Since I wrote last week’s Health Tip, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has been approved and is already being given to people across the country. This is great news. This vaccine does not require the ultra-cold storage that is required for the Pfizer vaccine, so this will make it easier to transport and store, especially for smaller hospitals and pharmacies around the country.
On the other side of the coin, we have the bad news out of the UK about a new variant strain that appears to be more contagious, although does not appear to cause worse illness. We don’t know if this strain is in the US yet, but infectious disease experts believe that it is very likely already here. The more contagious nature of this variant makes it more important than ever for us to continue our practices to decrease the spread of this infection including
wearing our masks, staying 6 feet away from others, avoiding indoor gatherings, avoiding large outdoor gatherings, and washing our hands frequently.
Infectious disease experts believe that the vaccine will remain effective against this new variant strain, as it does not appear to have changed enough to make the vaccine less effective. However, they have already started testing the vaccine with the new strain to make sure.
So let’s get to the vaccine information that you need.
Here are some facts about the COVID-19 vaccines that you should know.
COVID-19 vaccines are one of the many important tools to help us stop this pandemic.
Because they do not use the live virus, they cannot give someone COVID-19.
They do not affect or interact with our own DNA in any way.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are about 94-95% effective at preventing you from becoming infected with COVID-19 in the community.
Both of these vaccines use two shots. The first shot starts to build protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection (the 95%).
Currently, the CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines be offered to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Because the supply is limited currently, we need to vaccinate those who need it most initially. Next in line will be the elderly in the community and essential workers, such as transit workers, grocery store workers, etc., to be determined more specifically by each state.
The supply of vaccine will increase in the weeks and months to come. This is because production is continuing at a rapid pace. There are also other vaccines in clinical trials that may be approved in the near future.
Cost is not an obstacle to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are being purchased with US taxpayer dollars and will be given to the American people at no cost. Providers of the vaccine may charge an administrative fee for giving the shot, which will be paid by your public or private insurance. If you do not have insurance, there is a government fund that will pay this charge.
What about side effects?
The vaccines can have side effects, most of which are minor. This is a normal sign that your immune system is responding as it should. Side effects will generally last 1-2 days. What side effects might you have?
As of this morning (12/23/20), over 322,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19. There are also a significant number of people who have survived serious illness from this virus, and are dealing with long-term consequences, such as heart failure, chronic lung disease, neuropathy, and more. In order to get this virus under control and get our country back to some semblance of normalcy, we need to use every tool at our disposal. The COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool for us. We need at least 60-70% of people to become immune to COVID-19 before life in the US will begin to return to normal.
You are a big part of the equation. Will you be one of the people who get us up to the 60-70% mark? I certainly hope that you will strongly consider it. Please educate yourself about these vaccines through reliable sources so that you can make a well-informed decision. Talk with your doctor and read information from reputable websites, such as those below.
If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor