FAQ: Vaccine being administered in Louisiana

FAQ: Vaccine being administered in Louisiana
The first round of Pfizer vaccines were administered to frontline workers. (Source: Ochsner)

Louisiana (WAFB) - Below is information provided by the CDC and other government officials.

Although the vaccine is a big step forward, Governor John Bel Edwards warns that the pandemic is still very much on going.

“This is the beginning of the end,” he said during a press conference. “We are not at the end yet, but it is such a blessing to have vaccine in the state of Louisiana...The vaccine by itself is not going to end the pandemic, we have to have vaccinations.”

The Department of Health is also not going to mandate that you take a vaccine, when one becomes widely available.

Who can get the vaccine?

According to Governor John Bel Edwards, between 125,000 and 135,000 frontline healthcare personnel will be the first people in the state to receive the vaccine. Doctors, nurses, as well as hospital food service workers and custodial staff, will be included in that group.

Edwards says the state hopes to vaccinate 160,000 people in the first priority group comprised of people who work in hospitals and nursing homes, by the end of December. There are around 200,000 to 215,000 people who make up that first group.

Who is playing for the COVID-19 vaccines?

The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States. Vaccination providers can be reimbursed for vaccine administration fees by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay a vaccine administration fee.

Understanding how COVID-19 vaccines work?

To understand how COVID-19 vaccines work, it helps to first look at how our bodies fight illness. When germs, such as the virus that causes COVID-19, invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. This invasion, called an infection, is what causes illness. Our immune system uses several tools to fight infection. Blood contains red cells, which carry oxygen to tissues and organs, and white or immune cells, which fight infection. Different types of white blood cells fight infection in different ways:

  • Macrophages are white blood cells that swallow up and digest germs and dead or dying cells. The macrophages leave behind parts of the invading germs called antigens. The body identifies antigens as dangerous and stimulates antibodies to attack them.
  • B-lymphocytes are defensive white blood cells. They produce antibodies that attack the pieces of the virus left behind by the macrophages.
  • T-lymphocytes are another type of defensive white blood cell. They attack cells in the body that have already been infected.

The first time a person is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it can take several days or weeks for their body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to get over the infection. After the infection, the person’s immune system remembers what it learned about how to protect the body against that disease.

The body keeps a few T-lymphocytes, called memory cells, that go into action quickly if the body encounters the same virus again. When the familiar antigens are detected, B-lymphocytes produce antibodies to attack them. Experts are still learning how long these memory cells protect a person against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Types of vaccines

Currently, there are three main types of COVID-19 vaccines that are or soon will be undergoing large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials in the United States. Below is a description of how each type of vaccine prompts our bodies to recognize and protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19.

  • mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
  • Protein subunit vaccines include harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that cause COVID-19 instead of the entire germ. Once vaccinated, our immune system recognizes that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins making T-lymphocytes and antibodies. If we are ever infected in the future, memory cells will recognize and fight the virus.
  • Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a live virus—a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19—that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector). Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.

Pfizer Vaccine

Q: When did the FDA approve the vaccine?

A: It was approved for emergency use on December 11, 2020. Technically, this vaccine is only approved for emergency use. Roughly 20,000 people received the vaccination during clinical trials. This vaccine has not undergone the same type of review as an FDA-approved or cleared product. The FDA can make the vaccine available, however, because the scientific evidence available shows that the product is effective and that the potential benefit of the product outweighs the known and potential risks.

Q: Is there an age restriction?

A: Yes. The vaccine is only approved for individuals ages 16 and over.

Q: How does it work?

A: This vaccine is administered as an injection into the muscle and requires two doses, three weeks apart. When you get your first dose, you will get a vaccination card to show you when to return for your second dose. You will need to bring your card when you return for your second dose.

Q: Will the vaccine give me COVID-19?

A: No, the vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and cannot give you COVID-19.

Q: What are the possible side effects?

A: According to the FDA, the most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. The side effects could last for several days. More people reported side effects with the second dose than the first dose. There is a remote chance the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction, which would typically occur within a few minutes to one hour after the injection.

WATCH: What you need to know about vaccine side effects

Q: What are the signs of a severe allergic reaction?

A: Difficulty breathing, swelling of your face and throat, a fast heartbeat, a bad rash all over your body, and dizziness and weakness.

Q: Can a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding get the vaccine?

A: You should discuss this with your regular healthcare provider.

Q: Where will my vaccination information be recorded?

A: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your information could be included in your state/local jurisdiction’s Immunization Information System (IIS) or other designated system. This will ensure you receive the same vaccine when you return for the second dose. For more information about IIS, CLICK HERE.

Moderna Vaccine

The FDA approved emergency use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.

Q. What are the restrictions?

A. This vaccine is only approved for those 18 years or older. If you have any allergies or medical conditions, you should let your medical provider know.

Q. How is this vaccine given?

A. It is administered in a series of 2 doses given 1 month apart. If you receive one dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, you should get a second dose of the same vaccine.

Q. How long does the vaccine last?

A. It is unknown how long this vaccine will be effective.

Q. What are the risks?

A. Side effects that have been reported with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine include:

  • Injection site reactions: pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, swelling (hardness), and redness
  • General side effects: fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever

There is a remote chance that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. For this reason, your vaccination provider may ask you to stay at the place where you received your vaccine for monitoring after vaccination. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of your face and throat
  • A fast heartbeat
  • A bad rash all over your body
  • Dizziness and weakness

These may not be all the possible side effects of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. Serious and unexpected side effects may occur. The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is still being studied in clinical trials.

Q. What is the difference between the Moderna and Pfizer Vaccine?

A. There are few differences between the two. Both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. This essentially teaches cells to make proteins that prompt an immune response. Both vaccines have been proven to be over 90 percent effective. The biggest difference comes on the distribution side. The Pfizer vaccine needs a special freezer to keep it at a minus 94 degrees. The Moderna vaccine can be kept in a regular freezer at minus 4 degrees. Additionally, the vaccine is only approved for 18 and over for Moderna, but is approved for 16 and over for Pfizer. And although both require two-doses, the Pfizer shots are 21 days apart where the Moderna are 28-days apart.

Johnson & Johnson Janssen Vaccine

The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. It has has been proven to be 66.3% effective in clinical trials at preventing COVID-19 illness in people who had no evidence of prior infection 2 weeks after getting the vaccine. People had the most protection 2 weeks after getting vaccinated.

The vaccine had high efficacy at preventing hospitalization and death in people who did get sick. No one who got COVID-19 at least 4 weeks after receiving the J&J/Janssen vaccine had to be hospitalized.

Early evidence suggests that the J&J/Janssen vaccine might provide protection against asymptomatic infection, which is when a person is infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 but does not get sick.

What is a viral vector vaccine?

Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells. For COVID-19 viral vector vaccines, the vector (not the virus that causes COVID-19, but a different, harmless virus) will enter a cell in our body and then use the cell’s machinery to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. This piece is known as a spike protein and it is only found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The cell displays the spike protein on its surface, and our immune system recognizes it doesn’t belong there. This triggers our immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating other immune cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect us against future infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. The benefit is that we get this protection from a vaccine, without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19. Any temporary discomfort experienced after getting the vaccine is a natural part of the process and an indication that the vaccine is working.

Scientists began creating viral vectors in the 1970s. Besides being used in vaccines, viral vectors have also been studied for gene therapy, to treat cancer, and for molecular biology research. For decades, hundreds of scientific studies of viral vector vaccines have been done and published around the world. Some vaccines recently used for Ebola outbreaks have used viral vector technology, and a number of studies have focused on viral vector vaccines against other infectious diseases such as Zika, flu, and HIV.

How is this vaccine administered?

Unlike the other vaccines, this only requires one dose. It is administered as a shot in the arm.

What are the side effects and safety information?

Most common side effects are pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you got the shot. Throughout the rest of your body, you could feel tired, have a headache, feel muscle pain, chills, fever, or nausea.

Side effects typically start within a day or two of getting the vaccine. Side effects might affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.

Who should not get this vaccination?

If you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to any ingredientexternal icon in the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (such as polysorbate), you should not get the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

An allergic reaction is considered severe when a person needs to be treated with epinephrine or EpiPen© or if they must go to the hospital. Experts refer to severe allergic reactions as anaphylaxis. Learn about common side effects of COVID-19 vaccines and when to call a doctor.

An immediate allergic reaction means a reaction within 4 hours of getting vaccinated, including symptoms such as hives, swelling, or wheezing (respiratory distress).

If you aren’t able to get the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, you may still be able to get a different type of COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more information for people with allergies.

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