Does BioNtech's vaccine result of 90% disease prevention mean that 90% of the vaccinated can't pass the virus to other people?

post by ChristianKl · 2020-11-10T15:27:33.065Z · LW · GW · 5 comments

This is a question post.

From reading the news it's not clear to me whether some of those people who receive the vaccine and are in the 90% where it works will be asymptomatic but still infectious. Does anybody know more?


answer by CellBioGuy · 2020-11-10T17:55:40.014Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That isn't an endpoint that this study is able to determine at this point, sadly.  The people were not being tested for RNA regularly, only if they became ill or concerned they were infected.

In about six months, we will know better - study participants are being tested for nucleocapsid antibodies every few months.  The vaccine does not contain the nucleocapsid protein, so nucleocapsid antibodies (which are utterly irrelevant to infection control) would indicate an actual infection.  If they don't get infected they can't spread it - but I will bet you ANYTHING that those who DO get infected are at least less infectious.

comment by MichaelLowe · 2020-11-10T23:01:12.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

but I will bet you ANYTHING that those who DO get infected are at least less infectious. 

I am less sure, based on the results of the Oxford vaccine trial: "Viral gRNA was detected in nose swabs from all animals and no difference was found on any day between vaccinated and control animals." Viral load is indeed lower in the lower respiratory tract, but my understanding is that infections spread mainly from the upper respiratory tract. And if you factor in how most infections are detected, namely by an individual experiencing symptoms, it is conceivable that vaccinated and thus asymptomatic Sars-Cov 2 carriers will be in effect more infectious.

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2020-11-11T04:05:18.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This being said, the challenge the monkeys were given was a massive dose of virus that is probably a good deal more than a human is ever likely to see.  Also, you can have replication without having as much competent virus, especially if free virions are being neutralized via antibodies.

answer by waveman · 2020-11-10T22:18:42.932Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It means that they have put out a press release. I would be waiting for the paper and hopefully more data. I have found that such press releases often subtly and unsubtly overstate how good the results are. 

From the reports, it looks like 90% of the infections were in the control group. Make of that what you will. It does sound encouraging. We don't know if the "uninfected" were shedding virus at any given time.


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