COVID-19 Vaccine Info
A bad messenger plunges men into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing. Proverbs 13:17
A word from our Bethany sister Heather Calmes Bylander, RN:
Feeling overwhelmed by the constant stream of information about COVID-19 vaccines? You’re not alone. With so much information coming from so many sources, it is hard to determine what is important to know for making decisions about your health and the health of your family. As a nurse, I want to offer you some medically sound facts about the vaccines to ease the stress. I’ll answer some common questions and point you in the direction of where you can learn more. I’ll also share a way to get help scheduling a vaccination appointment!
Now that we have three vaccine options, it’s hard to understand all the numbers associated with them and what they actually mean. We hear percentages of efficacy that at a first glance can make it seem like one vaccine is superior to another. We may think we should only try to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines because we first heard they were 94% effective, whereas the Johnson & Johnson vaccine reported 72% effectiveness. What is important to really pay attention to is the fact that all three vaccines were 100% effective at preventing hospitalization and death once the full course was given and the immune system was allowed two weeks to respond appropriately and provide immunity. Pfizer and Moderna require two shots spaced a few weeks apart, whereas Johnson & Johnson achieved immunity after only one dose. Regardless of which vaccine you receive, you will need to wait two weeks after the final shot for the full effect and protection. Until this wait time is satisfied, you need to continue taking all the precautions we’ve been practicing for a year: masks, social distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored at regular refrigeration temperatures which will make it easier to transport as well as widen the number of facilities that can store and administer shots to the public. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also been tested against the variants that are popping up in the news; Pfizer and Moderna are working on a booster to ensure protection against the variants, which would require a third shot after the first two. Going forward, we may need an annual coronavirus shot, just like the flu, to prevent another pandemic.
A big question is whether you can get sick from any of the vaccines. The answer is no; you are not receiving COVID-19 in a weakened state that could cause illness, just pieces of it for your immune system to learn to recognize in the future to prevent infection. Having said that, you may experience side effects ranging from fatigue and headache to fever and even a rash. These are signs that your immune system is recognizing the foreign piece of coronavirus and responding appropriately by mounting an attack. While not pleasant, a day or two of feeling under the weather is still better than becoming severely ill and possibly dying.
We’ve all heard the term “herd immunity” in the news and may wonder what that actually means. For a disease to spread, you need people to be susceptible to catching it and spreading it. That’s why COVID-19 is so widespread; it’s new and has never been seen before so no one had immunity to it. Herd immunity will happen when between 80 and 90 percent of the population has immunity to COVID-19. This will happen much faster if the population is vaccinated. When we have herd immunity, we can return to normal activities without fear. This is the goal. This can be achieved as early as this summer by using any of the three vaccines available following the two-week wait period after receiving either the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Knowing where to go for useful and factual information is vital.
- The CDC website https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home will give you current information about COVID-19 nationwide.
- For Texas specific data, check out https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/additionaldata/.
- Locally, to find out more about vaccine availability and eligibility, check out https://www.austintexas.gov/covid19-vaccines.
Austin Vaccine Angels’ volunteers are helping schedule covid vaccine appointments for seniors, those who are not technologically savvy, have a day job that limits computer access, or experience language barriers. Fill out this form to connect: http://www.austinvaccineangels.org/.
I am also happy to answer questions, email me, Heather Calmes Bylander. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do the research and get back to you.
Heather Calmes Bylander, RN