Novel Coronavirus

Moderna Vaccine Works Well, Even with Severe Obesity

Right now, if you search Google for COVID vaccine obesity, the top result will be a story from Nature that says the vaccine might not work well for people with obesity. But the truth is quite different. Because yesterday, FDA released data on the Moderna vaccine, and it works quite well, even in people with severe obesity. That makes it two for two. Both of the COVID-19 vaccines with detailed effectiveness data work very well for people with obesity.

Clearing the Way for Another Approval

FDA published three briefing documents for the advisory committee that will meet on Thursday to review the Moderna vaccine. Two were from Moderna. The third was an independent FDA review of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. It was a positive review.

The agency said the vaccine is “highly effective” within 14 days of a second dose. That efficacy was consistent for all subgroups, “including racial and ethnic minorities, participants ages 65 years and older, and those at risk for severe COVID-19 disease due to obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, liver disease, chronic lung disease, mild to severe asthma, and infection with HIV.”

Adverse effects were nothing unusual for a vaccine. Soreness, fatigue, and headache are at the top of the list. A little less than half of the research subjects experienced chills. These are all signs of an immune response to the vaccine, which is exactly the point of getting vaccinated – to prompt our immune systems to protect us.

Thus, the New York Times reports FDA plans to issue an approval on Friday. Moderna is ready to distribute six million doses of the vaccine next week. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, this one doesn’t require extreme cold storage. For shipping and long-term storage, it stays in a standard freezer. On site, storage in a standard refrigerator is fine for up to 30 days.

Speculation Versus Facts

We now have two COVID vaccines with solid data for effectiveness. The Pfizer vaccine was approved last week. Both vaccines work equally well in people with or without obesity. Nonetheless, earlier speculation, now known to be false, will linger – both in the scientific literature and internet searches. A recent review paper included the assertion that “vaccines will be less effective for the individuals with obesity.” Other scientists have already cited this paper 53 times.

Speculation is fine. But one must be clear about what it is, especially if one is spreading it around. Confusing speculation with facts can bring serious errors.

Click here for the briefing documents posted by FDA. For further perspective, click here and here. Finally, for peer-reviewed data on the Pfizer vaccine, click here.

Novel Coronavirus, transmission electron micrograph by NIAID / flickr

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December 16, 2020

2 Responses to “Moderna Vaccine Works Well, Even with Severe Obesity”

  1. December 16, 2020 at 10:37 am, David Brown said:

    Looks like Sweden may not need a vaccine…

  2. December 16, 2020 at 11:54 am, Ted said:

    David, the information you included and linked in your comment is inconsistent with current facts about pandemic in Sweden. Thus, I am declining to post it here.

    In fact, an independent commission in Sweden has concluded that Sweden failed to protect its citizens in this pandemic. As a result, Sweden has suffered a much higher death toll than its neighbors: Norway, Finland, or Denmark. Read more here.