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Vaccine Chat: Bridging the Gap Between Vaccinated and Unvaccinated with Love

Feb 24, 2022 11:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo

On Thursday, February 17th at 9:30 am EST, FunTimes Magazine hosted ‘Vaccine Chat: Bridging the Gap Between Vaccinated and Unvaccinated with Love’, featuring Dr. Ngozi Onuoha, MD, MBA-HCM, and Jos Duncan Asé, founder of Love Now Media, hosted by Jennifer K. Smith, Live & Virtual Event Host at FunTimes Magazine. 

During this event, Duncan Asé asked Dr. Onuoha pertinent vaccination-related questions, and Dr. Onuoha answered those inquiries. When Duncan Asé asked about herd immunity for communities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Onuoha described herd immunity as “When a large percent of the population (70-80%) has become immune to diseases. This happens when people get exposed to infectious agents. Exposure or vaccines help them to create antibodies. Immunity is obtained by contracting the disease or vaccination.” Dr. Onuoha continues: “The US has accomplished 64.9% of vaccinations for the populations (over 200 million people), so we are getting close to herd immunity.”

In comparing the importance of vaccinations versus natural immunity, using human papillomavirus (HPV) as an example, Dr. Onuoha says: “Natural immunity is immunity that people develop due to exposure. HPV causes genital warts, stomach, and throat cancer. If you look at HPV, would a person want to get natural immunity through exposing themselves to HPV? Why not get vaccinated instead. Natural immunity is not a good strategy because of the consequences. Someone who gets COVID and develops antibodies can get COVID again.”

In discussing Duncan Asé’s inquiry about what the new variants of COVID mean for the vaccines, Dr. Onuoha says: “In terms of the variants, we know that viruses change all the time. This is why you get a new flu shot every year because viruses evolve. Some viruses are not clinically significant. In terms of COVID, it doesn’t change as fast as the flu.  

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The virus is very unpredictable. We’ve heard of people who have been healthy, gotten COVID and they died. What we know is that age is the #1 risk factor for severe COVID. Someone who is over 65 is more at risk for developing severe COVID. It could be asymptomatic, it could be mild or it could be severe. 

When the body is exposed to COVID, some people with comorbidity, including obesity, diabetes, chronic disease, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, or any kind of brain disease, are more at risk. The more comorbidities someone has, the higher the risk of the severity of COVID. The vaccines are sufficient to reduce the severity of illnesses and death.”

Dr. Onuoha describes the deadly effects of COVID-19: “COVID goes for the vital organs like the heart and the lungs. COVID is an inflammatory condition, so it causes stickiness. With COVID, the lungs fill up with fluid, creating Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS has a 40% mortality rate. 

When the body detects COVID, it wants to get rid of it, so the immune system wants to push that out, but it can’t tell which is good or bad tissue. In doing this, it goes after the heart, the kidney, and it can cause blood clots. In the brain, it can cause strokes and inflammation. This is the triggering of the cytokine storm. After people recover from COVID, long term, it can cause brain loss, memory fog, and other problems, like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and trauma. The vaccines prevent the severity of COVID, and that is how it impacts hospitalization.” 

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Duncan Asé asks if the vaccine doses are forms of COVID. Dr. Onuoha responds: “The vaccine doesn’t give COVID. It's not active.” Duncan Asé then asks “What are vaccines made of and how do they boost the immune system?” Dr. Onuoha says: “The first is the viral vector which uses an inactivated particle for a vaccine (Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca). Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA technology, where the mRNA sends a signal to the cells and the cells create a spike protein.”

Duncan Asé asks why people get sick when they get a COVID vaccine. Dr. Onuoha responds: “It's just the immune system working. The body’s immune system is really strong, and it's trying to tell you that it’s working.”

Duncan Asé inquires about the potential risks of getting a COVID vaccine, like myocarditis. Dr. Onuoha says: “COVID creates increased stickiness of the blood vessels that can cause inflammation of the heart (myocarditis). Before COVID it was 10 in 100,000. With COVID it is 100 in 100,000. The risk with the vaccine is 1 in 100,000. Over 10 billion COVID vaccine doses have been given. The benefits outweigh the risks.

Duncan Asé inquires: “Am I at more risk getting the vaccine or not getting the vaccine with pericarditis?” Dr. Onuoha says: “Even if someone has pericarditis they should still get the vaccine.” Dr. Onuoha notes that the US, especially Black women, has issues with heart disease. She then says: “I would recommend anybody who has any kind of heart condition to get the vaccine. The side effects are rare.” 

When Duncan Asé asks about COVID-19 pills available to communities, Dr. Onuoha says: “There are 2 pills that recently got approved by the FDA for people with mild to moderate COVID who are in outpatient care. The pills are given to people who have and have not been vaccinated and have risks of progressing to severe COVID. Paxlovid, a combination tablet, is 90% effective in reducing severe COVID. Molnupiravir is 70% effective. There are some drug-to-drug interactions that providers need to be aware of. They have to make sure that the patients are not taking different medication, and that pregnant women are not taking them.”

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In discussing mask-wearing, Dr. Onuoha says: “The n95, which filters 95%, is not comfortable. However, in terms of wearing the mask, if someone has significant medical risks, they may want to err on the side of caution.” She also notes the risk of a person contracting COVID and taking COVID home to their family members. “It’s all about mitigating risk”, says Dr. Onuoha.

Dr. Onuoha adds: “As we reach herd immunity, this pandemic has to come to an end at some point.”

Thanks for attending ‘Vaccine Chat: Bridging the Gap Between Vaccinated and Unvaccinated with Love’. What are your COVID-19 vaccination questions?

This article has been made possible by the Independence Public Media Foundation.


 Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ( ).

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