What to expect if you get the COVID-19 vaccine
A vaccine to fight COVID-19 is now available and being given in a phased approach. Bill Kelly, MD, addressed what it’s like to get the vaccine and other common questions.
Why is it important to get the vaccine?
“We desperately need this. COVID-19 is now the number one cause of death in South Carolina, passing heart disease,” said Dr. Kelly.
What can I expect when I get the vaccine?
The administration of this vaccine is very similar to the flu shot. You will sit down, answer some questions, fill out forms and receive the shot in the arm of your choice. The injection does not feel cold or feel any differently than other shots. However, you will need to sit after for 15–30 minutes to be observed for any possible reactions. “At this time, there have been no moderate or severe reactions from the shot and individuals are able to proceed with their day after receiving the vaccine,” said Dr. Kelly.
What are the side effects (long-term and short-term)?
At this point, we don’t know long-term effects specific to the COVID-19 vaccine. “It is important to know and understand that this is not a new vaccine technology (mRNA). The mRNA technology has been used in other treatments and it has not shown any long-term effects in those instances,” said Dr. Kelly.
We do know the short-term effects of the vaccine. While not all individuals who have received the vaccine have experienced these side effects, what has been experienced by some are mild to moderate symptoms that include tiredness, fever, headache or chills. Most of these symptoms are not experienced until the second dose of the vaccine and go away within a couple of days. The most common side effect from the first dose is a sore arm at the site of the injection.
“People are tolerating the vaccine well. The only feedback or complaint we have heard with the first dose is a sore arm, which is not much worse than other vaccines like the flu shot,” said Dr. Kelly.
When can we expect to have herd immunity?
Herd immunity will come with vaccinations, but also with continued practice of social distancing, mask wearing and good hand hygiene. “At this point, we believe that 60–80% of the population will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. That percentage could go down, but it is dependent on how many people continue to wear masks, social distance and have good hand hygiene. For the foreseeable future, we need to continue practicing these precautions as they can make a huge difference,” said Dr. Kelly.
What if there are new strains of the virus?
There have been numerous strains of the COVID-19 virus that have developed throughout the pandemic. “This is completely normal. Viruses like COVID-19 will change. There is no need to panic. It is not unusual for viruses to change and we have prepared for this,” said Dr. Kelly. “There is also no evidence that the vaccine will not protect you from other strains of COVID-19,” he said
I’m too nervous to get the vaccine now. What should I do?
“If you are nervous about getting the vaccine, it is okay. If you are being asked or encouraged by others, like your doctor, family or friends, it is because they care about you and care that you are protected. At this time, we know that getting the vaccine is safer than getting the virus. This is an opportunity and a choice for everyone. Do what you are comfortable doing,” said Dr. Kelly.
Get updates on the COVID-19 vaccine
Prisma Health’s COVID-19 vaccine timeline, distribution updates and other frequently asked questions can be found on our website. Please check back often for updates, which will be posted as they become available.