I'm Cautiously Optimistic About Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine

The world celebrated earlier this week as Pfizer announced its blockbuster vaccine news...

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine candidate shown to be 90% effective in early findings – USA Today

Trudeau says promising new Pfizer vaccine could be 'light at the end of the tunnel' – CBC

Pfizer vaccine news is exactly what investors were craving – CNN

Vaccine news gives much-needed boost to the economic outlook – CNBC

With the UK in another lockdown and cases soaring here in the U.S., the good news was welcome. But it's still way too early to be so excited.

First, this vaccine needs to be tested in the real world to see if those who get the vaccine are actually protected.

And there's the question of side effects from the vaccine... If people start to get sick (or even die) from it, then the vaccine remains problematic. When we do large and fast rollouts of drugs, we'll find additional side effects and problems once enough people get the vaccine.

Another problem the vaccine faces is mutations in the virus. We know the influenza virus mutates regularly, which is why people have to get a flu shot every year they want to be protected. We're already seeing evidence of the same problem in the COVID-19 vaccine.

Distribution is also going to be one of the biggest problems... Pfizer's vaccine requires negative 70 degrees Celsius cold storage. That's 50 degrees colder than any current vaccine in the U.S. Despite Pfizer's CEO claims that the vaccine will be distributed worldwide, some countries will have difficulty with the cold storage – particularly in Africa, South America, and parts of Asia.

And as I sat down to write this, news broke that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sold $5.6 million in Pfizer stock. Bourla initiated the sale back in August as part of a 10b5-1 plan, meaning he arranged to sell the stock any time the company or its shares met some predetermined conditions. These plans are a common way to avoid accusations of insider trading. Still, when he made these arrangements in August, Pfizer was in the midst of promising trials for the COVID-19 vaccine... The big stock sale makes me wonder what kind of faith Bourla has in the vaccine.

However, despite the numerous complications and other caveats, it's still good news that Pfizer has a vaccine that's 90% effective. Plus, other companies continue working on their own vaccines. So I'm cautiously optimistic... but we're still months and months away from a vaccine that will be widely available and safe.

My colleague Dave Lashmet feels much the same. Dave recently said that "realistically, most of us are going to be waiting at least a year to get vaccinated."

According to Dave...

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Now, let's get into this week's Q&A... We love getting your e-mails, so keep sending your questions and comments to [email protected].

Q: If you eat brown rice you are eating white rice. White rice is inside the outer brown covering. – J.M.

A: It's true that brown rice and white rice are fundamentally similar. But where they differ matters more than you might think...

White rice is simply brown rice stripped of the outer layers (husk, bran, and germ). These parts contain most of the benefits of rice... like soluble fiber. The rice is then bleached to enhance the white color. In other words, white rice is brown rice without most of its nutrients. That's why we recommend that if you're going to eat rice, go for brown rice.

Q: Doc, you said the best is getting under the sun for 30 minutes. On the other side, you said not to get overexposure. I'm confused here. Every morning at 8, I walk under the sunshine for about 20 to 30 minutes. I used black eyeglasses to cover my eyes. Is that overexposure? – F.H.

A: It depends on where you live, but as long as you're not living near the equator, you're probably fine.

In the summertime, I recommend avoiding sun exposure between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. But in the winter, lots of places don't get strong enough sunlight to worry about overexposure. The only time you'd need to be careful is if you spend a lot of time in the snow. Sunlight bouncing off the snow gives you a double dose of UV-light exposure. Also, if you're skiing or snowboarding, the sun is stronger at higher altitudes in the mountains than at sea level.

Q: Can you help settle an argument in my family? My kids and I were talking about Thanksgiving turkey and I thought dark meat was the healthier [option], but they say it's the white meat. Who's right? – S.T.

A: This round goes to... no one. All around, turkey is a great lean source of protein (which means fewer calories). It's also a great source of niacin (helps heart function), phosphorus (bones and kidneys), iron (anemia), zinc (stress and healing), potassium (kidney function), and other B vitamins (brain and heart).

Dark meat has more fat, cholesterol, and calories than white meat. It also is higher in some nutrients than white meat, including iron. Overall, unlike what lots of folks think, the differences between dark meat and white meat aren't huge. So when you're sitting at the table this Thanksgiving, enjoy any piece of turkey without shame.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
November 13, 2020