By Sierra Gross Stallman, MD – Medical Director of Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Internal Medicine Practice
We have all been affected by Covid-19, which is why we look for safe and effective ways To protect our families, communities, businesses and mental health by reducing disease burden, keep us from getting Covid-19, and allow us to resume social functions: Vaccines.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been successful in developing Covid-19 mRNA vaccine. Researchers have been studying mRNA vaccines for decades, refining and accomplishing a standardized process for safe and timely production. Having this technology readily available to use allowed for rapid response to the pandemic in developing a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine. Even though scientists promptly replied to demand with scaled, standardized vaccine development, mRNA vaccines have been held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines to get approval or emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What is mRNA? It is a messenger that provides information to our immune system. Once recognized, our immune system uses the information as a template to produce antibodies that can detect and destroy the virus causing Covid-19 for future infections. This takes the body a few weeks to complete, so it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus and get sick from Covid-19 just before or just after vaccination because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection. Covid-19 mRNA vaccine does not contain live virus; rather, it has harmless protein pieces found on the virus’s surface. The vaccine is given as an injection into the upper arm muscle in two doses separated by ~21 days for Pfizer and ~28 days for Moderna. This two-dose regimen conferred 95% protection against Covid-19 in persons age 16 or older. Side effects from the vaccine are similar to that of other types of vaccines and largely consistent with the appropriate response of the body’s immune system. Transient and mild local reactions such as injection site tenderness, redness, fever, fatigue, headache, and joint pain can occur. The CDC is monitoring reports of allergic reactions, and as of December 23, 2020, there were 21 cases of anaphylaxis out of 1,893,360 doses given. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur rarely after vaccination, with onset usually within minutes. All reactions were treated and recovered. Worldwide there have been over 44 million vaccine doses administered in over 50 countries.
Who should get vaccinated? The goal is for everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as enough vaccine is available. Covid-19 can have severe complications, including hospitalization, admission to ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death, particularly to those at-risk. At-risk persons include any adult older than age 65 and adults of any age with certain underlying conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and smoking.
Due to the limited supply of vaccines around the country, Wyoming has a phased approach to ensure equity in vaccine allocation and distribution. The prioritization list can be found here and on the WY Department of Health website. Sheridan County is currently in phase 1b, including people who are 65 years of age or older. Sheridan Memorial Hospital is working closely with Public Health to distribute vaccines to our community as quickly and efficiently as possible. We anticipate it will take about two months to get through this current phase based on allocation supply.
If you fall into this category, call 307.675.4471 to schedule a vaccination time.
As always, reach out to your healthcare provider with questions or concerns regarding your health and the Covid-19 vaccine. Thank you, Sheridan, for sticking together, supporting our community, and doing your part to reduce the spread.