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Mitochondrial Medicine Society's Response to COVID19 Vaccine

The following information has been published by MMS:


Patients with mitochondrial disease and families have many questions about the new COVID-19 vaccine(s), including whether to take it? Whether they should be prioritized? And its potential risks and benefits.

Although we know we are continuing to learn more about COVID-19, there is still much uncertainty about risks of COVID-19 infection in people with mitochondrial disease. At this time, there are still few reported children and adults with mitochondrial disease who have had COVID-19 infection based on worldwide registries. While some of the few reported to have had COVID-19 may have had significant problems, we do not have any evidence to believe or suspect that the frequency of poor outcome following COVID-19 infection is out of proportion to that in the general population.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now cleared two vaccines designed to lessen the risk of acquiring COVID-19: the BioNTech/Pfizer and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations for emergency use. 

Both are mRNA vaccines, a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. So far, European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. This authorization follows a positive scientific recommendation based on a thorough assessment of the safety, effectiveness and quality of the vaccine by the European Medicines Agency and is endorsed by the Member States. The UK has also approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine which is an adenovirus vaccine. 

In Phase 3 trials, the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine showed a 95% efficacy rate, 7 days after the second dose was given in people 16 years an older (94% effective in adults >65 years old). The Moderna vaccine showed a 94% efficacy rate, 14 days after the second dose is received, in people 18 years and older. These results were consistent across gender, age, race and ethnicity. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine given to people 18 years and older, showed an efficacy of 70.4% after 2 standard doses of the vaccine given 28 days apart. 

At this time, vaccine availability is limited but it is hoped supplies will increase so that most of the global population can be vaccinated. The distribution of the vaccine in the US is being driven by recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, with slight local changes put forth by individual states. The overall strategy is to offer the vaccines to health care professionals and residents in long- term care facilities in the first phase of vaccination. This will then be extended to people at risk and in later stages, to the rest of the population. The European Commission planned a centralized EU approach to secure equitable access to the vaccine across EU. Under its vaccines strategy, the Commission forged agreements with individual vaccine producers on behalf of EU countries. Once available, proven safe and effective, and authorized at EU level, all Member States will have access to COVID-19 vaccines at the same time and the distribution will be done on a per capita basis to ensure fair access. 

It is very important to remember that even with vaccines becoming available in the US and elsewhere, the best measures to prevent COVID-19 spread remain the current infection control procedures - Keep wearing your mask, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings, and remember social distancing and washing your hands. The vaccine is just another way of fighting the pandemic and DOES NOT replace these important safety measures. At this time it is not certain whether those vaccinated and immune to getting COVID-19 themselves can be vectors of COVID-19, meaning they may be able to spread the disease without acquiring it themselves. 

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