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COVID-19 Update: COVID-19 Vaccination Information

1/7/2021
As COVID-19 vaccines become readily available to the public, you likely have questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, side effects, the process, and ultimately whether or not you should get it. Assist America has compiled information from multiple reputable sources to provide you with the most useful information to help answer your questions.
 

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As COVID-19 vaccines become readily available to the public after approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you likely have questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, side effects, the process, and ultimately whether or not you should get it. Ultimately, the decision is a personal one and everyone should do what they feel comfortable with. There is a ton of information out there, some reputable and some not – Assist America has compiled information from multiple reputable sources to provide you with the most useful information to help answer your questions.  

 

Benefits of Getting Vaccinated

Vaccines help the body develop immunity to a disease by introducing a less harmful part of the germ into a person’s body. This process strengthens the immune system and helps develop antibodies that can fight that germ and help the person from becoming sick from that particular diseasse. When infected with a similar germ, the body will be able to recognize the foreign agent and remember the process required to fight it off.

According to the John Hopkins College of Medicine, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has spikes of protein on each viral particle and these spikes help the virus attach to cells and cause illness. The current vaccines for the virus are designed to help the body recognize the spike proteins and fight the coronavirus that may cause a severe reaction from the body. This does not mean the vaccine is completely effective. In fact, the vaccine released by Moderna and Pfizer in mid-December of last year has a 95% efficacy rate of preventing mild to severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can also help protect the people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems or preexisting conditions making them more susceptible to the virus. If you are vaccinated against COVID-19, you are less likely to catch and spread the illness to others which makes vaccinations a great tool to have during a worldwide pandemic.

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Challenges of Getting Vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccination offers you protection from getting COVID-19, but you may experience some side effects that indicate that your body is building protection. The COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna are quite “reactogenic” and cause an innate immunity response that leads to uncomfortable side effects, according to The Atlantic. However, these side effects should go away in a few days.

Common side effects from getting the vaccination shot on your arm are pain and swelling. To reduce discomfort, the CDC recommends holding a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area. You should also try to move or exercise your arm every few minutes to reduce stiffness and pain caused by the shot. Throughout your body you may start experiencing fever, chills, tiredness, and headache after getting vaccinated. Reduce your discomfort by consulting with your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, drink plenty of fluids, and dress lightly.

In most cases, the side effects go away after a few hours of discomfort and you can return to your daily life as normal. However, if the redness or tenderness in the area where you got the vaccine shot remains past 24 hours, you should contact your doctor and let them know if your side effects worsen after a few days of the shot.  

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Before Getting Vaccinated

Before you get vaccinated, see if the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for your demographic at this time. Although there are very few instances where the COVID-19 vaccine is not advised as we continue to deal with a life-threatening pandemic, the FDA has recommended that people who have a known history of severe allergic reaction to any vaccines should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to CNN, allergic reactions to the vaccine are immediate and can occur within minutes of getting vaccinated, and the FDA recommends monitoring the patients who have allergies to vaccines for 30 minutes while patients without allergies are monitored for 15 minutes.

The supply of COVID-19 vaccine may be limited in the initial stages of release and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing recommendation to federal, state, and local governments about which groups should be given priority in receiving the vaccine. The first groups that receive preference are healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities followed by frontline essential workers and people aged 75 years and older.

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When You Get Vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine is currently being given at medical centers, but this is likely to change. According to Health Magazine, you may soon find dentists and optometrists vaccinating people in the near future as more vaccines become available. However, the risk associated with proximity to others during the pandemic remains and that means you should cover your mouth and nose with a mask and continue to follow social distancing practices by staying at least six feet away from others when visiting the medical center for your vaccination.

The actual vaccination process will be similar to how it's been when you get a flu shot or most other vaccines: a spot on your upper arm will be sterilized with rubbing alcohol or something similar, and you'll receive your injection. You will receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where you received it. Some COVID-19 vaccines may require a two-step vaccination process which may also be marked on the vaccination card.

You should also receive a paper or electronic version of a fact sheet that tells you more about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you are being offered. Each authorized COVID-19 vaccine has its own fact sheet that contains information to help you understand the risks and benefits of receiving that specific vaccine. All people who get a COVID-19 vaccine should be monitored on-site for at least 15 minutes before they are cleared to leave the site. 

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After You Get Vaccinated

With most COVID-19 vaccines, you will need two shots in order for them to work. Get the second shot even if you had side effects after the first one, unless the provider or your doctor tells you otherwise. You may not be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 until you get a second shot, which is usually given a few weeks later. You should check in with your medical provider for the specifics on your second shot. Remember that even with two shots, it takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.

The CDC also recommends that you ask your healthcare provider about getting started with V-safe, a free, smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. V-safe also reminds you to get your second dose, if you need one.

Even after you have finally completed your COVID-19 vaccinations and a few weeks have passed, it will still be important to wear a mask in public and follow other methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The vaccine is not 100% effective at eradicating COVID-19 and it's unclear at this point whether you can still spread the virus after you have been vaccinated.