Notes updated as of March 03, 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID19 vaccines:
Why did the CSIMP/NFIMP providers all decide to get the COVID19 vaccine?
Medical professionals tend to look at things as a benefit to risk ratio. The benefit/risk ratio of this vaccine is outstanding. The vaccine is safe, very effective, and will help us get beyond this pandemic faster.
What are the similarities and differences between the vaccines?
Both Moderna and Pfizer are about 95% effective in preventing COVID and around 100% in keeping you from dying of COVID. In the studies, even the few who still got the disease did not get the severe disease and none died. Both versions are two-shot vaccines, meaning that the second shot is just a booster of the first, either 3 or 4 weeks later. Pfizer needs to be kept colder for storage, but otherwise, the vaccines are very similar. Johnson & Johnson has made a one-shot vaccine that recently obtained FDA approval and may also be available to you. It appears to be over 70% effective at preventing COVID and near 100% at keeping you from dying of COVID. All have been shown to be safe in the elderly and high-risk population.
Can I get the vaccine at your office?
Initially, only hospitals and county health departments could give the COVID vaccine, but this is expanding. You can keep up with the state’s vaccine plan on www.tn.gov. Our office has an application to distribute the vaccine and we will email our patients if we are shipped doses to share. Pharmacies such as Kroger, Walmart, and soon others have been approved to begin offering the COVID vaccine.
How many people have already been vaccinated?
As of late February, around 50 million doses have been distributed to American doctors, nurses, EMTs/Fire and Police, employees, governors, congressmen, teachers, and high-risk persons. Worldwide estimates are at 140 million so far. This is just barely short of the goal of seven billion people. Unfortunately, Tennessee is a little behind the national average with 800,000 vaccinated (11% of our population).
How were they made so fast?
Money, brainpower, volunteers, and work starting >10 years ago. When people began dying of SARS in 2003 and MERS ten years later, researchers started investigating different vaccine strategies that might work on new coronaviruses. For SARS, ZIKA, flu, and rabies, researchers also began to use genes from each virus to make vaccines, but research money dried up before they were used extensively. In January with the outbreak of COVID, two different labs in two different countries brought forward this research and develop vaccines that used a COVID gene against itself. With about twelve billion dollars to guarantee that they can ramp up production, the companies produced it and tested it in the usual three-phased trials using the largest group of vaccine volunteers that America has ever seen. Please thank someone who signed up to be in those trials.
Can the vaccine give me COVID?
No. The vaccine is very basic, made up of one mRNA (viral gene) that was taken from the entire sequence of COVID genes in January. This gene is wrapped inside fats with salt and sugar. And that is it. The gene makes a protein called a spike protein that allows the virus to stick to and enter your cells. The vaccine helps you make antibodies against that protein. So, if you have had the vaccine and then you meet the COVID virus, your body is ready to block the virus from even getting into the cell.
Can I spread COVID to another person from the vaccine?
No. See above. This vaccine is a small gene, not a whole virus.
What are the side effects of each?
Neither vaccine had serious safety concerns reported over any of the three trials, other than rare allergy reactions for those who are allergic to components of vaccines. People who have had anaphylactic reactions to vaccines should consult their doctor prior to taking them, as they would with any vaccine. Some people report sore arms, fatigue, headache, and chills/fever, etc. for a few hours or days after the injection. In our experience, this seems to be more common in people who have had COVID. Ask your doctor or nurse practitioner how they felt after getting the vaccine.
What about Bell’s Palsy?
The studies found no increased inflammatory disease reactions (Bell’s palsy, etc.) compared to placebo (saline) or average population risk. That is, some amount of these conditions happen with any watched group.
What about future side effects of the vaccine?
The trials (started in March) will continue for those receiving the first doses and will last 2 years and beyond. In fact, when many doctors and staff members received their vaccines, they elected to get daily texts from the CDC asking if they had any issues to help track side effects. Almost all side effects to vaccines occur in the first week so we are months beyond that with >75,000 Americans in closely watched trials. If you are concerned about side effects ten years from now from one COVID gene injected into you, imagine how concerned you would be getting ALL the COVID genes by getting the disease.
What about mutations of COVID?
Recent mutations have increased transmission to other people, but have not significantly changed the fact that the vaccines dramatically lower your likelihood of getting COVID. The faster we eradicate the virus, the fewer future mutations. Repeat, NONE of the mutations have blocked the vaccine potency. Yet the longer we allow the virus to go around and around the population, the higher the risk it will worsen, become more deadly, or more resistant to the vaccine.
Is getting immunity from a vaccine better for me than getting COVID disease?
Humans are around thousands of germs daily and this can be a help to the body. We make vaccines against just a few of these germs because they cause a higher risk of illness or death. Getting immunity to these more dangerous diseases by the vaccine is substantially safer than getting the disease itself. It also helps to keep those around you from catching the illness from you.
What is herd immunity and how does a vaccine help us get there?
When the “herd” of us can’t get COVID anymore, the people who get sick don’t run across susceptible people as often. So, when the virus does not have a next host, it dies out. It is complicated as to what immunity percentage it will take to eradicate a virus, but say 18% of Americans have had the virus in 9-10 months, how long until we’re done? One year, two years, more? Will it go on forever with people getting it multiple times, over seven billion people connected to us, and increasing risks of mutation? Say we suddenly got immunity with a vaccine in another 75%. Is that better than 18%?
Would I have to wear a mask after getting the COVID vaccine?
Yes. For you and for others please hang in there for a little while longer. It will take several weeks after receiving the second shot to reach 95% protection and even then, there’s the other 5%. In addition, you may still be exposed to COVID and not know it and pass this to an unvaccinated family member, friend, or fellow American without even feeling sick. Until we see a dramatic decline in the virus by Tennesseans doing their part, masks, distancing, and hand washing will still be necessary.
Should I get the vaccine?
This is actually the most common question, and while it is your choice, you share the consequences. But consider: How long do you want COVID to last? Do you think less COVID would be better? Do you want to be responsible for giving one more person COVID? Did you enjoy 2020? How would you like 2021 to go? What about 2022? Do you need to ask your provider about the physical, mental, financial, and mortality cost of this virus thus far? Have you recently had polio, measles, meningitis…? Why not?
Should I get the vaccine if I’ve had COVID already?
Yes, we recommend this because we understand more about the protection from the vaccine at this time. Also, we have seen a growing number of people who have gotten COVID twice in less than 6 months. You can get the vaccine as soon as you are out of quarantine and your symptoms are resolved.
What if I have already had COVID twice?
See above. Get the vaccine.
In lifelong learning professions, we understand that we cannot now know everything that we will know in the future. But that shouldn’t stop us from acting on the knowledge we have right now. We believe you have all the information you need to help defeat COVID. We pray that you are taking the risk of catching or spreading COVID seriously. We also pray that you will seriously consider becoming part of the COVID immune, that you learn about the vaccine, consider the benefit/risk ratio, and act.
Please reach out to your provider if you have more specific questions, as we are here at your service. Fully vaccinated.