By Yolanda Yoder M.D.
The good news is here! Effective vaccines are available and being administered that can help end this deadly COVID-19 crisis. We all look forward to the day when our community and our country reaches what is called “herd immunity” and COVID-19 is history.
Some have asked questions about the vaccines. Some inaccurate information has appeared on social media and other outlets, which can be confusing. Sometimes even our own family members can receive information that may be confusing, which can cause more concern.
As you probably know, we at SICHC have been at the frontline during this entire crisis. We always have committed ourselves to doing what it takes – even treating patients in parking lots when we had to.
We’ve researched and are quite familiar with the vaccines currently being administered in Indiana – Pfizer, Moderna and J&J. I personally was vaccinated and am glad to be protected.
Here is what we want you to know about the COVID-19 vaccine program:
I’d like to answer some common questions about the vaccines and encourage you to read further so you’ll be confident in getting the shot.
If the vaccine came out so fast, how can it be safe?
In the past, it took time to develop new technology, time to get enough people to be part of the trials and time to grow the virus in culture dishes, then killing it to put it in vaccines.
Fortunately, advances during the past 20 years have given researchers technology they can use for these vaccines, the fact that 70,000 people quickly volunteered for the phase 3 trial, and a production process that made creating the vaccines much more efficient.
Plus, once trials were complete and results submitted to the FDA, vaccine-producing companies took a calculated risk and started manufacturing vaccines in anticipation of approval, recognizing the critical need. The result was they had millions of doses ready and waiting to ship out once FDA approval was granted.
So even though it might seem a bit too fast to be safe, the truth is the research and production of COVID-19 vaccines are the result of two decades of scientific research and technology development, followed by rigorous testing.
Can I get a case of COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No—you cannot get a case of COVID-19 from the vaccines because they don’t have live viruses that could cause this.
Will I get sick from the COVID-19 vaccine?
You won’t get sick, but you might have an initial reaction as your immune system responds to the vaccine. The common side effects are similar to those you might have experienced when you received a flu shot:
Don’t worry if you feel any of these symptoms. These side effects just show that your immune system is being trained to track down and destroy the virus if it tries to infect you in the future. (In the unlikely event that symptoms persist or grow worse, check with your family doctor or medical professional)
The same is true for people who have recovered from a prior case of COVID-19. They may initially experience more intense (and familiar) COVID symptoms, but they will likely go away in a day or so.
And if you don’t have any reactions, that’s okay, too. The vaccine is still working and you are still benefiting from receiving it.
I’m pregnant or breast-feeding. Should I still get the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, you may rightly wonder if it’s okay to be vaccinated. Vaccines are available for pregnant women, but like other experts in the field, we at SICHC think that it’s a good idea to talk with one of our physicians or medical professionals before you get vaccinated.
I have some underlying health conditions. Can I still get the vaccine?
There are situations – like people with underlying conditions – that should be checked out before a person receives a vaccine. We can help you if you wonder if you’re in that category.
I had COVID-19. Do I still need the vaccine?
Yes, even if you’ve had COVID-19 and have recovered, we still strongly recommend that you get vaccinated. You will likely have natural immunity after recovering, but nobody knows how long that will last. Getting a vaccine improves your long-term protection.
Once I get the vaccine, can I go back to living a normal life?
Once you are vaccinated, it can take up to two weeks before you are fully protected. It takes that long for your immune system to completely respond. During that time there is a small chance that you could be re-infected with the virus and come down with COVID-19 before your immune system is up-to-speed, but it’s only a very small chance. So continue to wear your mask, wash your hands and keep your distance.
Everybody in my extended family has gotten the vaccine. Can we get together safely?
Once everyone has gotten vaccinated and the two-week window has passed, you should be okay to get as a group in a home or private setting.
[from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html ]
You can also visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness.
But even if you’re vaccinated, the CDC recommends not visiting indoors, without a mask, with people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or attending medium or large gatherings.
Remember: our country has to reach “herd immunity” levels before we can all be safe.
Do family members or friends have concerns?
It’s certainly okay to have questions, especially about something as important as the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s also important to get good, solid answers from professionals and reputable sources. We’re a trusted resource – we’ve been on the frontlines for months – and we’re happy to provide more information.
Your protection is worth a shot. And remember – your COVID-19 vaccine is free.
P.S. By the way, while we’re talking about vaccines, the COVID vaccines certainly aren’t the only important vaccines. Making informed decisions and staying up to date on vaccines is important for you, for your family and for public health in general. If you’re thinking about pregnancy or are older, you especially should talk with a physician or medical professional about staying appropriately up to date on vaccines for measles, mumps or rubella (MMR), flu, Tdap (whooping cough), hepatitis B and others.
Click here for a list of immunizations.