandemic.”