Can I trust the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you are part of the Black or Brown community, you may have some concerns about the efficacy and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. From historical inequity in medical research to questions about the speedy development of the vaccine, it’s valid to feel hesitant about getting vaccinated.
Having questions about the COVID-19 vaccine is a good thing because it means you care about making the right decision. We sat down with a few of MedStar Health’s experts to gather the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine so you can make an informed choice when it comes to your health.
If you have questions about the COVID-19 #vaccine, that’s a good thing. Get the facts from our experts on the #LiveWellHealthyBlog so you can make an informed decision: https://bit.ly/2OwCQok.
How can I trust the safety of the vaccine when it was developed so quickly?
It’s true that the three currently available COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly. Because of the grave impact of the pandemic, we were able to invest more resources into developing a speedy vaccine in order to lessen the impact of the pandemic as soon as possible. We were able to funnel more experts and money into figuring out how to move along the vaccine using mRNA technology that was already under development.
Hasyln Hunte, Ph.D., MPH, research scientist at MedStar Health, chose to get vaccinated despite initial concerns about the safety of the virus. He says,
“I wasn’t required to get the vaccine even though I’m in the healthcare industry. I was initially cautious about whether a political agenda might affect the science behind the vaccine. I gained confidence in the vaccine development as information around the clinical trials became available, especially when those that didn’t result in successes were shut down. That made a big difference in believing that researchers were only pursuing successful and effective avenues.”
Vaccine researchers and developers still followed the same rigorous processes and protocols for ensuring the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to review and approve all vaccines after thorough testing and observation. Beyond the FDA, investigative review boards composed of diverse experts across gender, race, and subject matter expertise thoroughly evaluate and approve studies like this to ensure all concerns are heard.
Is the COVID-19 safe for me if I…
Whether you have allergies, are pregnant, or take medications, you may have specific questions about whether or not it’s safe to take the vaccine.
Hopefully, you have a trusted primary care provider who you feel comfortable talking to about your unique situation. While the COVID-19 vaccine components are different than those that may be found in the flu vaccine or common food allergies, your healthcare provider can confirm that it’s safe for you to get vaccinated and answer any questions to help ease your mind.
While pregnant women were not included in the clinical trials, a healthy mom usually translates to a healthy baby. Talk to your obstetrician or midwife if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Because pregnant women are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, it may be in your best interest to get vaccinated.
Which COVID-19 vaccine is most effective?
All of the COVID-19 vaccines are effective, so it’s safe to get whichever vaccine is first offered to you. There is a limited supply of each which is why it’s helpful that there are multiple developers supplying vaccines.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine double-dose series are known to be nearly 95% effective in preventing COVID-19. Taking one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also been shown to be 100% effective at protecting you from death caused by COVID-19.
How the vaccine can get us back to normalcy.
We’ve seen that Black and Hispanic communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus. According to a recent report, Hispanics have lost about an expected two years of life due to the coronavirus alone. And, Blacks have lost about one and a half expected years of life. If we don’t get vaccinated, we’re going to lose. We need to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities in order to protect our legacy.
Infectious disease specialist, Calvin Williams, MD, says, “The risks of the virus are real. And the vaccine is effective at preventing the worst outcome.” He adds that the vaccine is a game-changer because it means we can start safely meeting again without face masks. “Updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that those who are fully vaccinated may safely gather together indoors without masks. For many, that means family hugs for the first time in over a year.”
While you should still follow the same safety precautions as before when you’re around people who have not been vaccinated, being vaccinated yourself means that you can begin to resume gathering with family and friends who have also chosen to get vaccinated. Dr. Williams is hopeful for the future, explaining,
“I’m cautiously optimistic. We’re in a different position now after dealing with this for a year and the vaccine offers us a safer way out of this. We still have patients fighting for their lives and so the path forward requires us to do something. It won’t end on its own. Every one of us needs to collectively participate in getting vaccinated.”
What to expect when getting the vaccine.
Vaccine supply is the biggest issue right now as thousands of people are waiting on the list to be vaccinated. But we’re hopeful that supply distribution will continue to increase and we can get those folks protected.
Rules about who can get vaccinated vary by state and county. It can be confusing to know if and when you qualify. Everyone will qualify at some point. But the best thing to do while you wait is to sign up proactively online. If you’re not tech-savvy, enlist the help of someone who is and can get you on the vaccine waiting list so when it’s your turn, you’re ready.
Once you get the vaccine, you can expect mild side effects that demonstrate the vaccine is building up immunity in your body. There have been no serious side effects caused by the vaccine. Be sure to avoid scheduling other vaccines or immunizations around the time you expect to get the COVID-19 vaccine, as it’s intended to work without any unexpected interference two weeks before and after your final dose.
Getting vaccinated is a personal choice that can help move us towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
As healthcare providers, our job isn’t to coerce or convince you to get a vaccine. We encourage you to ask questions so you can get the answers you need to make an informed decision. There’s nothing we won’t answer, and if we don’t have the answer, we will figure it out.
Infectious disease expert Maria Elena Ruiz, MD says, “As a Hispanic woman myself, it’s hard to see so many of my Hispanic patients get COVID-19. So when I talk to them, I try to address their specific concerns. It has been a misconception that only the frail that only the elderly and the sick die. The hardest has been to see those in their prime with no comorbidities also suffer and die from the virus. Now, we need everyone to help us continue moving forward by getting vaccinated and continue being thoughtful about wearing masks with those who are at high risk and unvaccinated.”
Angela D. Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MBA, is also encouraged, noting “This time last year, our problem was different, so we’ve made so much progress. I believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel but we have a lot of work to do. As more vaccines get approved, as our distribution strategies advance, and as vaccine acceptance grows, we’ll get there. This is something we have to tackle together as a community, and we all have a role to play.”
Learn more by watching our panel of experts discuss the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in the video below.