There’s no other way to put it: the last few weeks have been full of promising news about COVID vaccines. We’re learning more about their effectiveness outside of clinical trials. Vaccine supplies are increasing in the US, and distribution is becoming more effective. Three COVID vaccines are currently available. These medical wonders use technology to help Americans build immunity against a potentially devastating virus. A brand new “real world” study of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines shows they are highly effective at preventing death and serious illness. In short–the vaccines are safe, and they are working.
What Are The Differences In COVID-19 Vaccines Now Available?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now being administered use messenger RNA (mRNA) to fight the virus. These new vaccines use mRNA to “teach” our cells how to create an immune response to the Coronavirus. The CDC reports that both vaccines are safe but can have mild to moderate side effects, including chills, fever, tiredness, and headache, especially after the second dose. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a different technology known as a viral vector. It uses a harmless adenovirus (the family that causes common colds) to transfer the genetic code for the Coronavirus spike proteins into our cells and generate an immune response. This new vaccine is easier to store and ship and requires only one dose. And while it’s less effective than the mRNA vaccines at overall protection, it’s been shown to be highly effective against severe diseases that lead to hospitalization and death.
Are COVID Vaccines Safe?
The COVID vaccines currently available have been rigorously tested for safety through large-scale clinical trials. In the ongoing testing of COVID vaccines, safety is the highest priority. According to the CDC, none of the three vaccines can cause COVID, and none affect a patient’s DNA. The CDC reports that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can have mild to moderate side effects, including chills, fever, tiredness, and headache, especially after the second dose. Johnson & Johnson reports the possibility of similar side effects for their new vaccine.
What Are The Benefits of Getting A COVID-19 Vaccine?
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 has two significant benefits: it keeps you from getting sick with COVID and helps protect your community. Vaccination offers immunity without going through the illness, preventing serious complications or even death. The CDC also notes that getting Americans vaccinated is an essential part of stopping the pandemic and protecting your community and the world. Along with continued masking, hygiene, and social distancing, vaccines play a valuable role in stopping the spread of a deadly disease.
When Can Healthy Adults Under 65 Get Vaccinated?
While vaccine production and distribution are ramping up, the vaccine supply remains limited. In Virginia, Maryland, and DC, seniors, high-risk adults, healthcare workers, educators, and frontline essential employees are currently in priority groups. American adults who are not in priority categories will get immunized once more doses are available. Earlier this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, mentioned April as a target for launching vaccinations for the general public. Other experts have projected widespread vaccination this summer. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are also currently being tested in children 12 and over and may be available to young patients later this summer or fall. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be tested in infants and younger children.
Remember that many patients under 65 fall into a priority category based on work (for example, teachers and retail employees) or chronic health conditions that put them at higher risk. The exact breakdown of priority groups depends on the state. If you have questions about your eligibility, talk with your primary care provider.
Can I Get The COVID Vaccine From My Primary Care Provider?
For now, your primary care provider doesn’t have access to COVID vaccines. Instead, distribution is managed by state and local health departments in cooperation with pharmacy partners. However, primary care providers are an essential part of vaccination delivery, giving around half of the nation’s vaccines against the flu, pneumonia, and other diseases. Many primary care doctors are advocating to be able to vaccinate their patients. As trusted providers, they can play an essential role in overcoming vaccine hesitancy. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine doesn’t have the mRNA vaccines’ stringent storage requirements. So it may be more convenient for primary care practices to distribute to their patients down the road.
Where Can I Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Now?
If you are 65+, have an underlying condition that puts you at higher risk for COVID, or if you are a healthcare or frontline essential worker, you are now eligible to get the vaccine. In Virginia, patients can get on the list for their city or county through the statewide VDH Vaccinate Virginia program. In Maryland, residents can find a vaccination site at the state’s Covidlink website. In Washington DC, demand for the vaccine is higher than the city’s supply from the federal government. However, appointments are available for individuals 65 and older, adults with a qualifying medical condition, and some frontline workers. District hospitals and health clinics are also scheduling appointments for patients 65 and older. Visit the coronavirus.dc.gov website for information.
How Can I Boost My Immune System Naturally?
It’s essential for patients who have received the vaccine and those still waiting to keep practicing prevention protocols. These include wearing a mask, social distancing, and regular hand-washing. There are also some wellness practices we can put in place to boost our immune system and stay healthy, including:
- Good nutrition and a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Regular exercise.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Quitting smoking and tobacco use.
- Making sure we get enough sleep.
- Keeping up to date with routine wellness visits.
- Talk with your primary care provider about supplements, including Vitamins C, D, and A, and Zinc.
- Certain foods like raw honey and garlic can also help boost immunity.
As always, if you have questions about your health, contact your primary care provider. Your doctor’s office will likely play a bigger role in COVID vaccination efforts moving forward. Until then, providers like Comprehensive Primary Care remain an excellent resource to help keep you healthy. Remember, it’s important to keep scheduling those regular checkups. Preventive care and wellness play important roles in staying healthy, now more than ever.