Covid-19 Vaccine update

When will Arlington Family Practice have the Covid-19 vaccine?

We are working with local, and state agencies as well as Mt Auburn Hospital to ensure that we have a supply of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they become available to us. Vaccine distribution will be determined based on prioritization of those at highest risk: frontline health care workers and people living in nursing homes, prisons and other high-density housing. We will continue to update our patients as the vaccine becomes available.

Who will get the vaccine first?

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine were issued for emergency use authorization (EUA) status by the FDA. The CDC developed a framework for vaccine allocation. In Massachusetts the vaccine is being distributed in 3 phases based on those at most risk for infection. ( see below from mass.gov website)

 We direct you to the website for updated information on timeline and distribution: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-covid-19-vaccine-information

What is in the COVID-19 vaccine?

Two of the most promising candidate vaccines (those made by Pfizer and Moderna) use messenger RNA (mRNA), delivering a small genetic message that causes your own cells to produce a protein resembling the spike on the outer shell of SARS-CoV-2. Your immune system then recognizes that protein as foreign and produces antibodies as well as specialized immune cells (T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes) that will quickly spring into action if the virus itself shows up in the future. The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a weakened cold virus that has been modified to carry the same spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, leading to the same production of protective antibodies by your immune system.

How will the vaccine be administered?

Generally speaking you would start by getting a first shot. These will be administered the same way as the flu shot. Then, three to four weeks later (depending on which vaccine you are getting), you would get a second injection. Maximum effectiveness is thought to be reached two weeks after your second dose.

What will side effects be?

Common side effects may include pain around the area of the injection, feeling run down, headache, muscle aches, and less commonly, fever. So far, severe side effects have been reported to be very rare with these current COVID-19 vaccines.There have been rare reports of serious allergic reactions to the vaccine. If you have a history of severe reactions, please speak to your healthcare provider for guidance around the COVID-19 vaccine.

How much will the vaccine cost?

The U.S. federal government has said it will cover the cost of vaccines for all Americans. According to Operation Warp Speed (OWS), a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the CDC, and the Department of Defense, the objective is to ensure that “no one desiring vaccination will face an economic barrier to receiving one.” In a report outlining its vaccine strategy, OWS said that various plans are under development to ensure that no American will be charged any out-of-pocket expenses for the vaccine, its distribution, or its administration.

If there are multiple vaccines approved, will people have a choice about which one they would want?

As soon as you meet the criteria to receive a vaccine, we recommend you get whatever vaccine is available at that point, as all FDA approved vaccines are considered highly effective. If more than one option is widely available, then yes, you will probably have a choice. Just remember that your second dose of the vaccine must match your first.

If I get the vaccine, can I stop wearing a mask?

Based on early data, the vaccines look like they're extremely effective, so once you've received the full course of vaccinations (likely two steps) and your immune system has had a few extra weeks to respond, you're likely be protected from getting sick or spreading the virus. But since no vaccine is 100% effective, and since others around you will not know if you've been vaccinated, we'll all need to continue wearing masks when out and about and maintaining physical distance from others well into 2021. Wearing a mask is also a courtesy to people around you who may not know you have been vaccinated.

I’ve had COVID-19 already. Should I still get a vaccine?

Yes. At this point, there is not enough evidence to know how long immunity from a COVID-19 infection lasts. It’s also not clear yet whether vaccination or infection produces the strongest immunity. While more information is needed to better understand the benefit of vaccination for those who have already been infected, we currently think it’s safer to get the vaccine even if you have already had a COVID-19 infection.

Does each state determine how the vaccine is rolled out?

To our understanding, the CDC will oversee distribution of the vaccine to each state’s Department of Public Health, so there is some room for each state to have a more detailed distribution plan from there. The high level concept of targeting the highest priority groups first will likely hold consistent for each state. For more information go to https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/index.html

These vaccines were developed very quickly. How confident can we be in their safety?

While the specific vaccines are new, the platforms behind them (i.e. the ways in which the vaccines are administered and induce an immune response) have either been in development and testing or in widespread use for many years. The idea of a “never before used” genetic vaccine may seem intimidating, but the underlying technology has been thoroughly studied and proven safe on thousands of volunteers; only the SARS-CoV-2-specific genetic message is new. The safety standards of the FDA remain stringent and the safety of the vaccines will continue to be closely monitored even after the vaccines are released. At Arlington Family Practice, we review the published safety data and analysis carefully, and we only offer vaccines when we strongly believe the benefits massively outweigh any risks, which we expect to be the case for FDA EUA-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Can I sign up for a vaccine waitlist?

At Arlington Family Practice, we will offer vaccination according to the CDC guidelines. Therefore, we will be reaching out to our high risk patients first. This will be in accordance with the CDC guidelines. We will let all our patients know as soon we have vaccines available. In the meantime, please continue to check our website for updated information.

 

Author
Ann Morvai, MD

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