The first of what is anticipated to be several available COVID-19 vaccines has been authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is great news. Vaccines have proven to protect against dangerous viruses and diseases like COVID-19. Vaccines work by helping the body to create antibodies and activate T-cells which are our natural defense mechanisms to fight disease.

Once the body develops these defenses to a particular virus from a vaccination and the body is then exposed to that virus , the body’s antibodies and T-cells are immediately ready to destroy  it, thus preventing illness. Vaccines prevent millions of people from getting potentially deadly diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, and influenza – and now, COVID-19.

Following are six commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 (caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus) can be deadly and there is no cure. Therefore, a vaccine is an important tool in reducing the chance you will become infected by the virus and that you will spread the virus to others. COVID-19 can be a mild illness in some individuals or can lead to severe disease, disability, or death even in previously healthy people.

Although a number of treatments and medications have been developed and are being used for people who are hospitalized with COVID-19, there is still no cure. Getting the vaccine helps protect you from infection and also helps with creating herd immunity in the larger community. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (herd) becomes immune to a disease (from prior infection or vaccination), making the spread of the disease unlikely.

Once herd immunity is achieved, it could signal the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about herd immunity here.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe. Vaccines are approved and regulated by the FDA. According to the FDA, “vaccines undergo a rigorous review of laboratory and clinical data to ensure the safety and effectiveness of these products.” This normally happens after several years of observation following completion of phase 3 clinical trials. In this case, however, the FDA made its determination through an Emergency Use Authorization, based upon laboratory and clinical trial data reported to date. A vaccine is deemed safe and effective by the FDA when it is approved for use.

Could I have an adverse reaction or side effect from the vaccine?

There is a possibility that you could have a reaction to the vaccine. As with every vaccine or medicine, there is a risk of side effects, though that risk is generally low with vaccines. We do know that there were some side effects to the vaccines in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. As with most vaccines, there is a potential for injection-site reactions (redness, swelling, and pain) as well as fever, fatigue, headache, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and/or joint pain. There may be other reactions that are not currently known.

We learned that two health care providers in England who received the vaccine had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. However, they also had a history of severe allergic reactions to other vaccines in the past. The FDA therefore recommends that people who have had severe allergic reactions to other vaccines not receive the COVID-19 vaccine until more is known about what caused the reaction.

If you have an adverse reaction, you should report it to your health care provider. The CDC has also developed a smartphone-based reporting platform, called V-SAFE, to report any adverse reaction after COVID-19 vaccination. V-SAFE will use text messaging and web surveys from the CDC to check in with vaccine recipients for health problems following COVID-19 vaccination. The system also will provide telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically significant adverse events.

If I get the vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask and/or practice physical distancing?

Yes, you still need to adhere to the safety standards that have been set during this pandemic. Though the current COVID-19 vaccines have been determined in clinical trials to be more than 95% effective in preventing you from getting sick from the virus, there is still a chance you could get the virus, not have symptoms, and transmit it to others. Until a substantial number of people have been vaccinated and potential herd immunity has been developed, you will still need to wear a mask and follow other precautions such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. This may change after enough people have received the vaccine and the virus is no longer being transmitted on large scale. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following safety guidelines (masking, physically distancing, and washing your hands) are the best ways to protect yourself and others and help stop the pandemic.

If I already had COVID-19, do I still need the vaccine?

Due to limited amount of vaccines initially, the CDC is recommending that you wait to receive the vaccine if you have had COVID-19 within the previous 90 days.

Initially, the supply of the vaccine will be limited. Guidance on who will get it first, and in what order is still being ironed out – but it will be based on available quantities, high-risk locations of work and certain other risk factors, and recommendations and guidance from public health agencies. The goal is to vaccinate at least 70% of the adult population, which could create herd immunity. Once herd immunity is achieved, it could substantially reduce the spread of COVID-19.

If you have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine or about whether or not you should take the vaccine, you should contact your primary care physician to discuss your concerns. For more information, including the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination, visit: Centers for Disease Control

Source: Cooper University Healthcare

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