COVID-19 Vaccine: Frequently Asked Questions

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. The vaccine went through a rigorous testing process, which included a clinical trial with 30,000 people. The most adverse reactions were two test subjects reporting an allergic reaction after receiving the vaccine in the UK. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is still safe for people with allergy problems, and those who have experienced severe reactions to prior vaccines or injectable drugs can still get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but should discuss the risks with their doctors and be monitored for 30 minutes afterward.

Sources and more information:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety.html

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/cdc-says-people-with-history-of-severe-allergic-reactions-can-get-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pence-gets-coronavirus-vaccine

How was a COVID-19 vaccine developed so quickly?

Scientists have been preparing for this situation for many years. About 30 years ago, a handful of scientists began exploring whether vaccines could be made more simply, and after the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016, the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford designed a strategy for defeating what was then an unknown virus using a “plug and play” technology. This allowed scientists to be ready to start vaccine development as soon as they got ahold of the coronavirus. That, coupled with significant funding and a high prioritization by all nations, allowed the vaccine to be developed and authorized much more quickly than one might expect. It should also be noted that at least two other pharmaceutical companies tried to make a vaccine but could not get authorized. The ones that get authorized have been through a strict, rigorous process to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Sources and more information:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-are-mrna-vaccines-so-exciting-2020121021599

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55041371

Who is behind the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine?

A German medical start-up called BioNTech discovered the COVID-19 vaccine and partnered with Pfizer, an American company, to develop it. Ugur Sahin is chief executive of BioNTech, and Sahin’s wife, Ozlem Tureci, is the co-founder and chief medical officer of the company. Sahin and Tureci are both children of Turkish immigrants to Germany and met while working on an oncology ward in the southwestern city of Homburg.

Read more about them here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/coornavirus-vaccine-biontech-pfizer/2020/11/12/37acb78c-2467-11eb-9c4a-0dc6242c4814_story.html

Read about who developed the Moderna vaccine here:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/16/covid-vaccine-who-is-behind-the-moderna-breakthrough

How will the vaccine be distributed?

The federal government will oversee a centralized system to order, distribute and track COVID-19 vaccines. All vaccines will be ordered through CDC. Vaccine providers will receive vaccines from CDC’s centralized distributor or directly from a vaccine manufacturer.

Source and more information here:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html

Who will get vaccinated first?

AFSCME members do jobs that have required them to be at front of the line working through this pandemic, so they should be at the front of the line to receive the vaccine, and many will. Front-line workers getting vaccinated is key to stopping the spread of the virus among the general population. Nursing home and hospital employees will be among the very first to get vaccinated, along with nursing home residents. Then, correctional employees, teachers, and school employees will be among the next to get vaccinated. It is expected that the military will have its own stock of vaccines, which they will distribute to military members.

Sources and more information:

Dr. David Michaels

https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Programs/Immunizations/PA%20Interim%20Vaccine%20Plan%20V.4.pdf

What can I do now to help protect myself from getting COVID-19 since a vaccine is not yet available?

You should cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds, and wash your hands often. It should be noted that people must continue these practices even when they are vaccinated, especially while most of the general public has not yet been vaccinated, so we can completely stop the spread of the virus. We must also continue the fight for safe workplaces and paid leave policies that allow sick employees to stay home.

Sources and more information:

Dr. David Michaels

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html

Should minority communities be hesitant to get vaccinated considering their race’s history with vaccines?

While the well-documented concerns about vaccines among minority communities, particular the Black community, are understandable and valid, they can be confident that the COVID-19 vaccine was tested on white, Black and Latinx people alike, and Black doctors and researchers are involved in the production of the vaccine. One notable figure is Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Black woman and one of the lead scientists who helped develop the vaccine. Health officials are aware of the concerns of these communities and have assured the public that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for all races.

Sources and more information:

Dr. David Michaels

https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/15/us/black-americans-and-vaccine-hesitancy/index.html