As 2020 comes to a close, the newly approved COVID-19 vaccines seem like a light at the end of the tunnel. As Georgia begins to inoculate select citizens against the novel coronavirus, many have questions about the vaccine and its availability. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

The COVID-19 vaccines seemed to come out so quickly. Are they safe?
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, because COVID-19 is so similar to preexisting viruses, scientists had a significant head start in developing the vaccine. This is one of the many factors contributing to the expedited delivery of the vaccine. All approved COVID-19 vaccines have undergone rigorous testing and have been deemed safe through clinical trials that involved over 70,000 volunteers.

Do the vaccines really work?
The same large-scale clinical trials that were utilized to deem the approved COVID-19 vaccines safe were utilized to deem the inoculations about 95% effective.

Who will be eligible for vaccination first? What is Georgia’s plan to roll out the vaccines?
The Georgia Department of Public Health has released a COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Plan informed by experts across the medical field and the lessons learned from the H1N1 pandemic. We are currently in the first phase of the plan: Phase 1 with limited vaccines available.

Between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Georgia has been allocated a little over 500,000 doses. Being that there are about 10.6 million Georgia residents, the Vaccine Rollout Plan has to prioritize health care workers on the front lines and elderly residents at risk for severe illness when exposed to COVID-19 in this first phase.

The following sub-phases of Phase 1 continue to broaden the vaccines’ scope to include more elderly residents, residents with comorbidities (other diseases or medical conditions that may place someone at a higher risk when exposed to COVID-19), workers and residents in long-term care facilities, and other essential workers.

Phase 2 will come with an increased availability of the vaccines and will include residents eligible in Phase 1 that were unable to be vaccinated and “critical populations” as they are identified.

The Georgia Department of Public Health states that Phase 3 will begin when “vaccine supply exceeds demand” and will include the general population. Administration of second injections or “boosters” will likely begin in Phase 3.

Where can I get the vaccination once I am eligible?
It is likely that once Phase 3 begins, the vaccine will be available through many routine health care providers in their normal facilities. The Vaccine Rollout Plan also states, “To increase equitable … access to the COVID-19 vaccine, providers may conduct satellite, temporary, or off-site clinics in collaboration with community stakeholders.” This aligns with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s intention to make the vaccine easily accessible to the general population once possible by placing mass vaccination clinics in heavily trafficked areas instead of exclusively vaccinating residents in traditional clinical settings as was proven to be effective during the H1N1 pandemic.

Will I get sick from being vaccinated against COVID-19?
The Georgia Department of Health explicitly states that the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for causing COVID-19 is not present in the COVID-19 vaccines. As with other vaccines, some mild and temporary symptoms may occur for some people following inoculation. These symptoms can include fever, fatigue, chills, headaches, and pain and/or swelling at the injection site. These symptoms are normal side effects of your body building protection post-vaccination and are no cause for concern.

The CDC suggests to “move or exercise your arm” and “apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area” in order to reduce any swelling or discomfort surrounding the injection site. They also suggest drinking lots of water and wearing lightweight clothing in order to alleviate any discomfort caused by any other potential side effects.

If I’ve already had COVID-19, will I still need to be vaccinated?
While the body does build a natural immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus after infection, experts are unsure of how long this protection lasts. The Mayo Clinic states, “Because reinfection is possible and COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications, it’s recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Will I need a second “booster” shot?
Yes. According to the Mayo Clinic, both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two injections. The Moderna injections are given 28 days apart and the Pfizer injections are given 21 days apart. The CDC states, “COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.”

Will I be able to get my children vaccinated?
The Moderna vaccination is approved for people age 18 and older and the Pfizer vaccination is approved for people age 16 and older. The Mayo clinic states, “Several companies have begun enrolling children as young as age 12 in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. Studies including younger children will begin soon.”

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