The vaccines are finally here! Recently, Tri-County Health Care began vaccinating frontline workers. Over 200 staff members have received the vaccine. We are still waiting for direction from national and state health authorities about when the vaccine will be available to the general public. Please stay connected with Tri-County Health Care for future updates. We have received many questions about the vaccine. Some common questions are answered below:
Do you have any information about when the vaccine will be available at the local level?
We don’t have a specific date but are continually monitoring the situation and we expect the CDC to release guidelines for distribution soon. We do know that the vaccine will be distributed in phases.
Phase 1a includes healthcare workers and long-term care residents.
Phase 1b includes essential frontline workers and people over 75.
Phase 1c includes people over 65. This phase will also include people 16 or older with underlying conditions and other essential workers.
The vaccine will be available to the general public after being offered to these higher risk groups.
Does the vaccine make you infertile?
No, the vaccine has not been found to affect a person’s reproductive health. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology encourages vaccination and provided the statement below in a Dec. 21 article.
“Vaccination is strongly encouraged for non-pregnant individuals within the ACIP prioritization group(s). Further, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends vaccination of individuals who are actively trying to become pregnant or are contemplating pregnancy. Additionally, it is not necessary to delay pregnancy after completing both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
How was this vaccine produced so quickly?
The vaccine was created under emergency conditions. The processes used to develop the vaccine have been studied for years. Much of the testing was done simultaneously and many of the financial restraints were removed. It has undergone the same rigorous safety testing as other vaccines.
What vaccine is TCHC using?
At this time, we are using the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. So far, 230 staff members have been vaccinated.
Why does the vaccine need to be kept so cold?
Ultra-cold refrigeration is necessary to maintain the biochemical make-up of the vaccine. The cold temperature keeps mRNA from falling apart.
What makes this vaccine different? What is mRNA?
Messenger RNA or mRNA is a piece of genetic material that lives within cells. It is heavily involved in creating proteins. mRNA vaccines give our bodies instructions on how to make protein just like the one found on the spike of the COVID-19 virus. Our immune system will then produce antibodies against this spike protein and build an immunity to the virus. These vaccines have a success rate of around 95 percent.
What are some of the expected side effects?
Side effects are like those experienced with other vaccines. They usually include soreness at the site of injection, fever, chills or a headache. If you experience side effects outside the usual immune system response, contact your doctor immediately.
Why is it important to still practice mitigation strategies after getting the vaccine?
The CDC recommends that we continue practicing mitigation strategies. It remains important to continue these strategies until a significant percentage of the population is immune. We can still spread the disease through surface contact even if we are not susceptible ourselves. Mitigation practices for COVID-19 help prevent the spread of other viral illnesses such as influenza, reducing the burden on our health care systems.
We will continue to monitor information from national health authorities. When the vaccine is ready for the public, we will make this information available. There is no waiting list or appointment schedule at this time. Please visit TCHC.org/covidvaccine and follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.
Cheryl Houselog is the Infection Preventionist at Tri-County Health Care.