The Transylvania Times -

Virus Vaccine Questions Answered

 

Last updated 12/23/2020 at 4:41pm



(Editor’s Note: With the availability of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine last week and the release of the Moderna vaccine, many residents have questions about the vaccines and the vaccination process. Tara Rybka of Transylvania Public Health provided the answers to the following questions.)

Q: Do you have any idea how many residents in the county will be eligible to receive vaccines in the next few weeks?

A: In Transylvania County, we estimate 1,500-2,000 people would be eligible to receive a vaccine across all 1a categories.

Transylvania County will be receiving its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week and will begin giving vaccines the week of Dec. 28. Transylvania Public Health anticipates receiving 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine in this first shipment. Other providers in the county are also slated to receive doses of the vaccine this week.

Q: Who will administer the vaccines? Where will the vaccines be administered?

A: COVID-19 vaccines will be administered by approved providers, starting with hospitals, local health departments, and national pharmacy chains (CVS and Walgreens) that have received a federal contract.

In Phase 1a, vaccines will be distributed in closed settings open only to specific individuals pre-registered by their employer or facility. These individuals should receive more information about when and where they will be able to receive a vaccine from their employer.

Employees of Transylvania Regional Hospital will be able to receive a vaccine at the hospital.

All skilled nursing homes and most other assisted living facilities in the county will receive vaccine in on-site clinics provided by CVS and Walgreens. The pharmacies will make arrangements with each facility to set a date to give vaccines.

In Transylvania County, Transylvania Public Health (TPH) will be providing vaccines for other health care workers at highest risk of exposure on the job, including EMS workers and mortuary services staff and those who will be giving vaccines, including public health staff, as well as residents and staff of long-term care homes not covered by a federal pharmacy contract.

Q: What protocols are in place for people who may have allergic reactions to the vaccines?

A: Vaccine providers will watch patients for 15-30 minutes after vaccination to ensure the patient’s safety. Emergency medical care would be contacted and quickly accessible in case an unexpected allergic reaction happens.

Q: After health care workers and nursing home residents, who is next in line to receive the vaccine?

A: Phase 1b includes adults who are at highest risk of exposure and highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the CDC. This includes:

•Adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC, including cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, immuno-suppression due to organ transplant, obesity, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes.

•Frontline workers at high risk of exposure who have two or more chronic conditions.

This includes fire-fighters, police, food processing plant workers, food preparation workers and servers, manufacturing workers, construction workers, transportation workers, retail and grocery workers, staff of membership organizations (including religious organizations), education staff including child care, K-12 and colleges, and workers in government, public health, emergency management, and public safety whose jobs are vital to the COVID-19 response, as well as health care workers and funeral staff not included in Phase 1a.

•Staff of group living settings and residents in group living settings at risk of severe illness.

Those working in jails and homeless shelters. Individuals who are incarcerated, those living in homeless shelters, and migrant farm workers living in congregate housing who have two or more chronic conditions or are age 65 or older.

Q: Do people need to sign up for vaccines or will they be contacted? If they need to sign up, whom do they sign up with and when should they sign up? If they are going to be contacted, who would contact them?

A: In Phase 1a, vaccine providers should receive a list of eligible recipients from employers and facilities. These individuals should receive an email with information about how to register to receive a vaccine.

In later phases, some recipients will be identified by their employer or facility (including people living or working in jails and homeless shelters, health care workers not included in earlier phases, and students).

Other individuals will self-identify as being eligible for a vaccine.

As vaccines become more widely available, vaccines will be offered at clinics, pharmacies and vaccine events in the community. When these providers begin offering vaccines, they will share information about how to sign up.

Q: If a person is in a group, say a senior citizen, who is able to get a vaccine but chooses not to get one when first offered to him or her, does that person “go to the end of the line” until every one else has had a chance to be vaccinated or not?

A: Our understanding is that people will be able to get a vaccine at any time after they become eligible to receive one.

However, they may not be able to have access ahead of others who are currently eligible to receive a vaccine.

Also, a second dose is not reserved for someone until they receive the first dose.

Q: The Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine is in two doses. Does the first dose provide any protection? How long after the second dose is injected does it take for a person to become immune?

A: It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.

Researchers have found that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine started providing protection about 10 days after the first dose, but was only about 52 percent effective at preventing illness alone.

This vaccine was studied with two doses, so researchers are not sure how effective a single dose would be over time, or how long that protection would last. A second dose of this vaccine is needed to achieve 95 percent effectiveness.

Q: What typical side effects are associated with the vaccine? How long do those side effects last?

A: People may have some temporary side effects, which are normal signs that their immune system is responding to the vaccine and building protection.

The most common reactions are sore arms, tiredness and feeling off for a day or two after receiving the vaccine.

For some people, side effects may include pain or swelling in the arm where they got the vaccine, and a fever, chills, tiredness or headache.

These side effects should go away in a few days.

To ease discomfort, people can apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area where they received the vaccine, use or exercise the arm, drink plenty of fluids, and talk to a health care provider about taking an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or aceta-minophen.

Q: If a person is vaccinated, could they still transmit the disease to someone else?

A: People who receive an mRNA vaccine cannot spread the virus because these vaccines do not contain live virus and cannot reproduce the whole virus in the body.

However, at this time, experts do not know if the mRNA vaccines only prevent illness from COVID-19 or if they also prevent the virus from infecting people. In other words, the virus may be able to infect someone and spread to others without making someone sick.

Because this is unknown for now, people who have been vaccinated should continue to wear masks and take other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Q: The Pfizer/Bio NTech vaccine is apparently ineffective in 5 percent of people. How can one who is vaccinated know if the vaccine is effective?

A: Individuals receiving the vaccine must continue to be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and communicate with their physician should they develop any of these symptoms.

Q: Should those who have been vaccinated continue to wear masks?

A: Yes. Everyone should continue wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet apart, washing your hands, and limiting gatherings until most people are vaccinated.

Q: Does the government or any other entity keep track of who has been vaccinated?

A: North Carolina vaccine providers will use the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS) to track vaccinations and manage vaccine supplies.

This free, secure, web-based system also helps people register for vaccination and helps make sure that people get the second dose of the same vaccine at the right time. (Pharmacies doing vaccinations in long-term care facilities will use their own systems to track doses of vaccine and manage inventory.)

Information will not be shared except in accordance with state and federal law, and personal information will be removed before sharing information with the CDC.

North Carolina will begin sharing data about vaccinations in a public online dashboard this week.

Q: Are the vaccines free?

A: Yes, the vaccines will be free to everyone, even for people who don’t have health insurance. The federal government is covering the cost.

Q: Is there anyone who should not get the vaccine?

A: At this time, people under age 16 should not get the Pfizer vaccine, and people under age 18 should not get the Moderna vaccine. (Testing is still underway in children ages 12 and up, but these vaccines will not be approved for children until more data is available.)

Like with most vaccines, people who have had severe allergic reactions, also called anaphylaxis, to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not receive that vaccine.

People who have had this type of severe allergic reaction to any vaccine or injected treatment should talk with their health care provider about whether they should receive the vaccine.

People with other types of allergies can receive the vaccine but should be observed for 15-30 minutes after vaccination as a precaution.

People who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or immunocompromised may receive the vaccine, but should talk with their health care provider first. Women do not need to take a pregnancy test before getting a vaccine. The vaccine is not thought to be a risk to a baby who is breastfeeding.

People who are currently sick should wait until they recover from their current illness to receive the vaccine.

People who are in isolation for COVID-19 should wait until they are released from isolation before getting a vaccine. People who are in quarantine for COVID-19 should wait until they are released from quarantine before getting a vaccine unless they live in a group setting.

People who have had another vaccine recently should wait 14 days before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine (and people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine should wait 14 days before getting any other vaccine).

People who had COVID-19 and received antibody-based therapies should wait 90 days after treatment before receiving the vaccine.

Q: Could you explain the CDC’s “v-safe” program and how it works?

A: The CDC has a smartphone-based tool known as “v-safe” that people should receive information about when they receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

V-safe uses text messaging and web surveys to check in with vaccine recipients each day for the first week and once a week for up to five weeks.

It will provide another six-week check after the second dose, with follow up messages at three, six and 12 months after the final dose.

This system allows people to quickly tell the CDC if they have any side effects. If any serious health problems are reported, someone from CDC may call to get more information. For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vsafe.

Q: If there is any other information pertinent regarding the vaccination process?

A: You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine because there is no COVID-19 in either of the vaccines currently available.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are based on messenger RNA (mRNA).

The vaccine contains a small piece of synthetic mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make a “spike” protein that is specific to the COVID-19 virus.

This protein does not cause disease, but safely tricks your body into thinking the real virus is attacking.

Your body’s immune system then strengthens itself to fight off the real COVID-19 if it ever tries to attack you. Your body gets rid of the small protein naturally and quickly. The mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of your cells and does not affect or interact with your DNA.

Although this techn-ology has not been used in any FDA-licensed preventive vaccine to date, FDA scientists have expertise with this technology as it has been used to develop other preventive investigational vaccines that have been tested in human clinical trials.

Researchers have been studying mRNA for decades as potential vaccines against diseases like flu and rabies, and to stimulate immune system responses against cancer.

The FDA does not have specific safety concerns with a vaccine that uses mRNA technology.

We know that the Pfizer vaccine can protect people from COVID-19 illness for at least two months. We’ll know more about how long immunity from the vaccine lasts as people have been vaccinated for a longer period of time.

Experts are still deciding whether people who are vaccinated need to quarantine if they have close contact with someone with COVID-19.

People who had COVID-19 are rec-ommended to get the vaccine after they have recovered.

The vaccine trials included people who were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, and the vaccine was found to be safe.

Because we do not know how long antibodies last after infection and a small number of people have had more severe second bouts of infection, the vaccine can be beneficial in boosting a person’s existing immunity from infection.

 
 

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