‘Rest assured that these vaccines cannot give you COVID-19. The only reason you would have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive after being vaccinated is that you already had the infection and didn’t know it.’
After months of anticipation, COVID-19 vaccines with 90–95% efficacy rates are available to help save lives and bring hope to the world.
Receiving this added layer of protection against COVID-19 is essential in achieving the herd immunity necessary to end the pandemic.
The development of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration happened in record time because the vaccines use Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which scientists worldwide have been researching for 30 years.
Unlike traditional vaccines that contain the weakened virus, such as polio and measles vaccines of your youth, mRNA vaccines contain the “recipe” for the spike protein from COVID-19 — a critical piece of its protein coat. After receiving the vaccine, the body makes antibodies to this protein, and markedly reduces the chance you will get sick from the virus.
So, rest assured that these vaccines cannot give you COVID-19. The only reason you would have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive after being vaccinated is that you already had the infection and didn’t know it.
Should you get vaccinated?
YES! For the vaccines to be effective, you must receive two doses administered three to four weeks apart. You’ll develop protection — meaning there are enough antibodies in your system to help your body fight COVID-19 effectively and potentially prevent it altogether — approximately two weeks after your second injection.
A small percentage of people may experience short-term discomfort for about 24 hours after each dose of the vaccine, such as a headache, muscle pains, fatigue, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. If you do, don’t worry — this is your body’s immune system creating antibodies to fight off the virus, which is good news. Don’t let the experience deter you from getting both doses for full protection!
Even if you had COVID-19 and have antibodies, it’s wise to get vaccinated for protection against future infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends waiting 90 days after your infection to be vaccinated. You should also hold off if you are currently ill with a fever or have an active COVID-19 infection. Individuals prone to allergic reactions to injectable medications or polyethylene glycol should also consult their doctor to determine if they should obtain the vaccine.
Protect yourself and others.
Until the vaccine is widespread, it’s not safe to assume that those around you have been vaccinated, too. And because scientists are still learning about COVID-19, it’s unclear if people can still transmit the disease to others, even after being vaccinated.
With these factors in the mix, the best way to keep everyone as safe as possible is to continue social distancing, wearing masks, and practicing frequent hand hygiene.
The medical team at St. Ann’s Community has begun vaccinating healthcare staff and elders in its long-term care communities, per the recommendations from the CDC and the New York State Department of Health.
Only time will tell how long protection from the new COVID-19 vaccines will last. While no vaccine is perfect, it’s safe to say that this vaccine will be crucial in ending this pandemic. Now’s the time to err on the side of science when making health care decisions.
You can find the latest COVID-19 vaccine information at www.cdc.gov.
Kim Petrone, MD, is the Medical Director at St. Ann’s Community. She is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stannscommunity.com.