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COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A

COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A

December 9, 2020 – At Hunterdon Healthcare, we have worked hard to prepare for and respond to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts of our team have truly been heroic as they have answered the call to care for our friends and neighbors.

With a vaccine expected to soon arrive, we are now at a turning point in the pandemic and are excited to share that Hunterdon Healthcare could receive its first shipment of doses for community distribution within the first couple of months of 2021.

The health and safety of team members, patients, and community members continue to be our number one priority, and we are doing everything we can to responsibly prepare for the vaccine.

The availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is a major step forward in our quest to conquer the pandemic and save lives.

Each individual must decide if they wish to be vaccinated. Here are some questions and answers to help with this decision.

I’ve heard about something called “Operation Warp Speed.” What is it and what does it have to do with a COVID-19 vaccine?

Operation Warp Speed is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the Department of Defense (DOD).

Operation Warp Speed’s goal is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available in the first few months of 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics (collectively known as countermeasures).

The United States Congress has invested nearly $10 Billion dollars in the expeditious development of safe and effective vaccines to be delivered to patients more rapidly while adhering to standards for safety and efficacy.

When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available in the United States?

The goal for Operation Warp Speed is to deliver safe vaccines that work, with the first supply becoming available before the end of 2020. When a vaccine is authorized or approved in the United States, there may not be enough doses available for all adults right away. Supplies will increase over time, and all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021. However, a COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for young children or pregnant women until more studies are completed.

Although numerous pharmaceutical companies are diligently working on various versions of a COVID-19 vaccine, two well-established organizations: Pfizer and Moderna, both applied for and received approval for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) does not mean that a new drug or vaccine can be distributed for use without completing the required and necessary trial phases. Drugs and vaccines approved under a EUA still require appropriate testing, successful and acceptable outcomes, and thorough clinical review before public distribution is allowed.

Due to the tremendous financial and human capital resources dedicated to supporting the development and testing of these vaccines, the typical multi-year timeframe was able to be effectively condensed thereby allowing developers the ability to bring forward the trial research for formal review much sooner than previous vaccines.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have been verified by the Food and Drug Administration with a 95 percent efficacy rate and cleared for public distribution beginning in mid-December 2020.

How did the COVID vaccines get approved? Was the process too rushed?

• The approval process for vaccines protecting against COVID-19 requires rigorous testing and trials to prove the vaccine is safe and effective, and the U.S. vaccine safety system is working to ensure that all vaccines meet stringent criteria before distribution.
• Hunterdon Healthcare is working closely with, and following the guidance of, federal and state public health authorities to thoughtfully plan and ensure we are ready for distribution as soon as an authorized vaccine is available.
• Planning has been underway to ensure we are prepared to store, track, transport, and administer the vaccine quickly and efficiently.
• All of the necessary steps have been followed in researching the vaccine. Because a COVID-19 vaccine is crucial to ending the pandemic, many more resources were devoted to developing a vaccine quickly, bringing it to market much faster than previous vaccines.
• Three phases of clinical trials were followed. First, volunteers are given a vaccine candidate to see if it works, then tens of thousands of vaccine recipients are watched for side effects and illness compared to the thousands of volunteers who received a placebo (non-vaccine) injection.
• If a vaccine is shown to work for at least 50% of those in trials and shows a very low risk of side effects, the FDA approves it for use in the US.
• Independent advisors get to review and comment on all trial data, then decide whether or not the vaccine is safe and effective enough to recommend for some or all people in the US.
• Professional groups such as AAP, ACP, ACOG, and AAFP look over the data as well as the independent advisor recommendations. They then decide whether or not to accept them. Their findings are communicated to the healthcare professionals they lead.
• Your public health officials and trusted healthcare providers will have access to all of the data and information to help you decide whether or not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
• Easy access to COVID-19 vaccines is equally critical. The CDC is working with public health, healthcare providers, and other partners to make sure people can easily get a COVID-19 vaccine and that cost is not a barrier.

Specific information related to both vaccines will be aggressively communicated to the public once the vaccine becomes readily available. You can receive this information through your favorite news network, media outlet, here on the Hunterdon Healthcare website or the Hunterdon Healthcare Facebook page. As new information becomes available it will be immediately shared. If you have questions about the vaccine for which you can’t find easy answers, please feel free to call our Hunterdon Healthcare COVID-19 Hotline at (908) 788-6440 and one of our representatives will be happy to help you.

Will there be enough vaccine for everyone?

When FDA first authorizes or approves the use of one or more COVID-19 vaccines, there will be a limited supply. This would mean that not everyone will be able to be vaccinated right away.

Supply of the vaccine will continually increase in the weeks and months to follow the initial distribution. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available.

At this time, the CDC is hopeful that by summer 2021 everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have been vaccinated.

Are there special considerations on who should get the COVID-19 vaccine first?

At first, there will be a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine. Operation Warp Speed is working to get those first vaccine doses out once a vaccine is authorized or approved and recommended, rather than waiting until there is enough vaccine for everyone. However, it is important that the initial supplies of vaccine are given to people in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. Based on input from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) it has been decided that the first doses of the vaccine will be offered to healthcare workers with direct exposure to patients and nursing home patients. Additional phases will be announced as the vaccine becomes available.

There are different versions of the COVID-19 vaccine. Which one should I get?

• Experts recommend that you get any approved vaccine and that you are vaccinated as soon as possible.
• When a vaccine requires a second dose, it must be from the same manufacturer and must be taken within the necessary timeframe between doses.
• The Moderna vaccine requires two doses separated by at least 28 days.
• The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses separated by at least 21 days.
• Detailed information for both vaccines will be immediately shared as soon as it becomes available.

Can I pick which vaccine I want to get?

It is recommended that you get any approved vaccine available in your community. We do not know if or when there will be more than one choice in our area. Both doses must be from the same manufacturer.

Will I get COVID-19 by getting the vaccine?

You cannot get COVID-19 from a COVID-19 vaccine.

How many shots of the COVID-19 vaccine will I need?

All but one of the COVID-19 vaccines soon to be distributed in the United States need two shots, taken between 21-28 days apart (depending on vaccine), to be effective. The other COVID-19 vaccine, not yet out of its clinical trial period uses one shot.

Will I still need to wear a mask if I receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. The CDC recommends that during the pandemic people must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact with others outside their household, when in healthcare facilities, and when receiving any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine. Masks should continue to be worn until otherwise advised by the CDC – regardless of whether or not you’ve had the vaccine.

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 CDC’s recommendations will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes. All vaccines trigger an immune response in your body. This response protects you when you are exposed to the virus. There are common symptoms after any vaccination, including the COVID-19 vaccine. These are minor, can occur with any vaccine and not a cause for concern. Limited few examples of these minor reactions are pain at the injection site, muscle aches, low-grade fever, fatigue, and/or headaches. When these symptoms occur after a vaccine dose, they typically go away in a few days. It does not mean you shouldn’t get a future vaccine dose.

Researchers must detect and report serious side effects of vaccines. For both vaccines coming to market, there were no serious side effects attributed to the vaccine.

Is the vaccine effective?

Yes. People who receive the vaccine are about 95% less likely to get infected with COVID, especially severe COVID.

Who should get the vaccine?

At this time, the vaccines that will soon be available are only appropriate for persons aged 18 years or older.

The CDC, along with other experts, has prioritized vaccine recipients until the supply is sufficient for everyone. Healthcare workers are the first priority group, both because of their potential for exposure to COVID-19 and because they are critical to caring for those who are sick. Nursing home residents are also in the first group since viruses spread in congregate living settings and they are medically fragile.

Those with personal health risk factors are another important group for vaccination, since the chances of serious infection, hospitalization, and death are increased for these individuals.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Those who are allergic to components in the vaccine. (Information related to the potential side effects of each approved vaccine will be provided as soon as the details are received.)

Those who have a serious reaction to a prior dose should not receive a subsequent dose. Remember, minor reactions mean your immune system is working to recognize the virus if you encounter it in the future. Minor reactions are not a reason to skip the vaccine!

Who is paying for the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccine will be available to everyone at no cost. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone, which may be billed to insurance or waived depending on financial need.

If I want the vaccine when it is available, where can I get it?

Logistics for vaccine distribution are still being developed but as the vaccine becomes widely available for the public it is expected that the vaccine will be available through your primary care provider’s office, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, and public health offices. Please continue to visit our website for a list of vaccine locations as they become known.

If I was already diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated when it is available?

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. Until additional research is available regarding long-term immunity to the COVID-19 virus after vaccination, it is recommended that you still receive the vaccine.

I’ve heard that vaccines, in general, aren’t good or really necessary for you. Why should I get vaccinated for anything?

Every year thousands of adults in the U.S. become seriously ill and are hospitalized because of diseases that vaccines can help prevent. Many adults even die from these diseases. By getting vaccinated, you can help protect yourself from much of this unnecessary suffering.

1. Vaccines can lower your chance of getting certain diseases.
Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to disease. This lowers your chances of getting certain diseases and suffering from their complications.
2. Vaccines lower your chance of spreading disease.
Some people in your family or community may not be able to get certain vaccines due to their age or health condition. They rely on you to help prevent the spread of disease. Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious disease. For example, newborn babies are too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough. Unfortunately, whooping cough can be very dangerous or even deadly for them. Pregnant women should get the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy to help protect their babies from whooping cough. Anyone who is around babies should be up to date with their whooping cough vaccine.
3. You can’t afford to get sick!
You have a busy life and too much responsibility to risk getting sick. Vaccines can help you stay healthy so you don’t miss work. If you can avoid getting sick, you will have more time for your family, friends, and hobbies. Getting recommended vaccines can give you some peace of mind. You will have the best possible protection available against a number of serious diseases.
4. Vaccines are one of the safest ways to protect your health and the health of others.

Information provided by CDC.gov website


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