Home Health News Things to know about the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines – The Dallas Morning News

Things to know about the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines – The Dallas Morning News

12 min read

Millions of Americans have received COVID-19 vaccines since the long-awaited inoculation campaign started Dec. 14 with the Pfizer/BioNTech version of the shots.

Now after a version from Moderna also has been added to help protect Texas’ frontline health workers, long-term care residents and staff members, and people who are over 65 or have underlying medical conditions, here are some answers to lingering questions about the vaccines.

Is there anything people should not do in the hours or days before and after getting shots?

There are several things people should keep in mind before they get vaccinated.

Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County’s health director, hassaid it’s unclear how the coronavirus shots may interact with other vaccinations, so people should not receive another inoculation in the 30 days beforehand.

He also recommended that people who have COVID-19 or have recently been exposed to someone who’s infected wait for before getting inoculated — 90 days if the person is positive for COVID-19 or until the end of a self-quarantine period if they’ve been exposed.

“People with a history of documented COVID, it’s uncommon for them to get reinfected in the 90 days after infection,” Huang said.

Patients should wait briefly after they’re vaccinated to ensure they don’t experience side effects — 15 minutes for most patients and 30 minutes for people with a “history of severe allergy,” Huang said

What happens if people only get one dose of the vaccine?

To ensure maximum immunity from COVID-19, it’s important for people to get the two-dose vaccines exactly as they’re intended, said Dr. Vivian Johnson, senior vice president of clinical support services at Parkland Health & Hospital System.

“If you do not take that second dose, you will never really achieve the antibody level to help you be able to fight” COVID-19, she said.

Could you get one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and one of the Moderna vaccine?

Again, experts say that people must receive the vaccines exactly as they were tested in clinical trials.

“The data that we know where it works is when it’s the same product,” Huang said. “If someone mistakenly got another vaccine, we would not recommend they go back. We don’t want that to happen. If mistakenly it does it happen, it’s like you start over your regimen.”

Health officials say they’re doing everything they can to prevent mix-ups from happening.

“In the absence of any data, it would be wrong,” said Dr. Charles Lerner, a San Antonio-based infectious disease specialist and a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force.

How safe is the vaccine?

“This is an incredibly safe vaccine,” said Dr. Joseph McCormick, a professor of epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville. “You’re going to hear about a few [allergic] reactions … but otherwise, it’s very safe.”

He said the vaccine is so safe the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women may get it.

Normally, it might take a little longer for vaccines to be approved for use on those women, McCormick said.

“People don’t want to give, for example, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to a woman who is pregnant, even today,” he said. “If it’s an inactivated vaccine, like meningitis or tetanus, no problem, but if it’s a live, attenuated virus, you don’t want to go doing that.”

But the COVID vaccine is not a virus-replicating vaccine, unlike other common inoculations.

He added that the risk of potential side effects from the vaccine is low.

“If you’re going to say ‘I won’t take the vaccine because there’s maybe a one in a million chance that I might die from it,’ that doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “That’s like walking across the expressway at night wearing dark clothes, and your biggest worry is getting hit by lightning. It’s just nonsensical.”

How do the vaccines work? Is it different from past vaccines?

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were made with something called mRNA, or messenger RNA, technology. Scientifically, it’s a groundbreaking accomplishment, Johnson said.

Traditional vaccines use actual, though significantly or completely weakened, viruses to trigger an immune response, she said. That response is the result of the body learning to fight the virus.

But with mRNA vaccines, the vaccine instead teaches the body how to create a protein. That protein then sets off the immune response that helps the body generate antibodies and immune cells.

Those antibodies and immune cells are the defense mechanism the body uses to attack the virus.

“Many people have that fear … ‘Are [you] going to catch the disease itself from the vaccine?’” said Dr. Ashish Acharya, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Grapevine. “That’s not even a possibility with this.”

What percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to lift COVID restrictions?

Although the vaccines are promising, it will take months to reach the levels that will be needed to bring life back to normal.

“The big message is, for heaven’s sake, while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel is still long,” McCormick said.

Huang has said estimates for that vaccination rate have been put at about 60 percent to 70 percent.

As with any vaccine, patients who receive it are not guaranteed immunity from the virus.

“The big message is, for heaven’s sake, while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel is still long,” McCormick said.

Because of this, patients who receive the vaccine should still wear masks and practice social distancing, both to protect themselves and others around them.

“There have been cases of infection occurring in immunized people,” Lerner said. “There have been cases of second COVID infections … you need to continue protective measures.”

Do the new vaccines imply anything about previously unsolved health problems?

Some people have wondered whether new vaccine technology could offer hope of preventing other ailments such as the common cold.

“We understand the common cold,” McCormick said. “But the problem is there’s so many viruses that cause the common cold.”

But that doesn’t mean treatments for those viruses are out of reach, he said. For example, the knowledge scientists now have about creating mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 could be used to create vaccines for other coronaviruses, which could cause colds.

Huang said the development of the COVID-19 vaccines built on research that was underway on other coronaviruses, such as MERS.

“That allowed this to be developed more quickly,” Huang said.

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