As a public health professional, I am a strong advocate for vaccinations to prevent the spread of communicable disease in our society.
Vaccines have been proven to almost eradicate deadly and debilitating diseases such as smallpox and polio.
So, one can imagine how excited and hopeful I am that we have achieved a miracle in our work to end COVID-19 pandemic – a vaccine!
Vaccine manufacturers, under Operation Warp Speed, defied the odds and have given us two safe and very effective vaccines in record time.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines utilize new mRNA technology and are shown to be around 95 percent effective after the second dose.
The mRNA technology has never been used in any previous vaccines, but the science is not new.
Scientists have been studying the use of mRNA to make a vaccine for over a decade. Most vaccines on the market today use a weakened, inactivated, or portion of a germ to trigger an immune response.
The current COVID-19 vaccines are a little different. They use mRNA – or messenger RNA – to deliver instructions to our cells to make a portion of the virus.
In this case, the mRNA tells our cells to make the “spike protein” of a COVID-19 virus. As our body is being instructed to make the spike protein, our immune system recognizes it doesn’t belong there and begins to make antibodies designed specially to protect us against future, real COVID-19 infection.
There are many people who have questions, concerns and hesitancy about the vaccine.
It’s important to go to recognized and reliable sources of information to answer your questions, such as the Centers for Disease Control, state and local Public Health Departments, or the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization information sheets.
The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you a COVID-19 infection.
Remember, you’re only being given instructions to make a small portion of the virus.
There is no whole virus in the vaccine and therefore no way for it to replicate and cause infection.
Though you cannot get COVID-19 infection from the vaccine, you may have unpleasant side effects after you receive it.
The COVID-19 vaccine is what we call a highly “reactogenic” vaccine. Reactogenicity is the physical manifestation of the immune response, and could include injection site pain and swelling, fever, headache and fatigue.
These unpleasant side effects are more common in younger people, and increase with the second dose.
It’s important that we are transparent that these types of reactions can happen, and though very unpleasant, are not typically unsafe and simply mean your body is having the immune response it is supposed to have. Most symptoms resolve within 48 hours.
If you’ve had COVID-19, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommend that you get your vaccination when it’s your turn.
Though those who have had COVID-19 have some natural immunity to the disease, we do not know yet how long natural immunity lasts or how new variants will affect immunity.
However, if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma when you had COVID-19, it’s recommended that you wait 90 days before getting vaccinated.
Though the COVID-19 vaccines on the market today have been shown to be around 95 percent effective, no vaccine offers 100 percent protection and it is still possible to get COVID-19 after receiving one or both doses of the vaccine.
Luckily, in studies individuals who still became infected with COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine had a much less severe illness.
If you do become infected with COVID-19 after your vaccination, you are still required to isolate for 10 days from symptom onset. One significant perk of completing both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is that according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, once two weeks have passed after your second dose, except in very high risk situations, you are no longer required to quarantine if you were a close contact of a positive case.
The roll out of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the United States is welcome and encouraging news as the pandemic rages on.
With over 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19, and new variants circulating in our society, it is vital that we recognize that the pandemic is not over yet.
The ticket out of the pandemic is vaccination of a vast majority of the world’s population, and until that point we must continue to be vigilant in the other protective measures we have at our disposal. It’s understandable that we are all experiencing COVID-19 fatigue, but the pandemic is still very much a threat to many people in our society.
Vaccine distribution is a critical component of ending this pandemic, and a logistical challenge unlike anything most of us have ever faced.
Since the end of December, healthcare workers, first responders and individuals ages 70 and older in Colorado have been given the vaccine and some have completed their second dose.
Beginning Feb. 8, the state of Colorado will open up vaccinations to pre K-12 school teachers, licensed childcare providers, and individuals 65-69.
The state of Colorado has been among the top 10 of states in the U.S. in terms of vaccines administered.
In Chaffee County, we have vaccinated over 3,000 individuals through Public Health community clinics, Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center clinics, pharmacies, and other health care centers.
Our entire medical community is committed to a quick and efficient roll out, and as soon as the vaccine is received it is quickly distributed to our residents.
The limiting factor at the moment is the vaccine inventory allotted to Chaffee County.
We have the capacity, desire, and community interest to greatly increase the number of vaccinations we give each week.
Our community can rest assured that as our supply increases, and as we are instructed to move onto other groups, we will do so as quickly as we can.
Last week Gov. Polis signed an Executive Order ensuring that the vaccine is free for Coloradans, and insurance status will not be used to deny or deprioritize any patient from getting the vaccine.
If you are a Chaffee County resident who qualifies for a vaccine, please visit our website http://www.chaffeecounty.rsvpify.com or call 719-539-4510.
Slots and clinics will open as inventory increases, so check regularly for an available slot.
Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, Valley Wide Health Systems, and local pharmacies also have COVID-19 vaccine and have availability based on their inventory.
Emily Anderson, RN, BSN, IBCLC, CLC, CPST is a Chaffee County Public Health nurse.