THE COVID-19 VACCINE a hope for the world by KATHY MCCUE
With the rise of the SARS CoV-2 virus and the resulting pandemic, we are indeed living in unprecedented times.As an emergency physician, I was fortunate enough to be one of the first people in Alaska to receive the COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer, 1st dose 12/16/2020, 2nd dose 1/5/2021).Working on the frontlines in the emergency department (as well as being a local small business owner) during this pandemic has given me an interesting perspective into the disease itself, as well as our community’s response to it.
Although most who are infected with COVID-19 will have mild disease, some will have severe illness, long-term disease, and some of us will even die. The world has shut down its economy and human interaction as we know it to limit the spread of this novel virus. We have lived in fear of getting the disease for nearly a year, and the ability to develop immunity to the disease represents hope to return to some more normal version of life in the future.
We should all be immunized There is a lot of anxiety about COVID-19: the disease itself, the public health strategies to discourage spread, the treatment, and now the prevention of the disease. The state of Alaska is following a specific and well-considered protocol to vaccinate according to public health priorities: our health care workers, then our elders and high-risk community members, then our essential frontline community members, and then finally opening vaccination to everyone.
Many have concerns about this new type of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. mRNA vaccines are not new to researchers but have not been used in the USA prior to now.They can be developed in a laboratory from readily available materials.The production process can be standardized and scaled up, leading to the rapid vaccine development that the world needs currently.
The vaccine does not give you COVID-19 There is no live virus in it.The vaccine works by injecting mRNA into your body that codes for the spike protein, a protein on the outside surface of COVID-19 virus particles.The spike protein helps the virus attach to your body’s cells and then enter and take over your cells. Even new strains of COVID-19 will have these same spike proteins. Your body’s response to the vaccine is to learn to make an immune response (ie, make antibodies) to this spike protein.This means that the next time your body sees this protein, it will attack and kill it.
We are not quite sure how long the immune response provided by the vaccination will last As we develop more experience with the vaccine and its effects, we will determine whether more doses of the vaccinations will ultimately be necessary for adequate immune response (for example, influenza vaccinations are given yearly; tetanus and other vaccines are given once every 5-10 years; hepatitis B vaccine series are only given once in your life).
So, what can you expect to feel when you get vaccinated? You can expect to feel your body creating an immune response.The typical symptoms (felt by different people to different degrees) are fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. Personally, I felt fine except a little soreness at the site of the injection (like any shot).Most of my colleagues had similar mild symptoms, but nationally, some have reported fevers to 101-102, sleepiness, muscle and joint pains, headaches, and sore or swollen lymph nodes. These are similar to the response many of us have seen in our children shortly after they receive their standard series of immunizations.
But, I did have one other important side effect: an unexpected sense of relief and calm.I know that if I should become infected, there is a 95% chance I will NOT get sick. I will not spread the disease to others, who may become profoundly ill or die. The more of us that get vaccinated, the less the virus can spread to others. It is the beginning of our being able to be together once again.
I feel that we are finally rounding a corner in our interaction with this virus, and I have hope that in a matter of months, we will once again be safely together with our friends and family.
For more information on getting the COVID vaccination in Alaska: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/COVID-19/default.aspx https://covid-response-moa-muniorg.hub.arcgis.com/
Lupe Marroquin receives the vaccine.
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