More than 3 million health care workers nationwide have received the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, yet some people remain concerned about their safety. While the medical community as a whole stands behind the vaccines, myths abound. As a health care provider who has studied the literature and received the vaccine myself, I am sharing my answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccines’ safety. Are the vaccines safe? Yes. Beyond the 75,000 clinical trial participants, millions more now have been vaccinated in the U.S. and U.K. In recent days, between 500,000 and 1 million people are receiving the vaccines per day. Serious adverse events such as allergic reactions have been rare. While no one can predict the long-term events this early, based on previous vaccine experience, we don’t anticipate anything serious. When will the vaccine

be available? The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services determines how the vaccines will be administered in our state and has outlined three distribution phases: • Phase 1A recipients include health care workers and the residents of long-term care facilities. We are currently in this phase. • Phase 1B should begin in late January and will include first responders, essential workers and people at high risk for complications from COVID-19 such as those older than 65 and those aged 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions. MDHSS will prioritize within these groups. • Phase 2 will include other specific high-risk populations. • Phase 3 will ultimately expand vaccines to all Missourians. Where can I receive

a vaccine? Hospitals are vaccinating their health care workers while commercial pharmacies are providing vaccinations for long-term care facility residents and staff. Vaccines for additional phases will be provided by health departments and primary care physician offices. It is not yet clear whether commercial pharmacies will be able to provide these vaccines. I’ve already had COVID-19. Should I still be vaccinated? Even if you already had COVID, you are likely to benefit from the vaccine. If you are not actively symptomatic or in isolation for COVID, you may receive the vaccine. If you received a monoclonal antibody infusion, you should wait at least 90 days from your infusion date before receiving a vaccine. How will the vaccine

be administered? Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots in the arm at least 21 (Pfizer) and 28 (Moderna) days apart. How was the vaccine developed so quickly? Indeed the vaccine was produced in record time. However, the speed did not come with short cuts to safety. The time saved in production occurred because an mRNA vaccine template already existed and sequencing the coronavirus genome was not complicated. Also, the government poured unprecedented resources into vaccine research and development. The clinical trials were conducted precisely as they should have been at every step. Trial enrollment was quick due to the raging pandemic. Can I get a vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding? While trial data is limited, 11 U.S. OB/GYN professional societies issued a joint statement that supports access to the vaccines for pregnant and lactating women and encourages conversations between these women and their providers. Thousands of pregnant or lactating women have received vaccine in recent weeks. There are no known fertility concerns for women of child-bearing age. For more information, review recommendations from ACOG, ASRM or the CDC. Do COVID-19 vaccines

use live virus? Neither of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the US use the live virus that causes COVID-19. Can I get COVID-19 from

the vaccine? The vaccine is designed to teach our immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine protects you by creating an antibody response without having to experience sickness. Sometimes vaccine recipients report minor symptoms. This is normal and a sign that the body is building immunity, not an indication that a person has acquired COVID-19. Does getting an mRNA vaccine alter your DNA? The messenger ribonucleic acid never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. Therefore, it has no effect on a person’s DNA. How much will the

vaccine cost? The federal government is providing the vaccine at no cost. However, vaccinators may charge an administration fee, which should be covered by many health insurance plans. How are vaccines

being distributed? Vaccines are being shipped from manufacturers to vaccinators under the direction of state authorities. The states determine when and how many doses each vaccinator receives. Once I’m vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask? Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are just one of the ways to help stop the pandemic. For now, it is important to continue wearing a mask, maintain physical distance of 6 feet, wash hands often and avoid crowds to help curb current infections. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will help prevent future infections. Millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine are becoming available and I encourage everyone to take the vaccine when offered to protect yourself, those you love, your neighbors and your community. I also encourage people to monitor objective information about the vaccine and its safety. For more information, visit cdc.gov or libertyhospital.org/covid.

Dr. Raghu Adiga

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