COVID-19 Vaccine Brings Renewed Hope
The recent rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Arizona has brought a feeling of hope and relief in defeating this new virus — not only for those who have received the vaccine, but for the rest of the community patiently waiting for theirs as well. The vaccines will provide the much-needed help to lead us closer to the way things used to be. But there is still a long road ahead.
It is important to note that the two vaccines approved to date, one made by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other by ModernaTX, Inc., have gone through rigorous testing to guarantee the safety of the population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have implemented systems around the country that allow them to monitor any vaccine-related problems.
In the Beginning
Understanding how the vaccines work against COVID-19 begins with an appreciation of the basic way the body fights diseases. When germs invade our body and are allowed to multiply, they produce an infection or sickness. Our immune system (our defense against the germs) is in charge of combating the infection. The COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the coronavirus without contracting the disease.
“I recommend receiving the vaccine,” said Dr. Edmond Baker, Medical Director for Equality Care Center. “As a medical doctor, I try to educate my patients primarily on how vaccines work and then later explain how this new vaccination will work. Through the education and understanding of the patient, we can make decisions as a team. All the work we have done as medical professionals, up to this point in time, has determined that the vaccine is safe for those who have received it.”
Dr. Baker added that the side effects have been minor in comparison to the benefits the vaccine brings to recipients.
Both vaccines require two injections, or doses, to obtain the most protection. The Pfizer vaccine requires receivers to get a second shot 21 days after the first dose; the Moderna vaccine requires the second dose be administered 28 days later. According to the CDC, you should receive the second injection as close to the three or four weeks, respectively, as possible. You should not receive the second dose before the recommended time.
“The first dose is a wake-up call for our body,” explained Baker. “You may feel a bit of pain in the arm after receiving the injection, and it’s because your body is beginning to generate antibodies. The immune response is about 50% at 10 days after the first dose. After the second dose, the vaccine offers the maximum efficiency of about 95%.
“The objective of the vaccine is primarily to prevent the spread of the disease,” Baker continued, “and secondly to make sure that if you are infected, the sickness will affect your immune system lightly without the need of the hospital.”
Individuals who have already been infected by COVID-19 should still receive the vaccine. Dr. Baker said that although they have developed some immunity, the virus is so dangerous in the way it attacks many other organs of the body, a vaccine can offer consistent, peak protection. Also, the vaccine may prevent a possible (though not common) reinfection.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than 281,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to 243,593 Arizonians who were healthcare workers or 75 years or older; 32,269 of these have received both doses. As of January 19, the age requirement was lowered to 65 years, which will add 750,000 people to the total.
Verónica Chávez, a preschool teacher for one of the child centers in the community and a member of Equality Health who lives in Glendale, was among the first group of people to receive the vaccine. Before receiving the injection, Chávez had the opportunity to speak with her primary doctor about the expectations she had about the vaccine.
“He helped me understand the importance of preventing the illness,” Chávez said, “which would contribute to the health of my family, students and community. So when he informed me of the phases of the vaccine, I immediately scheduled an appointment. Although it was in the middle of the night, I think it was very much worth it. It’s important for people to get vaccinated to prevent this virus that has caused the deaths of so many people.”
PPE Still Essential
The vaccine brings hope, but it’s not the be all and end all. Personal preventative equipment and measures remain essential to decrease the transmission of the coronavirus.
“We will still be using facemasks for a while,” commented Dr. Baker, “as well as social distancing.”
The use of face masks and social distancing and frequently washing your hands are necessary because there is still a large population waiting to get the vaccine. Until they do, it’s important not let our guard down. These simple but successful measures are all we have against one of the most dangerous viruses in our lifetime.
To learn more and register for a vaccination appointment visit www.azdhs.gov.
Published in Prensa Arizona, 1/28/2021