We know many questions are surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Mark Paulson, Perham Health physician, provides answers to some of the common questions we are hearing.

When will vaccines be available and who will get them?

Perham Health will receive its first shipment of the vaccine the week of December 21 and will immediately begin to vaccinate its frontline workers. Vaccine for community distribution is expected early in 2021.

The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be given to people working in health care settings who could get COVID-19 at work and people who live in long-term care facilities. Other groups that may get some of the early doses include some first responders, essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and older adults.

Is the vaccine safe?

Having a safe and effective vaccine is a top priority. There is no live virus in the vaccine so you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Even though the vaccine was developed quickly, the science behind creating the vaccine (messenger RNA) has been in development for over a decade. Nothing has been skipped in the science and research to determine the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. Tens of thousands of people have participated in the clinical trials testing the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

How effective is the vaccine?

The vaccine provides 95% protection from contracting COVID-19 after completing the 2-shot series.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

Side effects of the vaccine are typical of those that one would experience with any other vaccine; low-grade fever, body aches, headache, and injection site pain, redness, and swelling. Side effects are a sign that your body is doing its job accepting the vaccine and building antibodies.

I’ve already had COVID-19. Do I need to get vaccinated?

Yes. We do not know how much protection is provided from having had the virus, or how long that protection lasts. Science indicates you should still get vaccinated, because the vaccine is much more predictable in its level of protection and immunity. If you have recently had confirmed COVID-19, talk to your primary care provider about any concerns.

I’m likely to survive COVID-19. Do I need to get vaccinated?

Yes. There are three reasons you should receive the vaccine:

  • We have a social responsibility to protect others.
    Even though you might not be at high risk for becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus, we all have a responsibility to not spread it to others that are at high risk. The more people that are vaccinated, the fewer people there will be to spread COVID-19.
  • We need to develop immunity as safely as possible.
    The risk of getting the virus can lead to long-term health consequences and even death. The vaccine has not been shown to cause any of these complications. COVID-19 will continue to be in our society indefinitely. It will be one of the viral illnesses just like chickenpox, measles, influenza, etc., that we live with. At some point in our lives, we will all need to become immune to the virus. Science indicates the vaccine is a safer and much more predictable method of achieving immunity.
  • The quicker we develop immunity, the sooner we can unmask and get back to normal.
    It is estimated that when 75-80% of the population is vaccinated, the country will develop immunity. It is possible to have this accomplished by springtime if we all do our part and get vaccinated. The sooner we get vaccinated to protect our family, friends, and neighbors from COVID-19, the sooner our kids can go back to school, restaurants, bars, and businesses can reopen, and we can gather together once again.

We are all in this together and we need your help.

We know there is an overwhelming amount of information being published regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Please remember to get your information from reliable sources. Take some time to learn about the facts and talk with your primary care provider if needed, so that you can make an informed decision that will be best for you and your family.

Until we reach immunity of our population through the vaccine, we must continue to do our part to stop the spread and save lives. We strongly urge you to wear a face mask, maintain a 6’ distance from others, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, and stay home if you feel ill.

__________

Mark Paulson, MD
Perham Health, Family Medicine