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Vaccines: Your Questions Answered

By Lauren Del Sarto
Publisher Lauren Del Sarto and Dr. Perlick at the Trilogy at the Polo Club livestream event

In February, Desert Health hosted a livestream with Trilogy at the Polo Club featuring Desert Regional Medical Center’s Director of Pharmacy Services Tim Perlick, PharmD, MHA to answer your questions about vaccinations.

Desert Regional Medical Center’s Director of Pharmacy Services
Dr. Tim Perlick

As stated in a recent New York Times report, the evidence so far suggests that a full dose of the vaccine — with the appropriate waiting period after the second shot — effectively eliminates the risk of Covid-19 death, nearly eliminates the risk of hospitalization and drastically reduces a person’s ability to infect somebody else.1 But education is key to eliminating this virus, says Perlick, whose answers to audience questions follow:

Will getting the vaccine become easier than it is now? 

 In an effort to access more practitioners, the state is partnering with Blue Shield to manage distribution. Appointments will be booked through MyTurnCA.gov, which will enable the insurer to see where vaccine quantities should be directed. You sign up, answer a few questions, and the program aligns you with the vaccination tiers. You will receive a text when vaccinations are available to you with appointment locations. So, all are hopeful the process will be improving, but we all need to be patient with supply.

Can you switch types of vaccines, say Pfizer first, then Moderna? 

The study data was based on two shots of the same vaccine, so the FDA recommendation is to stick with the same one. However, the CDC recently released a statement based on ongoing studies which show the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar enough that you can receive one of each, so you may switch. We recommend that if you get the opportunity for your first and then a second vaccine, take either to ensure you are being vaccinated in a timely manner.

If you’ve had COVID, why wait 90 days until you get vaccinated?

Waiting was a recommendation early on as vaccines were sparce. It’s been proven that when you’ve had COVID, you have strong antibodies for up to 90 days after symptoms disappear. Thus, you don’t need to rush to the front of the line for a vaccine allowing others the opportunity. Now we are recommending that if you’ve had COVID, wait until at least 14 days after your symptoms have disappeared. Receiving the shot while experiencing symptoms may impede your body’s own response to building antibodies and the long-term efficacy of the vaccine. Secondly, there is concern that the vaccine may enhance symptoms, so a mild headache or trouble breathing may become more severe if the vaccine is administered at that time.

Most symptoms are gone, but I still have no sense of taste or smell.

These symptoms do tend to linger a bit longer for some, and, no, you don’t have to wait until senses have returned to get your vaccination.

What if I get COVID between the first and second vaccinations?

We have seen a few of these cases already. If you have mild symptoms, don’t miss your second appointment, but if you are experiencing more severe symptoms, like trouble breathing, then do wait and give your body time to heal. Remember, you actually have up to 42 days between shots, but you won’t have to start over if you go past 42 days.

What if I need other vaccinations like flu or pneumonia?

The mainstay is to wait two or more weeks between different vaccinations. We want your body to respond to its fullest potential to the COVID vaccination and don’t want that response to be impeded by your body’s response to another vaccination at the same time.

Will we need more booster shots down the road?

Unfortunately, I think the answer to that will probably be yes, largely because of the number of variants floating around. Right now, there are over 100, but not all of them are problematic. The vaccines are still working on these variants, but not to the same degree, so boosters will help. It’s similar to what we’ve seen with previous vaccinations.

Why are the side effects from the second vaccination more severe?

With the first shot we are trying to create an initial response from your body so it can memorize the invader. Then, with the second shot, your body recognizes the invader and may launch a stronger response which is why some get more severe symptoms. Now with that said, if you don’t get symptoms, it doesn’t mean that your body is less protected; it simply means that your body wasn’t as threatened by the invader as the next person. 

Why do you need to take the vaccine if you have had COVID?

What we have seen is that natural immunity only lasts around 90 days; after that there is a decline in your response. There have been reports of reinfections so the vaccination is still recommended.

As Canadians, are we able to get vaccinated locally?

Yes, we all recognize this is a global pandemic, so we are not denying anyone vaccination due to citizenship.

If I get vaccinated, should I continue to get tested?

If you feel you have been exposed or are traveling, those are good reasons but don’t get tested just to get tested. 

For notification of future livestream events, follow us on Facebook @DesertHealth.

Reference:
1) Leonhardt, David, The vaccine news continues to be better than many people realize (New York Times, Feb. 1, 2021) 

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