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Get the facts: COVID-19 vaccine overview

See answers to common questions and how the vaccines work.

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Hello, I'm Dr. Robin Eickhoff, a Senior Medical Director at WellMed Medical Group and part of WellMed's Covid-19 Task Force, as you probably already know, the Covid-19 vaccine is here and that is great news. Now, I know and understand there are some concerns about getting the vaccine. So I want to take a moment to give you some accurate information about the vaccine and answer some common questions so you're informed as possible when making your decision about getting the vaccine. Let's get started.

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You're probably already familiar with the coronavirus that causes covid-19, but in case you aren't, let me give you a little history. The first outbreak was discovered in December twenty nineteen, and it very quickly spread across the world, becoming a pandemic by March of twenty twenty. The Covid-19 infection can be silent what we call asymptomatic, but it can also cause severe illness and ultimately death in high risk individuals. This virus does not discriminate. It affects people of all age groups and backgrounds.

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However, the highest risk for severe cases and death is in people over 65 years of age, people with chronic health conditions like obesity, lung disease, heart problems. And in our African-American and Latino populations, we know it's possible to successfully slow the spread of the virus by consistently wearing face masks, social distancing, at least six feet apart, frequent hand washing and avoiding crowds. We have all been patiently waiting for a safe vaccine to be developed. And here we are now with the really good news that we finally have vaccines and these vaccines are being distributed all over the United States.

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There are several different vaccines out there developed by different companies. But the ones that have been currently authorized in the United States, while slightly different, all do basically the same thing. They prompt our own body's immune systems to make something called antibodies, like little internal soldiers to protect us. The vaccines do not contain the actual virus and they cannot give you covid-19. These are known as mRNA vaccines. And the technology to make them has been around for quite some time.

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As you may know, these vaccinations are being given in a certain order of priority. The first individuals vaccinated or mostly health care workers who work directly on the front lines of our battle against covid-19 directly caring for patients, hospital workers, nurses, doctors and other health care providers and our most vulnerable patients, those in nursing homes and long term care facilities.

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As we get through vaccinating these folks, our next step is to get other high risk people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Eventually we will get everyone vaccinated. But right now, we want to quickly focus on people most at risk from covid-19 infections. I sincerely hope that if you are undecided about getting the vaccine, this video will give you enough information that you will decide to go ahead and get it. We really need as many people as possible to get the vaccine in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, stop overwhelming hospitals and maybe, just maybe to get back to some form of normal in our daily lives.

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That can't happen without you. Let's talk about some of the concerns I've heard people have about the vaccine. While vaccines have some risks, all vaccines have risks. There are things being said about these coronavirus vaccines that are simply not true. I've heard people say that individuals with cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, lung conditions like COPD, kidney disease or a weakened immune system cannot get the vaccine.

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That is all false. Any of these individuals can and should get it. Even women who are pregnant can get the vaccine, although we do recommend that they discuss it with their doctors first. None of these conditions prevent someone from getting the covid-19 vaccine. None of them, of course, if you have any concerns or questions about your personal situation, you should talk with your own doctor or health care provider. The only strict reason where you should not get the vaccine is if you have had a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis from this specific vaccine or from an ingredient in the vaccine.

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If you have had bad reactions to other vaccines or a severe allergic reaction before, please be sure to talk to your health care provider or the person vaccinating you before they give you the shot so they can advise you what you should do. Generally, this vaccine is well tolerated. Most people have no side effects at all. But just like any vaccine, there are some things someone might experience. Again, these are just some possible reactions and don't happen with everyone because everyone is different.

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There might be some pain and redness at the injection site like a sore arm. I certainly had some, but it didn't last for more than a day or so and it didn't limit me in any way. I slept fine and could do all of my usual activities. There might also be some muscle aches, a slight headache or feeling tired. A very small number of people may experience a slight fever or chills if any of these things develop. It's actually a good sign that the vaccine is doing what it's supposed to do, triggering your immune system to make antibodies that protect you from Covid-19.

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Let's talk about some of the other questions that have come up about the vaccine. If you choose to get the vaccine, and I hope you do, you will still need to do all the things we've already been doing to stop the spread of the virus. You need to keep wearing your mask, stay six feet apart from other people, avoid crowds and wash your hands often. Why? Because, one, you won't get the full immunity for a few weeks after the second dose.

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And two, we don't really know for sure yet if you can still spread the virus to others, even if you do get the vaccine, if you've had Covid-19 infection already, you can still get the vaccine. But you should wait at least 90 days after you recover to get it. Most evidence shows you're immune for at least that long. So it's safe to wait if you choose not to get vaccinated. Of course, you remain at risk for getting Covid-19 yourself, but you can also become a spreader of the infection, which could then cause someone else to get sick and even severe illness and ultimately die.

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Remember, if you do get the vaccine, you need to come back and get a second dose. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to return for that second one so you can get the full protection the vaccine offers. I hope you get your vaccine as soon as you are able. I got mine. I've even given some. I know this is a scary time for everyone and we're all tired, including health care providers like me.

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But we finally have a light at the end of the tunnel. And while it's going to take a while to get the vaccine to everyone who wants it, we will get there, but only if we are all working together.

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I hope I've given you some useful information today and helped you make the right decision for you and your family, no matter what, keep washing your hands, distancing, avoiding crowds, and above all, please wear your mask. All of our lives depend on it. Together, we can stop covid-19 and end this pandemic. Thank you.