We understand the current situation with Covid-19 vaccines is both confusing and frustrating. Please know that Sollis is working tirelessly to acquire vaccines for our eligible members, and we are closely monitoring new developments as they arise. We know that you want to know more about the Covid-19 vaccine(s), so we asked our medical experts to answer a few of the questions we’ve received below.
Who is eligible to get vaccinated?
In New York, people in Phase 1A (healthcare workers, nursing home residents) and initial groups from Phase 1B (patients over 65) are eligible to receive vaccines. In California, people in Phases 1A and 1B-Tier One are currently eligible to receive vaccines. Last week, California announced a transition to prioritize vaccine eligibility by age once seniors and essential workers receive their inoculations. Each state has its own distribution plan and may be in different phases. Please check your state’s Covid-19 website resources for the latest information.
When vaccines arrive, how will Sollis prioritize them?
Sollis will be prioritizing vaccines first and foremost according to state vaccine phase regulations and then generally by an individual’s age and risk factors within those groups. This could change as New York State or California provides additional guidance or adjusts requirements.
For example, currently New York does not allow for consideration of medical problems in its regulations of who can get the vaccine. In New York State, you can check this website to see if you are eligible: Am I Eligible?
If I can’t get a vaccine at Sollis, what should I do?
You can look for an appointment with these vaccine finder links: New York, California, Florida. Sometimes these appointments are cancelled or unavailable because of unreliable vaccine availability and unexpected supply chain disruptions.
VACCINE PROTOCOL AND EFFICACY
How does the Covid-19 vaccine work?
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a messenger RNA (mRNA) to deliver instructions to your body’s cells to make “spike proteins” that mimic a part of the actual virus that causes Covid-19. Your body will recognize these “spike proteins” as foreign and create antibodies Covid-19 and specialized immune cells. These immune cells and antibodies will recognize the “spike proteins” on the actual virus if you are exposed in the future and will attack them to prevent infection.
Key misconceptions are that the mRNA can make the virus or can alter your DNA or genetic material. The vaccine DOES NOT give instructions to your cells to make the virus. Messenger RNA is rapidly broken down after the protein is made and DOES NOT get incorporated into your DNA or your cells’ genetic material.
Older kinds of vaccines, like the flu vaccine or measles vaccine, are injections of proteins that act as targets for antibodies. The difference between the Covid-19 vaccine and older vaccines is that with the Covid-19 vaccine, mRNA is injected so your body produces the proteins. This mimics how viruses work. Viruses infect your cells with their own mRNA (or DNA) and hijack cells to make more viruses.
Are there any side-effects?
Similar to other vaccine shots, a common side effect may be soreness in the arm. Some people experience a slight fever, fatigue, headache or muscle aches. This is actually a sign that your immune system is working, and it is not an infection from the vaccine. If you don’t have a reaction, the vaccine is still effective. Side effects generally occur within the first minutes or hours after the injection but can occur up to one or two days later.
What is the efficacy of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear to remain highly effective even against the new variants appearing throughout the United States. Clinical trials have shown efficacy of over 90% for both vaccines.
How is the vaccine administered?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are administered as a shot in the muscle of the upper arm. You will get two doses: three weeks apart for Pfizer and four weeks apart for Moderna. After the first shot, you will be scheduled for a second shot. You should have full immunity a few weeks after the second dose.
Can I choose which vaccine I receive?
The vaccine you receive depends on supply and where you get vaccinated. You must get the same type of vaccine for both doses. Most facilities have one or the other, and it is not possible to choose between them.
Is the second vaccine dose absolutely necessary?
Trials have shown that the first dose offers protection against serious Covid-19 illness, but full immunity is created after two doses. If you only get one dose, you will not have full protection (at most, a 65% reduced risk of Covid-19), and it is likely that this is not a long-lasting immunity. The second vaccine is required for full and long-lasting protection.
How can I be sure that I will receive the required second dose of the vaccine?
After your first dose, you will be automatically scheduled to come in for the second.
How long will I be protected once I get the second dose of the vaccine?
The coronavirus does not change as rapidly as the flu virus, so experts do not expect that yearly vaccinations will be necessary. They are still researching specifics of how long the vaccination lasts or if boosters are needed.
If I have already had Covid-19, do I need the vaccine?
Medical experts aren’t yet sure whether infection with the virus creates long-lasting immunity, so we recommend everyone be vaccinated. The CDC recommends that if you have had Covid-19, you should get a vaccine as long as the Covid-19 infection was more than 10 days before the first vaccination.
Can I get Covid-19 from the vaccine itself?
No. There is no live or dead virus in the vaccine. The mRNA does not have instructions to make all of the components of the virus. Because it takes a few weeks for the vaccine to reach its full effect and because having only one vaccine provides only 65% protection, it is possible to get Covid-19 from other people after being vaccinated. But this Covid-19 infection is not from the vaccine.
If I’m not high risk, should I still get the vaccine?
Yes. It is common for healthy people to carry the virus without symptoms and then transmit it to more vulnerable people. Vaccinating a high percentage of the population will lead to herd immunity. When enough people (estimated at 60% to 80%) are immune, it becomes very difficult for the virus to transmit itself and thus hard for it to survive at all.
Can I go back to “normal life” after I get my vaccine?
No, not immediately. We need to continue employing safety protocols (social distancing, masks and hand-washing) until the majority of our communities are vaccinated. Vaccines prevent infection but don’t prevent exposure to the virus. After vaccination, if you are exposed to the virus, you will have a reduced chance (up to 95% lower risk) of getting an infection. However, there is a small chance you can still get infected. Also, after vaccination, if you are exposed to the virus, it can still enter your nasal and oral passages and survive for a short period of time during which you can still spread the virus. Until we reach herd immunity, mask wearing, social distancing and hand-washing should be continued.
How many different variants are in the United States?
There are several variants circulating the globe, but health experts are mainly concerned with three variants that have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. All three have reached the U.S. It is important to know that all viruses mutate and change over time. Some, like the flu, mutate often and quickly. Others, like measles, do so very slowly. The longer a virus spreads and the more people it infects increases the chance for mutations. That is why it is important for us all to get vaccinated as soon as we can. Sollis is working hard to make this possible for our members.
Are the variants more contagious?
Health experts are still researching these variants, but there is evidence they are more transmissible.
Will the vaccine protect me against these new variants?
As of now, there is no evidence that the virus has changed enough to get around existing immune protection.
How can I keep myself safe?
Continue to practice the safety protocols that are proven to reduce transmission: wear masks, keep physical distance from others and wash hands frequently.
Last week, the New York Times published an extensive article answering many additional questions about the vaccine. We encourage you to read it when you have the time. As always, Sollis is here for any and all of your medical needs. If you have any questions, please reply to this email. We will, of course, update you whenever we have new information.