Infectious disease doctor says taking any FDA-approved vaccine is key to returning to normal

It’s a frame of mind  — and a lot of science.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is very optimistic about America’s future in dealing with the coronavirus.

She thinks there is a simple and safe solution to returning to normal as quickly as possible – get the vaccine. Any vaccine. 

Following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released March 29, Gandhi tweeted: “To put [it] simply, 161 COVID infections out of 1000 unvaccinated; 1 out of 1000 if vaccinated.”

They’re all good, she said, and she’s not concerned about different vaccines providing different variant protection either. Gandhi said there are studies that show people have their own mechanisms to fight the disease, and any vaccine protection helps the greater population.

In a Friday interview with WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis, Gandhi answered questions about some of the concerns people are having about Covid-19 vaccines. 

But first, she addressed mixed messages that top U.S. health officials are sending to the American public.

The CDC announced Friday that fully vaccinated people can travel to families over the holiday weekend and not worry about wearing a mask indoors. However, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing later that same day that the CDC is still discouraging nonessential travel. President Biden backed her up.

“I think it’s hard to be a politician or a public health official, because you want to both give good news, and then your messaging caution at the same time,” Gandhi said. “It can make people look, you know, sort of like they’re going back and forth.”

Gandhi fully supports fully vaccinated people traveling.

“We have had so much amazingly great news, just this last week, about the incredible effectiveness of these vaccines,” Gandhi said. “Both from the CDC on a big article on Monday across first line responders, and then Pfizer [on Thursday] gave us six month data of incredible vaccine effectiveness out of 40,000 people worldwide, even across the variants.”

She said it’s logical that with all the good news, fully vaccinated people should be able to have fewer travel restrictions.

Gandhi adds that there are recent studies that show a person’s own “T cell immunity” can also naturally fight against coronavirus variants that are so often talked about.

“The great news, and really it just came out mainly this week…there’s two papers that show us that our T cell immunity, our cell mediated immunity, which is actually the best way that we fight viruses, are just completely intact against the variants,” Gandhi said.

She added: “[S]o people should stop worrying about which vaccine to get and just get vaccinated.” 

Gandhi also wants people to have confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I like the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, there’s sort of six reasons that I like it,” she says.

Primarily, Gandhi liked that the J&J vaccine is “one dose and you’re done,” and that the trials showed recipients’ immunogenicity went up over time —  meaning, when they stopped the trials, people were having improving antibody responses.

She also was reassured by how well it worked against new variants of COVID-19, and that the J&J vaccine was tested among really diverse populations.

Lastly, the speed at which the J&J vaccine helps boost herd immunity and how few side effects it has all give her hope.

“I really think it’s safe and effective. And I’d take any dose of anything I can get,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi is also not concerned if a person receives a different manufacturer’s vaccine shot for their second dose.

“It’s okay if vaccine doses from different manufacturers get injected in your body. The bright side, that situation could create a stronger response, stronger antibodies.”

WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis contributed to this report.

Glynis Kazanjian

Glynis Kazanjian has been a freelance writer covering Maryland politics and government on the local, state and federal levels for the last 11 years. Her work is published in Maryland Matters, the Baltimore Post Examiner, Bethesda Beat and Md. Reporter. She has also worked as a true crime researcher.

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