COVID-19 Vaccines in Our Community
Like everyone else, we here at CA are watching the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines very closely. While it can be very exciting to see this medical marvel come to fruition, there are lots of questions about the shot, how it works, who will get it and more. Thankfully, our partners at Horizon Foundation, Howard County General Hospital and the Howard County government are providing some clarity.
Community Discussion on COVID-19 Vaccines
Horizon Foundation is co-sponsoring a virtual event with the Howard County General Hospital and the Howard County Health Department focused on the COVID-19 vaccines. This important community conversation will take place on January 7, from 6-7:30pm. It is available for free via Zoom webinar.
Panelists include public health experts from Howard County, as well as trusted public health experts from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The open discussion will focus on the opportunities and challenges associated with COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or under development, as well as vaccine distribution plans in Maryland and Howard County. The panel will also explore how communities of color have experienced health injustices and suggest ways to address racial equity in decisions related to the vaccine and its distribution.
Howard County COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
The Howard County Health Department and Howard County Executive’s Office is encouraging all of us to StayCOVIDSafe. With that, they’ve shared some important information about the vaccine.
Here are some of the questions answered by county officials:
What vaccines have been authorized by the FDA?
Currently two vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, both require two (2) doses with intervals of three (3) weeks and four (4) weeks respectively: the Pfizer Vaccine (age 16 years and older) and Moderna Vaccine (age 18 years and older). The FDA continues the process of evaluating other vaccine candidates for EUA.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are being held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States. The only COVID-19 vaccines the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will make available for use in the United States (by approval or emergency use authorization) are those that meet these standards.
How do I trust that it is safe and has followed proper processes?
While this vaccine was developed quickly, that was a product of efficient work and unprecedented collaboration. All vaccines undergo a series of rigorous clinical trials using thousands of study participants to generate data and other information for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine their safety and effectiveness to approve or authorize for emergency use. Following approval or authorization, many vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for adverse events or possible side effects.
How effective are the vaccines?
Pfizer is reporting that their vaccine is 95% effective against COVID-19, with one vaccinated patient developing severe COVID infection. Moderna is reporting a 94.1% effectiveness against COVID-19 and 100% effectiveness against severe COVID-19 for their vaccine. Effectiveness for both vaccines were consistent across all age, race and ethnicity, and gender demographics.
Who can be vaccinated?
There are currently no contraindications (reasons why a drug/medication should not be used) for the vaccines. The FDA has stated pregnant women can receive the Pfizer vaccine. They are encouraged to discuss the benefits and any risks with their medical provider.
Should children be vaccinated?
The FDA will determine what age groups and other populations are eligible for each vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for everyone 16 and older. Vaccine trials have only recently included children.
If I have a pre-existing condition, should I be more cautious in receiving the vaccine?
Persons at risk for complications from COVID-19 infection are recommended to get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available to them.
What are the expected side effects?
The most common adverse reactions included injection site pain and redness, fatigue, muscle and/or joint pain, headache, possibly even feeling poorly for a day or so. The COVID-19 vaccine does not give you COVID-19. These side effects show that the immune system is reacting the way it is supposed to fight the virus, should you become exposed. Based upon preliminary data, the first dose has fewer side effects than the second dose and older recipients experience fewer side effects.
How long will immunity last?
It is too early to determine how long immunity will last. On-going research is taking place to determine if any additional inoculations (besides the two initial injections) will be needed.
Isn’t it better to wait and see that it is working and safe before I receive the vaccine?
Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine for use under what is known as an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). When the FDA authorizes use of a vaccine, this means the vaccine is determined to be safe and effective. The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is a top priority while federal partners work to make a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine(s) available. Following approval or authorization, many vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for adverse events or possible side effects.
If I take the vaccine, can I stop wearing a mask?
NO. Early clinical trials only tracked how many vaccinated people became ill with COVID-19. That leaves open the possibility that some vaccinated people get infected without developing symptoms and could then silently transmit the virus to others. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following the CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.
Can I still contract COVID-19 after taking the vaccine?
Early clinical trials only tracked how many vaccinated people became ill with COVID-19. That leaves open the possibility that some vaccinated people get infected without developing symptoms and could then silently transmit the virus to others. Additionally, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well it works.
If I had COVID, will the vaccine work on me?
Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.
Once the vaccine is distributed to the general public, who will choose who gets the vaccine next and how will I know when I can get the vaccine?
Phase 1 will begin when there is limited vaccine availability and will focus on target priority groups to receive vaccination. These groups will include those at highest risk of exposure to or developing complications from COVID-19, including:
- Healthcare workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, first responders
- People at significantly higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness
Phase 2 will include people in critical infrastructure roles, including essential nonhealthcare and transportation workers, and people at moderately higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
Phase 3 will be a wide-scale distribution of the vaccine associated with broad availability to the general population of the state.
Where can I get a vaccine?
The initial distribution of vaccine will be limited until manufacturing ramps up. During the first phase of limited supply, the Federal government will ship vaccine directly to hospitals, contracted pharmacies and State Health Departments. State governments will prioritize groups who should receive the initial doses.
The first groups recommended to receive vaccine are health care workers and staff and residents of nursing homes. As the supply of vaccine increases, vaccine will become available to more people until all who want vaccine are able to get it.
Will families/households be vaccinated at the same time?
Initially, people will need to register individually for vaccine appointments online.
If I had COVID already, does that mean that I have to wait longer to get vaccine?
No. People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.
Will it cost anything to get the vaccine?
According to the CDC, vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.
Where and how can I get the vaccine in Howard County?
When vaccine becomes more broadly available, anyone who wishes to get the vaccine will have to register on MarylandVax.org.