With talk of a vaccine coming soon, we wanted to address some of the frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why should I get vaccinated?
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the best ways to protect yourself and everyone around you, particularly those who are at increased risk for severe illness. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance 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 is ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Getting these shots will not only protect you from being infected; it will help us take a big step towards ending this pandemic.
- Why is it important for long-term care staff and residents to receive the vaccination first?
The average age of residents in long term care facilities is 85 and almost every one of them has an underlying health condition, and some have multiple chronic conditions. According to CDC data, the risk of mortality in this age group is 630 times higher than those 18-29 years old. While many industries can stay open or partially open with safety measures, long term care communities will not be able to return to normal until there is a vaccine.
- How does an mRNA vaccine work?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, mRNA vaccines contain material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. This material gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. This protein cannot build a virus or cause infection. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build antibodies that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
- When will the vaccine be available for our residents and associates?
The ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommended on December 1, 2020 that residents and associates of long-term-care facilities (including nursing homes and assisted/independent living) be the first to receive the vaccine once it is approved. All Benedictine communities have signed up to receive the vaccine and your community’s partnering Pharmacy will coordinate its administration. It is anticipated that distribution could begin within 24 hours after FDA emergency use authorization approval.
- How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?
Currently there are two vaccines seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA. In the clinical trials both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine have been shown to be ~95% effective.
- How much does the vaccine cost?
The vaccine is free to all residents and associates in the United States.
- How do we know the vaccine is safe?
Scientists have worked on coronavirus research for decades starting with the original SARS outbreak and Influenza. Scientists only needed to isolate certain things about COVID-19 to begin creating a vaccine because we already know so much about this type of virus. Due to the public health crisis created by the pandemic, many private, government and independent groups came together and cooperated on a vaccine. This scale of cooperation is not typical, and the partnership created resources and information sharing to develop the vaccine faster.
- Safety is the most important requirement for the vaccine and is assessed in trials by independent experts.
- Most adverse side effects occur within 6 weeks of vaccine administration, and the FDA has required 8 weeks of safety monitoring so it can track any side effects.
- FDA advises a minimum of 3,000 participants to assess safety. The current phase 3 trials have 30,000 to 50,000 participants. This really demonstrates how safety is a top priority for the FDA and the medical community
- What is the vaccine’s immune response (noticeable effects)?
There may be noticeable effects from the COVID-19 vaccination such as a sore arm, generalized aches, headache, and fever. The vaccine will not infect you with COVID-19. Your body’s immune system is working to understand and create a response to the virus which is needed for immunity to be achieved. The long-term effects are still being studied. The first two months show no severe effects. As with all vaccinations, long-term effects are monitored for up to 10 years.
- How many vaccine injections will I need and when?
The vaccine includes two injections. The second injection will either be given 21- or 28-days after the first injection. The timeframe for the second injection depends upon the vaccine manufacturer and what is written in the emergency use authorization. Your will be made aware of this information once vaccines are distributed and ready for administration.
- Can you get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
The vaccines developed do not use an actual virus, therefore you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. It does take time for the vaccine to create immunity in your system, thus it IS possible to contract COVID-19 prior to immunity taking hold.
- If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, there is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again – this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. If is safe to get the vaccine and this can add additional protection without causing harm. If you have had a test that shows you have COVID-19 antibodies, you should still get the vaccine. It is safe and can increase your protection from future COVID-19 infections.
- Why do we need a vaccine if we can do other things like wearing masks and social distancing to prevent COVID-19 from spreading?
Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
- How long is the vaccine effective?
We don’t know. Because the vaccine is new, the length of immunity is unknown. There are some vaccines that do not require additional injections and there are other vaccines, such as the tetanus vaccine, that require periodic boosters. The vaccine will continue to be studied over time and if additional boosters are needed that information will be released when it is known.
- Should I/can I get a flu shot when receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes! It is important you still receive a flu shot to help prevent disease and be safe. You can get both the flu and COVID-19 infections as the same time. It is recommended to get each vaccine one month apart.
- Do I need to still wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received two doses of the vaccine?
Yes. 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. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
SOURCES: CDC, Leading Age, MN Dept. of Health UPDATED: 12/7/2020