State disease expert: Evidence grows that vaccines stop symptom-free patients from spreading COVID

Twenty Iowa counties turned down their state COVID-19 vaccine allocations this week. (Photo by Getty Images/Javier Zayas Photography)

Iowa’s state epidemiologist on Tuesday cited growing evidence that coronavirus vaccines will prevent even those who have COVID-19 but no symptoms from spreading the disease.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati told the Iowa Farmers Union research on that question continues. 

Dr. Caitlin Pedati is Iowa’s state epidemiologist. (Screen capture from state video)

“We’re hoping that the vaccine will not only help keep us from getting sick, but keep us from being able to transmit the virus to others,” Pedati said at a lunch and learn event. “We are seeing growing evidence that they serve that purpose, which makes scientific sense.”

A final determination will come after more studies, she added. “It’s one of the things we continue to evaluate. We’re also still learning how long these vaccines can protect you. We need to understand how long our immune systems can remember to do this.

“That’s something that’s just going to take time for us to know because we simply need time to pass so that we can evaluate people’s antibodies and figure out how long that response lasts,” Pedati added.

Pedati encouraged all Iowans to get the vaccine, and noted that no one can get COVID-19 from the shot. “None of the currently authorized and recommended vaccines have live virus. You cannot get COVID from the COVID vaccine,” she said.

On the other hand, the vaccines reduce the odds of a person getting the illness, and can lessen symptoms and hospitalizations even in cases in which a vaccinated person gets COVID.

Pedati said even those who have had COVID-19 should get the free vaccine. And everyone should accept the first vaccine available, regardless of the brand or how many doses it requires, she added.

“It’s remarkable and great that we got these vaccines,” Pedati said. “We want to use them. We also want to acknowledge that there are things we need to learn, and that is good and important.”

Ken Sharp, a division director at the Iowa Department of Public Health, said the state hopes to open vaccine appointments to all Iowans on April 5, “contingent on vaccine supplies.”

“The key point here is there are a lot of sources of vaccine coming into the state, albeit in still small numbers compared to our demand,” Sharp told the Farmers Union audience. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the state reported 1,299,260 doses had been administered in Iowa, with 504,898 people fully vaccinated. Iowa ranks 13th in the country in the share of its population that is fully vaccinated, the Washington Post reported. The state ranks 18th in the percentage of residents who have received at least one dose. 

Iowa’s new COVID cases continue to fall, with a 10% drop over the past two weeks. The state recorded 433 new cases and no deaths on Monday, the New York Times reported.

Since the pandemic started, 374,558 Iowans have tested positive for the illness, and 5,683 have died, the state reported.