As of late 2020, two COVID-19 vaccines have been granted emergency use authorizations from the FDA and have begun distribution throughout the United States; others are on their way. The good news is that Connecticut has been one of the leading states for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out distribution and vaccinations. As we continue through the stages of who gets vaccinated first, many of you may have questions about the vaccines available, which one is right for you, and just how effective they are against COVID-19. AFC Urgent Care Torrington has prepared a frequently asked questions and answers guide on the new COVID-19 vaccines available on the market.
How many COVID-19 vaccines are available to the public?
Currently, there are only two FDA emergency approved vaccines for COVID-19 on the market. Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna are two reputable companies and have both created a vaccine for COVID-19. Both vaccines are mRNA-based, require two shots and they are both 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.
***There are 3 other COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in phase 3 clinical trials. As new information is available, we will update any changes in the future.
What’s in the new COVID-19 vaccines?
Both vaccines rely on mRNA (messenger RNA) to help our immune systems make copies of the coronavirus protein so that if we come into contact with the active virus, our immune systems will recognize it and destroy it.
Does it matter which COVID-19 vaccine you get?
Pifizer’s vaccine is slightly different from Modernas vaccine. Pifizer’s vaccine requires it to be stored at very low temperatures, while Moderna’s vaccine, although required to be refrigerated, does not require it to be kept as frigid. Also, Pifizers second vaccine is required after 3 weeks versus Modernas vaccine, which requires a second shot after 4 weeks. In terms of efficacy, they are deemed about the same, between 90-95%.
Who can get vaccinated for COVID-19?
We highly suggest following along the vaccine schedule and phases here: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccination—Phases
Over the past month and a half, the state has been working hard to vaccinate healthcare workers, first responders and long term facility care residents in phase 1a. Currently, Connecticut is in phase 1b of the vaccination distribution schedule and is allowing the elderly ages 75 and up to start scheduling their vaccinations.
The next part of Phase 1b will allow front line essential workers, individuals and staff in congregate settings, ages 65 and older and ages 16 to 64 with comorbidities. Stay tuned.
***As more information is presented we will continuously update this blog with new guidance about the vaccine schedule and future phases.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective against the new strains of COVID-19?
Scientists are working to learn more about these new variants, and more studies are needed to understand:
- How widely these new variants have spread
- Are the new variants different from one another
- How the disease caused by these new variants differs from the disease caused by other variants that are currently circulating
- How effective the vaccines on the market are against the new strains
At this time, the CDC is monitoring the situation closely and working to characterize and isolate emerging variants. Here is a map of US COVID-19 Cases Caused by Variants
Are there any allergic side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines?
The great majority of those vaccinated in the trial phases of both vaccines have not experienced allergic reactions, which is why they have been approved for emergency use. That being said, there is always a small chance with any vaccine, that an allergic reaction may occur. The CDC has reported that there are two categories of allergic reactions; severe and not so severe.
The FDA and The CDC are closely monitoring possible side effects with people who may have allergic reactions like anaphylaxis. In the United States, the CDC says that it’s safe for people to get vaccinated, but are monitoring them closely 30 minutes after getting vaccinated.
If you have a severe reaction to the mRNA molecules found in the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC suggests that you do NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine. If you have a less severe reaction and already had the first dose, the CDC also advises that you refrain from getting the second dose, as well.
Symptoms to look out for if you have an allergic reaction within 4 hours after getting vaccinated are:
The CDC also advises that if you are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate to avoid getting the vaccine. Should you have any questions about allergies to any vaccine, we highly suggest you consult with your primary care doctor.
Are there any long term health effects from the COVID-19 vaccines?
The Pifizer vaccine alone tested over 40,000 people in their trial phase without any serious side effects. Their trial phase took place over a period of months and they gathered at least 8 weeks worth of safety data. At this time there are no reported long term health effects from the vaccines. Experts suggest that it would be highly unusual, or uncommon for a vaccine to show side effects after 8 weeks.
In addition to this, the federal government and the Science Subcommittee of Governor Lamont’s Vaccine Advisory Group both had to approve the vaccine to be administered in Connecticut.
If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
The short answer is YES! According to The CDC, and our Medical Director, COVID-19 vaccinations should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, it is too soon to tell how long this protection will last.
***However, if you are currently infected with the active COVID-19 virus, the CDC advises that you wait until your illness is over to receive the vaccine.
Can you still get infected after getting vaccinated for COVID-19? What about the second dose?
The answer is yes for both! Just like the flu, or any other vaccine, you need some time before it can actually protect you. It can take up to 10-14 days after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to build immunity. Therefore, it is important that you continue wearing a face mask, social distancing and taking other precautions until two weeks after your second shot.
***Don’t skip the second shot!
Do we still have to wear masks and social distance if we get vaccinated for COVID-19?
Yes, for now, until we begin to see a flattening of the curve (see above). The same concept also applies to those who already had COVID-19. Not everyone you come into contact with has been vaccinated yet or has had COVID-19. The best safeguard to flatten the curve is to keep following social distancing protocols, wearing a mask and waiting for your turn to be vaccinated next.
AFC Urgent Care Torrington is here to keep you COVID-19 FREE
Vaccines are critical to prevent widespread illnesses. Until we all reach herd immunity it won’t be a simple return to a normal world before COVID-19. It may take months to vaccinate the majority of the population, and until then we must still take precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands and getting tested for COVID-19.
AFC Urgent Care Torrington will continue to play an important role for friends and families in the Torrington community. We offer both standard PCR COVID-19 testing and rapid testing (By appointment only) at our center for those going back to work, essential workers, students, teachers and residents. Our doors are open 7 days a week and we offer extended hours as a convenience for those who work 9-5’s. You can count on us to give you the right care. Right now.