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COVID-19 Vaccine Questions? Laurel Health Has Answers!

by Kristy Warren - February 16, 2021

Safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines are a major development in our battle against Coronavirus COVID-19. Curious about how these new vaccines work and what to expect? The Laurel Health Centers’ Guillermo Rodriguez, MD will walk you through the facts on COVID-19 vaccine safety, efficacy, who should be vaccinated, how the vaccine will help protect you and your loved ones, and why getting the vaccine is so important to getting our communities back to normal. For more COVID-19 vaccine answers, don’t forget to check out part one of this Q&A here!

CAN I GET COVID-19 FROM THE VACCINE?

No. None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines use the live virus that causes COVID-19. One of the biggest benefits of getting vaccinated is teaching your body to fight the virus without having to suffer through the symptoms of COVID-19 or risk developing serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination, and as a result, you could become infected with COVID-19 just before or shortly after vaccination and still get sick—another reason it’s always important to mask, stay six feet apart from anyone not living in your immediate household, and regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for a full 20 seconds. If you do catch COVID-19 following inoculation, the vaccine can greatly reduce your risk of serious symptoms, complications, or death.

ARE THE VACCINES SAFE?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested through all stages of clinical trials on thousands of volunteers to ensure their safety prior to approval, and the vaccines continue to be monitored closely for safety. They were reviewed in-depth by top clinical experts, held to the same thorough testing and monitoring as all other vaccines, and have been repeatedly demonstrated to be safe with no cases of severe long-lasting side effects during months of study. The research shows that the benefits of being vaccinated and the low risk of serious side effects far outweighs the much greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing serious complications, including death. Allergic reactions are rare, and patients are screened ahead of receiving the vaccine to ensure it is appropriate for them.

SHOULD I GET THE VACCINE IF I ALREADY HAD COVID-19?

Yes, it is still recommended that you receive the vaccine even if you had COVID-19 because it is unclear how long immunity lasts following infection; the studies conducted thus far on patients recovering from COVID-19 indicate short-term natural immunity. The vaccine is designed to teach your body how to fight COVID-19 more effectively and confer longer-term immunity. Everyone aged 16 and up is recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine even if you’ve had COVID-19.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREPARE FOR MY TURN?

Due to the current limited vaccine supply, Pennsylvania has established a phased rollout plan that ensures the people most at risk for COVID-19 exposure and serious complications receive the vaccine first (e.g., healthcare workers, seniors, and those with underlying health conditions). Find your COVID-19 vaccine category by visiting the PA Dept. of Health website at health.pa.gov. This will help you keep track of when your group is eligible to make an appointment. Next, touch base with your family medicine provider to inquire about vaccine appointments and to talk through any questions you have about the COVID-19 vaccine. Tioga County is currently in the first phase of the vaccine distribution (known as Phase 1A). If you are in this phase, you can schedule an appointment at your local clinic or pharmacy to be vaccinated. Be aware there may be delays and wait lists at this time due to the limited vaccine supply. If no appointments are currently available, ask to be placed on a waiting list to be notified as soon as additional doses are available.

WHEN CAN I BE VACCINATED?

PA’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is split into two main phases: phase 1 (people most at risk of exposure / complications) and phase 2 (the general public). Currently, Tioga County is working through Phase 1A. Below is a quick summary of the groups included in each phase; it is not an exhaustive list of who’s included, so please be sure to check the PA Dept. of Health website for full details:

1A: Healthcare workers, long-term care residents, seniors 65+, those aged 16-64 with high-risk chronic conditions like COPD, cancer, and kidney disease

1B: Frontline workers in grocery stores, public transit, manufacturing, agriculture, etc., people in congregate care settings, and individuals caring for those in daycare or adult daycare programs

1C: Industry workers in food service, construction, energy, public safety, transportation, etc.

Phase 2: All other members of the general public aged 16 and up

Why 16 and up? Because the rigorous clinical safety trials for the two approved vaccines were studied in populations aged 16+ (i.e., Pfizer 16+ and Moderna 18+). COVID-19 vaccination in children 15 and under is still being studied, and pediatric guidance will be issued once those studies have concluded.

Laurel Health has been working hard behind-the-scenes to ensure vaccines are distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible according to the PA Dept. of Health guidelines. We are currently reaching out to first-phase patients directly to schedule them as we receive doses and will keep the community updated as we move through the rollout groups. 

If you would like to join Laurel Health’s COVID-19 vaccine wait list to be notified when appointments are available to your vaccine phase group, call the Laurel Health Centers at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) or visit laurelhc.org for a full list of locations near you.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WHEN GETTING MY VACCINE?

Safety: Patients are screened ahead of receiving the vaccine to ensure it is appropriate for them. The COVID-19 vaccines are held to the same thorough testing and monitoring as all other vaccines. They have been rigorously tested through all stages of clinical trials on thousands of volunteers, reviewed in-depth by top clinical experts, and have been repeatedly demonstrated to be safe with no cases of severe long-lasting side effects during months of study. The research shows that the benefits of being vaccinated and the low risk of serious side effects far outweighs the much greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing serious complications, including long-term health issues and even death.

Scheduling: When it is your group’s turn to receive the vaccine, Laurel Health will reach out to you directly to schedule; you may also call to schedule an appointment once the rollout reaches your phase. You’ll be screened to confirm you are eligible to safely receive the vaccine and if so, will be given an appointment and instructions on where to report. Both you and the healthcare worker giving you the vaccine will be required to mask. You will be asked to wait 15-30 minutes to watch for any signs of reaction, but be assured, serious side effects like allergic reaction are rare, and there have been no cases of severe long-term side effects in months of study.

Second dose: After receiving your first shot, you will be scheduled for a return appointment for your second dose in a few weeks. Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use two doses to teach your body how to fight the COVID-19 virus effectively. The first shot helps your immune system learn to recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens your immune response. You need both doses to get the best protection. A few weeks after receiving your second dose, the vaccines are approx. 95% effective in preventing you from contracting COVID-19. The vaccines also greatly reduce your risk for severe complications, hospitalization, or death if you do contract COVID-19.

Understanding side effects: You may notice mild side effects after getting the vaccine. This does not mean the vaccine is unsafe. In fact, side effects show it’s doing its job: promoting a strong immune response to teach your body how to successfully fight off COVID-19. The most common side effects for the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and resolve quickly: temporary pain at the injection site, sore arm, headache, and fatigue. These side effects do not mean you have COVID-19. You cannot get COVID-19 from the shot as none of the approved vaccines contain the live COVID-19 virus. Serious side effects like allergic reaction are rare. All medical treatment—be it a vaccine, surgery, prescription, or lifestyle change—can have side effects. Knowing what to expect and keeping in mind the benefit-to-risk ratio can make you feel more confident and prepared.

Remain vigilant: After receiving your vaccine, it is still critical to continue utilizing all COVID-19 preventive measures, including masking, social distancing, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces / objects, and frequent handwashing. It takes several weeks to build your immunity, and while the vaccines are highly effective, supply is currently limited. For now, it’s important that everyone, including those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, continue using all these preventive tools to protect themselves and others until the vaccine can be administered widely.

For more COVID-19 vaccine answers, don’t forget to check out part one of this Q&A here!

For the latest COVID-19 guidance and updates on the Laurel Health Centers’ vaccine rollout plan, visit us online at laurelhc.org or facebook.com/laurelhc.

Credits:

Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Kristy Warren
Anchor: Sara Vogt

Produced by Vogt Media
Home Page Sponsors: Laurel Health Centers