(TBEN Boston) – Two COVID-19 vaccines are now available for certain segments of the American public. One was published by Pfizer and the other by Moderna. Both require two doses, separated by three to four weeks, and both are ultimately about 95% effective.
Initially, the federal government told states that only healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes should be eligible for vaccination. But, as of last Tuesday, anyone aged 65 or over or 16 years old, with a pre-existing condition, has been added to the list. Individual states ultimately make their own decision, and some states are starting to include teachers and first responders as well.
The initial deployment progressed more slowly than everyone had hoped. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 million doses had been shipped to hospitals and pharmacies last Monday. However, not even nine million of these doses were administered.
State-level scheduling issues are also partially responsible for the timing of immunizations. Another possible obstacle in the future is public confidence in new vaccines. According to a national survey conducted by the University of South Florida, 33% of those polled said they were “not very confident” or “not at all convinced” that recently approved vaccines were safe. In addition, 23 percent said they “probably would not” or “definitely would not get the vaccine.”
Expedited deployment raises many questions. TBEN Local asked readers and viewers questions of our experts: Dr Mallika Marshall and Dr Max Gomez. Mallika Marshall, MD, is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and physician who is the regular health reporter at WBZ-TV in Boston. Dr Max Gomez is a medical reporter for WCBS-TV in New York.
While Marshall and Gomez offer their best advice, consult your personal physician before making decisions regarding your personal health.
If someone has had reactions to influenza vaccines in the past, is it safe to get the COVID vaccine?
Marshall: Yeah. If you have had serious reactions to other vaccines, you can still receive the coronavirus vaccine, but you will be monitored for a longer time after receiving it. Usually 30 minutes instead of the standard 15 minutes.
Can you still get COVID after the first dose of vaccine?
Gomez: The short answer is yes, but not as often or as easily as before that first dose. Pfizer clinical trials have suggested about 50% protection after the first dose. A new Israeli study finds a drop in new cases after the first dose. It’s something, but not perfect, and it takes a few weeks after that first hit to build up immunity.
So yes, you can still get COVID until you’ve taken both doses, so you need to keep wearing a mask.
There is good news in all of this. The CDC says influenza activity remains below normal for this time of year. This is probably due to the fact that people wear masks, distance themselves socially, and often wash their hands. So keep it up – we don’t want a twindemic.
Whenever they show someone getting a coronavirus vaccine, I’m amazed at the length of the needle. Is it longer than most needles for other injections?
Marshall: The vaccine should be delivered to the deltoid muscle of the upper arm so a 1 – 1 ½ ”needle is used depending on the size of the patient. This is the same needle length recommended for the flu shot.
What is in the vaccine?
Gomez: A bystander is very allergic to penicillin. Although there have been a small number of allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine, there is nothing penicillin-like in both vaccines The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a very new, similar technology to induce immunity, so people rightly want to know what’s in them. .
Surprisingly few. There are tiny snippets of what is called a messenger or mRNA. This is the genetic blueprint that the virus uses to make the spike protein that helps the crown infect cells and will boost your immunity. But there is no coronavirus in the vaccine.
The other component is tiny, oily nanoparticles that surround and protect mRNA, which would otherwise break down very quickly in the body. That’s all. No preservatives or anything else until mixed with sterile saline solution just before being injected.
The government is now releasing all vaccines – it is no longer holding back for the second round. If you get your first dose – but for some reason you can’t get your second – what happens then? Do you have to wait a while before getting another 1 turn?
Marshall: The studies with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines looked at giving the second dose 3-4 weeks after the first, so we don’t really know how the effectiveness might change if you wait much longer than that. The WHO says you shouldn’t wait more than six weeks between doses, but the CDC says if there is a delay, there is no need to repeat the first dose. And there are other vaccines in development that may be approved in the coming months that only require one vaccine.
What if you had COVID and didn’t know it and now have antibodies? Do I still need the vaccine and is it safe?
Gomez: If you’ve had a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID, you will likely have developed antibodies to the coronavirus. This should protect you for a while, experts say. Don’t count on more than 90 days, however. So you don’t need a shot right away, but you still need it.
The CDC says it’s safe to get a vaccine if you have antibodies, so an antibody test, or a COVID virus test for that matter, isn’t necessary before a vaccine.
However, if you have symptoms of COVID, the CDC says to wait until all of your symptoms go away before getting vaccinated.
Can you mix and match the vaccines? One shot from Moderna and the second from Pfizer, or vice versa?
Gomez: Unfortunately, the answer is we don’t really know, because these combinations have never been tested – at least not yet.
In theory, mixing and matching the two vaccines could work because they contain the same coronavirus genetic sequence to boost immunity. The only difference between the Moderna and Pfizer shots is the tiny lipid nanoparticle that surrounds the fragile mRNA gene.
But at the moment, with a vaccine shortage, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to get one of every vaccine. Get everything you can, because the site that gives you your first dose should prioritize you for your second booster dose.
When my family is fully immunized, will we be able to be together without a mask and be safe with our grandchildren?
Marshall: We still don’t know if getting the full vaccine will keep you from getting infected and passing the virus on to someone else. We will have a better idea in the next few months. In the meantime, even if you are getting the vaccine, you should keep a physical distance and wear masks when you are with other people who have not been vaccinated.