More people now qualifying for vaccines. Here’s what you should know
With the opening of COVID-19 vaccinations this week to those 55 and over, as well as those with one or more comorbidities, millions more people in the state may be just beginning to learn about the different vaccines. We compiled information from Cape Cod Healthcare Chief Quality Officer Dr. Kevin Mulroy, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other trusted sources to help update readers.
What if I’ve already had COVID-19? Should I get vaccinated?
Yes. Because scientists don’t know how long any immunity from having had COVD-19 may last, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges anyone who contracted the virus to get vaccinated once you have recovered and are out of isolation.
“Though it’s considered rare, it’s possible you could get re-infected, and is more prevalent with some of the variants that are circulating in our community,” said Dr. Mulroy.
The length of time each of the vaccines will protect you remains unknown, as it is still being studied and the vaccines are new. However, it does appear that the vaccines are effective for at least six months, he explained. “As we get further into vaccinating people, we will have more data about how long antibodies are effective,” he said.
If you had COVID-19 and were treated either convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies, the CDC recommends you wait 90 days after treatment to get vaccinated.
I’m sick now with COVID-19. Should I get vaccinated?
Not while you’re sick, the CDC says. You should isolate for 10 days or more after symptoms started, plus at least 24 hours since no fever without using fever-reducing drugs (like aspirin or acetaminophen), and other symptoms have gotten better. People with severe compromised immune systems may have to wait as long as 20 days after their last positive test for the coronavirus. These include people with HIV and others whose immune systems have been weakened by certain medications and illnesses. Check with your doctor for advice. You should not receive the vaccination until you are out of isolation, according to Dr. Mulroy.
Could I get by with one shot?
One dose does provide substantial protection, but experts don’t know for how long.
A single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was estimated to reduce the rate of symptomatic COVID-19 by 47 percent in the first 14 days after vaccination and by 85 percent 15 to 28 days after vaccination, according to a study of Israeli health workers published in February in The Lancet. Another study of the same vaccine conducted in several nations and published in December in The New England Journal of Medicine reported 52 percent efficiency in preventing illness as soon as 12 days after the first dose and 95 percent efficiency at least seven days after both doses.
According to the World Health Organization, the Moderna vaccine creates an estimated 92 percent protection against COVID-19, beginning 14 days after the first shot. For comparison, Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Janssen vaccine, which uses a different technology than the mRNA method of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, prevented moderate and severe illness in 72 percent of U.S. participants 28 days after vaccination, according to a multi-national clinical trial.
My arm was sore after the first shot. I hear the reaction to the second shot is worse. Is it?
Vaccines work by causing your immune system to recognize the virus and develop antibodies and immune cells to fight it. This process causes a reaction in your body after you get vaccinated. For most people, symptoms range from mild soreness in the injected arm for a few days to general fatigue, aches, chills, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, nausea or perhaps a mild allergic reaction. You may take over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and anti-inflammatory relief, or an antihistamine for mild allergy symptoms, but don’t take them if you don’t need them, the CDC says. Also don’t take these drugs before getting a shot as it’s not known how they may affect the vaccine’s effectiveness if you do. Drinking fluids, using the injected arm – not babying it – and placing a cool, wet washcloth on the injection site may help.
In some rare instances, some people have developed serious allergic reactions after vaccination. This is why you’re asked to stay for observation for a short time after being vaccinated. Severe allergic symptoms include swelling of throat and face, difficulty breathing, wheezing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, weakness and hives or a rash over most of your body.
Many people say they experienced worse symptoms after getting a second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says for both vaccines, more people have reported side effects after their second dose than their first. The reason why? The first shot uses the body’s cells to manufacture a protein on the surface of the virus. Types of white blood cells form antibodies to destroy the protein and learn to remember the protein. When you get the second shot, your body recognizes the protein as a known foreign invader and mounts a stronger immune attack than the first time, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The symptoms show the vaccine’s intended effect on the immune system is working.
I didn’t get much of a reaction from either shot. Does that mean the vaccine didn’t work?
No. During clinical trials over half of the participants reported no side effects, but research showed the vaccine was still effective.
Should I get tested after vaccination to see if it worked?
No. Getting tested wouldn’t provide conclusive proof. According to the CDC, vaccination wouldn’t cause positive results in tests for viruses, but your immune response might register positive in some antibody tests. The latter possibility is being studied.