It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders, restricted travel, closed schools and some businesses and caused family members to isolate from one another. Nearly 30 million people have battled the contagious virus, and more than 528,000 people have died in the U.S.
It’s been a long year.
Yet today, we now have three COVID-19 vaccines that were given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). All three vaccines underwent multi-phased clinical trials to evaluate their safety and how effective they are in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19. The three vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson proved to be nearly 100% effective in preventing severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death.
While getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal decision, the following facts and insights offered by Maryann Fisher, MD, a family medicine physician with OSF Medical Group, may impact or better inform your decision about whether to be vaccinated.
1. Getting the vaccine can protect you from getting sick
The vaccines, like all vaccines, work with your body’s immune system to build up a protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.
“For patients who are scared of experiencing side effects from the vaccine, I tell them they might feel a side effect, such as fever or chills,” she said. “But the side effects are nothing compared to getting sick from the actual virus where they may become seriously ill, hospitalized or possibly die.”
2. People of color are especially vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19
Getting vaccinated can provide protection for vulnerable groups. “It’s important to understand their reasons behind not wanting to receive the vaccine,” Dr. Fisher said. “Depending on their existing chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, I discuss with them the various ways the vaccine can prevent them from getting a serious complication from the virus.”
3. Getting vaccinated isn’t just about you – it’s about your family and the community where you live
“If a patient doesn’t want to receive the vaccine, I ask them to think about their children, grandchild, parents and grandparents,” she said. “These family members might have an illness that makes them susceptible to serious complications from the virus.”
4. Vaccine development was fast, but it doesn’t mean any steps regarding safety were bypassed
“Like any vaccine, it is difficult to say how effective or safe it will be for an individual, but the effects of not getting the vaccine are much worse than receiving it,” Dr. Fisher said.
5. The three approved vaccines were tested for safety and effectiveness on a diverse group of volunteers, including Blacks and Hispanics
“COVID-19 affects everyone,” Dr. Fisher said. “Testing on a diverse group helps to know how effective the vaccine would be on everyone.”
6. Side effects from the vaccine do not mean you’re sick.
“It’s important to discuss with patients the common side effects they may experience – such as fatigue, arm pain, fever or chills,” she said. “But those side effects tell you that your immune system is robust and working like it should.”
7. Pregnant women should consider what’s best for them
What if you’re pregnant, want to get pregnant or are breastfeeding? “This is a discussion they need to have with their OB/GYN,” Dr. Fisher said. “Ultimately the decision is up to the patient regarding what is best for them and their baby.”
8. Even people who have recovered from COVID-19 should get vaccinated
It may seem like you don’t need to be vaccinated if you’ve recovered from COVID-19. “There are reports of people getting COVID-19 more than once, so getting COVID-19 does not provide complete immunity,” Dr. Fisher said. “Getting vaccinated will add extra protection.”
9. The time to get vaccinated is now
Your instinct might be to wait and see before getting vaccinated. “This is a difficult question because the vaccine is new and there are a lot of unknowns at this time,” Dr. Fisher said. “My advice is that the benefit of getting the vaccine is greater than the risk of getting COVID-19. Time is of the essence. The sooner they’re vaccinated, the sooner they are protected and they’re protecting those around them.”
10. Getting vaccinated is a personal decision
“Like getting the flu vaccine to prevent you from getting the flu even though you are healthy, the same goes for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Fisher said. “At the end of the day, the decision is ultimately their decision. As a physician, we are here to provide all the information they need and hopefully equip them with the facts to better inform their decision on getting the vaccine.”
In addition, it’s important to seek out trusted sources for information, like the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Stay connected to OSF HealthCare for continued updates when it may be your opportunity to get vaccinated.