The COVID-19 vaccine: Why you should get a shot

The COVID-19 vaccine: Why you should get a shot

The Good Samaritan Society's message is clear: Get vaccinated against COVID-19

You're protecting yourself, your family and your community when you get vaccinated.

The available vaccines are safe, effective and approved for use through a rigorous process. This process includes recommendations and authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

In the U.S., there are currently three available COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).

The Pfizer vaccine is available to everyone ages 12 and older and has full FDA approval for people ages 16 and older. The vaccines from Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) are approved for emergency use for everyone 18 years old and older. Pfizer vaccines have emergency authorization for children ages 12 to 15.

How they work

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both two-dose vaccines and use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

mRNA vaccines work by sending a message to our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response. This immune response produces antibodies that protect you from getting sick with COVID-19 should the virus enter your body.

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) offers a one-dose viral vector vaccine.

Viral vector vaccines use a modified, harmless version of a virus to deliver instructions to your cells. The vaccine teaches your cells to produce a protein that looks similar to a COVID-19 virus’s spike protein. If you get infected with COVID-19, your body will recognize the virus and fight it off.

Fast vaccine, safe vaccine

No matter which option you choose, you should get a COVID-19 vaccination. The benefits of receiving the vaccine apply both to you and overall public health.

Dr. Greg Johnson, chief medical officer of the Good Samaritan Society, put it this way:

“This is the hope for the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” he says. “This is the way out.”

The timeline for the development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine is unprecedented, Dr. Johnson says. But the accelerated pace is no reason to be wary of its safety or effectiveness.

Dr. Johnson gets a lot of vaccine questions from people who feel apprehensive. Why did the development of this vaccine move so much faster than past vaccines? Are politics involved? Should they be concerned about its safety?

“My answer is that the technology used to create the vaccine is not new,” Dr. Johnson says. “Is it being applied to something new? Yes. Why did the vaccine move along so quickly? Because the world is suffering from a pandemic. But in terms of stages – the rigor of the process – it has not been compromised. We’re second-to-none on the world stage in the U.S. in our approval process.”

The FDA has established clear guidelines for vaccine development. Its criteria for authorization are based on principles that clearly demonstrate safety and efficacy.

The final product represents the clearest, quickest and safest route back to normal. This is why those who are hesitant about the vaccine should come forward and get vaccinated.

“We’re hearing from some who are telling us: ‘It’s too new, we don’t know enough about this,’” said Sanford Health Chief Physician Dr. Jeremy Cauwels. “My response is that we know more about this virus scientifically and more about this vaccine scientifically than we have with any other vaccine in history.”

Sending the right signals

According to Dr. Cauwels, the vaccine enters the body and sends a signal. It lets the body develop a response to the signal, and then the signal dissolves.

“It is astoundingly safe because there are no by-products left over to cause concern later,” Dr. Cauwels says.

In the early stages of the pandemic, U.S. health officials were hoping for the best with vaccines. Like so many other parts of the pandemic, they weren’t sure what to expect. What they got, based on the numbers now being reviewed by the FDA, is great news.

“It's beyond our wildest dreams at this point that we have a vaccine that is 95% efficacious,” Dr. Johnson says. “The typical flu vaccine on a normal-to-good year would be about 40% effective. And the flu vaccine is something we recommend for everyone because we believe it's helpful in decreasing hospitalizations, decreasing mortality and complications from influenza.”

When to get a third dose

The CDC recommends that people with weakened immune systems get a third dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. It’s not recommended that people who received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine get an additional dose.

Only a small population is eligible for a third dose. The criteria are connected to certain health conditions, such as active cancer treatments, organ transplant patients, primary immune deficiency diseases or those taking immune-suppressing medications.

This recommendation isn’t unique to COVID-19 vaccines. Immunocompromised people often received additional doses of various vaccines. This is because they naturally have a less robust response to vaccines and may not build the same level of immunity as others.

If you or a loved one is eligible for a third dose, contact your Society location or primary care physician. We’re ready to administer third doses today.

Difficult for nursing homes

To say the pandemic has been difficult for senior care communities is an understatement. The emotional and physical damage is hard to put into words. Residents are more vulnerable to serious complications from COVID-19.

And for their safety, they’ve had limited access to their loved ones. The impact on families has been tough.

“The most profound deprivation has been felt on the part of nursing home residents whose channels of social interaction have been severely limited,” Dr. Johnson says. “It has been a difficult road for workers in long-term health care facilities too.”

The “difficult road” has not ended. The vaccines can’t slow the spread of COVID-19 in a community unless most people in the community choose to receive it.

If a majority of people choose to get vaccinated, then there’s hope.

“The vaccine is what will end this pandemic,” Dr. Johnson says.

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