Valuable information about the new COVID-19 Vaccines.
By Ellen Hey, FNP, Chief Quality Officer, and Dr. Jose Canario, Medical Director, Finger Lakes Community Health, an independent health care organization with eight health centers in the region.
For many of us, we’ve been waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive and that day is here. Keep in mind that while the vaccination distribution process is underway, and even after receiving the vaccine, you should still wear a mask, social distance, and avoid small and large gatherings.
In this article, we’ll answer any vaccine questions that we hear in the health centers. Most of the information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What Vaccines are currently available?
Two vaccines have been authorized by the FDA and both are free! The first, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, was approved unanimously by New York State’s independent COVID-19 Clinical Advisory Task Force on December 10 and formally authorized by the FDA on December 11, 2020. The second, developed by Moderna, was authorized by the FDA and approved unanimously by the Clinical Advisory Task Force on December 18, 2020. People 16 and older have been approved to receive the vaccine.
Both vaccines require you to get two shots. You get the second shot three to four weeks after you get the first one. The second shot is like a booster shot. It is important for you to get both shots for the vaccine to work.
How COVID-19 Vaccines Work (CDC)
COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.
It typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination. Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection.
Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.
If you have allergies not related to vaccines, should you get the vaccine (CDC)
CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.
Who is Eligible to get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Currently 1a Healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, hospital and EMS workers, etc.) and 1b groups are eligible. 1b groups include individuals age 65 and up, first responders, teachers, public transit workers, grocery store workers and public safety workers. Eligibility is always being updated, so keep checking the NYS Department of Health for a complete list.
Where do you get the vaccine?
All vaccinations are by appointment only. Healthcare workers will continue to get vaccines at hospitals, community health centers, and other clinical settings. Those people who fall into the 1b group such as public employees (police departments, public school teachers and MTA employees) will primarily be vaccinated through their groups’ relevant health programs or as organized by their unions. Other groups and those who are 65 and older, should check with their health care provider and public health departments for vaccine dispensing clinics closest to you.
If you are 65 years or older, your health care provider will contact you to schedule a vaccination appointment and you will receive your vaccine there. Select Wegmans pharmacies are also scheduling appointments for individuals 65 years or older only. Go to https://www.wegmans.com/pharmacy/
Other pharmacies such as CVS will also be dispensing the vaccine when the vaccine becomes available to them. More and more New Yorkers will become eligible as the vaccine supply increases.
Vaccine availability has been changing. For the week of January 18th, Finger Lakes Community Health did not receive a vaccine from New York State. This will change so check our website and Facebook page, for more information.
When the vaccine is available, Finger Lakes Community Health will also be offering Vaccine Events at our health centers by appointment. Check our website to register here.
Should you have additional questions, the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline is open 7AM – 10PM, 7 days a week, for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).