In the beginning months of this year, many Americans were starting to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel. Infection rates were low, millions of people were fully vaccinated, and several states were beginning to reopen.
Unfortunately, with the introduction of variants to the virus, such as the Delta variant, that can be spread more easily and quickly, infection rates are beginning to rise again which makes it necessary for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to revise their COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines.
Dr. Steven Richardson, a family practice physician at Optum Primary Care in Sandy is here to discuss the COVID-19 vaccines, address common hesitations around getting them and answer some of our questions around getting them.
Dr. Steven Richardson encourages everyone eligible to get a vaccine to stay healthy and protect the people around you. Do it for yourself, your family, your friends, and the community. Getting vaccinated is the quickest way to get back to the things you did before the pandemic.
All Utahns ages 12 and older can now get the vaccine – if you are 12 to 17 years old, you can receive the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine.
It’s also important that if you have questions about the vaccine and your health that you speak with your primary care physician. They know your health situation and can help with any questions you have.
The COVID-19 vaccine can protect you and those around you by lowering your chances of getting the virus that causes COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
To stop the pandemic and build large-scale protection from COVID-19, we need to build widespread immunity to the virus. According to the CDC, wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chances of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
By getting the vaccine, we all can play an important role in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to an end and returning to previous activities.
The vaccine was developed quickly, but no steps were skipped and according to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only authorizes emergency use for vaccines when the treatment has proven that the expected benefits outweigh the potential risks, and the vaccines have met the FDA’s standards for safety and effectiveness.
The Pfizer and Moderna (vaccine manufacturers) vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. use adapted messenger RNA technology that was developed and demonstrated safe years ago for other medical research. This technology dramatically reduced the timeline for the development of the vaccines.
Viral vector vaccines, the technology used in the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver instructions to our cells. These modified viruses cannot give a person COVID-19 and do not directly interact with a person’s DNA in any way. These types of vaccines have been well studied in clinical trials and viral vector vaccines have been used to address other infectious diseases for decades, with lots of safety data.
People who have been infected with the virus and have recovered should still receive the vaccine. This holds true whether they had symptoms with their infection or not. Experts do not know how long immunity lasts after infection, but there is evidence to suggest that people are protected from severe illness for at least 90 days after diagnosis with COVID-19.
If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. You should also talk to your doctor if you are unsure about which treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
There is not enough evidence to understand whether people could still spread the virus if they are re-infected, so it’s important to still practice the standard safety protocols of masking, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and sanitization.
According to the CDC, if people have ever had a severe allergic reaction or an immediate allergic reaction – even if it was not severe – to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get either currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna).
The coronavirus website has a comprehensive list of myths and facts on their website including insights that COVID-19 vaccines have not been linked to infertility or miscarriage in women and people with chronic diseases or conditions should get vaccinated as soon as available.
The key advice is to talk to your doctor to see if you should get vaccinated.
This week, Health and Human Services Public Health and Medical Experts released a joint statement on COVID-19 booster shots.
The current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout. For that reason, HHS Public Health and Medical Experts concluded that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.
A plan has been developed to begin offering these booster shots this fall subject to FDA conducting an independent evaluation and determination of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issuing booster dose recommendations based on a thorough review of the evidence.
They are preparing to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of Sept. 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose.
Also, The CDC now recommends that people whose immune systems are compromised moderately to severely should receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after the initial 2 doses.
This additional dose is intended to improve immunocompromised people’s response to their initial vaccine series and is not the same as a booster dose, given to people when the immune response to a primary response to a vaccine series is likely to have waned over time.
- The CDC recommendations for who needs an additional COVID-19 Vaccine include people who have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
People should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them. While we aren’t providing the doses in the clinic, our providers will help patients determine if an additional dose is appropriate and can direct them to places to receive that vaccination.
Although information about variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are new and still being studied by scientists, there is some that we do know:
- New variants of the virus are expected to emerge and disappear as viruses change during mutation. There have been multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the U.S. and globally during the pandemic.
- By studying the changes in the viruses and how diverse the variants become, scientists can learn more about how the virus spreads and how sick people can get from it.
- Some variations need to be monitored more closely than others, including those that allow the virus to spread more easily or those that make the virus resistant to treatments or vaccines.
- Scientists are currently monitoring four notable variants in the U.S.
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