The COVID-19 Vaccine --What You Need To Know
It seems that the whole COVID issue has been politically and emotionally charged and the coming vaccine is no different. I have been reviewing the package insert from Pfizer and the CDC guidelines on www.CDC.gov/vaccines in order to form an informed opinion based on facts and not on the many fiction-filled emotional articles and videos on Facebook. I hope this information helps you make a good informed decision.
The COVID-19 vaccine is administered in a two dose series, with the doses being given within 17-21 days after the the first dose. In order to obtain immunity, both doses are required. Patients should expect to see immunity within 1-2 weeks after receiving the second dose. If a person gets the Pfizer vaccine the first time, he/she needs to be certain to obtain the same brand for the second injection. It is not recommended for people to receive another vaccine (like TDaP or flu vaccine for example) for at least 14 days after completing the COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine seems to be safe for nearly everyone. If you already had COVID, the vaccine is still recommended because it is hard to tell how much antibody each person has from an infection and how long the immunity will last. Getting the vaccine acts as a "booster". If you received monoclonal antibody as part of your COVID treatment, it is recommended you wait at least 90 days to obtain the vaccine. If you are currently infected with COVID it is recommended you wait until you recover completely. The COVID vaccine is recommended for all patients with chronic illnesses. There are no chronic illness which would keep a person from receiving the vaccine. Even patients with immunocompromise are encouraged to get the vaccine. It is unclear how well the vaccine works in people with a compromised immune system so care needs to still be taken to protect from the virus.
The COVID-19 vaccine is believed to be safe for pregnant women but it is advisable for pregnant women to speak with their personal physician about the risks and benefits to her specifically. While not studied in breastfeeding patients, there is no reason to believe that the vaccine would be harmful to mom or baby. Again, breastfeeding moms should talk to their own physician about the risks that each mom individually has.
There are few contraindication for getting the COVID-19 vaccine. If a person is allergic to any of the known components of the vaccine, they should not receive the vaccine. There have been some serious allergic reactions with the vaccine, especially in people who have had severe reactions to other things in the past (anaphylaxis). For this reason, people with severe allergies to other substances should speak with their doctor. This does not include people with seasonal allergies etc, but rather those who require quick treatment for allergies like anaphylaxis. In addition, it is recommended that all who receive the vaccine should be observed for at least 15 minutes to be certain there are no problems.
No vaccine or other medical treatment is 100% effective and for this reason we encourage everyone to continue all the precautions they have already been taking to avoid COVID. For the vaccine to really be effective in defeating this virus, it is important for a majority of the population to receive it. Medical professionals will begin receiving the vaccine in the next few weeks. It is estimated that the general public will have access to the vaccine within the next 4-6 months.
There are many rumors I have heard about the vaccine. Probably the most emotionally charged rumor is that the vaccine has fetal tissue in it. This is not true. I have searched the package insert, the CDC, and The Catholic News Service for answers to this. As a Catholic, this is important to me. There is an old line of fetal cells from an aborted fetus from over 50 years ago that has been maintained in a lab. In the early phases, the vaccine may have been tested in those cell lines. However, the cell line was not used to make the vaccine. The Chairman of the US Bishops and several other pro-life groups are in agreement that the connection, if any, to fetal tissue is so remoted that it is not immoral to receive the vaccine. More about this can be obtained at www.catholicnews.com in an article titled Pro-life physician-led groups weigh in on development of COVID-19 vaccines by Julie Asher on December 4, 2020.
I have also seen rumors that the virus has the ability to alter DNA. This is untrue as well. The vaccine is not a live virus. It does contain some RNA, but RNA does not change human DNA. It simply works by giving the body directions for making a protein that will help with immunity. The human immune system then recognizes the protein and produces antibodies to the protein. In order to make it to market, the vaccine has been tested in thousands of people.
Many people are concerned that the vaccine will have bad side effects. As I stated above, we know that people who typically have severe allergic reactions are a bit at risk and so these people will only get the vaccine where medical assistance is available and will be observed for at least 30 minutes so that any problems can be addressed. It is not possible to get COVID from the vaccine. It is not a live vaccine. However, people who get vaccinated by have some mild symptoms such as low grade fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, headaches, chills, injection site tenderness. These are expected and generally mild. These symptoms do not mean a person has the virus and they can be treated with Tylenol.
While I am not a person or a doctor who jumps on the band wagon immediately when the newest drug comes out, I feel pretty confident about this vaccine. I don't think we should mandate anyone get the vaccine who doesn't want to. However, I encourage all of us to get it. The sooner we get to that critical number of immune people, the sooner we beat the virus. I know I'll be getting my vaccine when it is offered to me. I hope you will consider it too!