Dr. Timothy Byrne, medical director of cardiac services at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital, noted that it has been a year since the CDC identified the first COVID-19 patient in the U.S., and getting the vaccine is an important part of putting the pandemic behind us.
“Combined with the precautions of handwashing, mask wearing and social distancing, being vaccinated will help us achieve the goal of beating this virus,” Byrne said.
“First, check your eligibility. Go online and check local public health websites or social media for vaccine availability information. Be patient. Know that vaccines are available in limited quantities and demand will be high,” he said.
“As new sites open for vaccinations, don’t just show up. Please do not arrive at a vaccination site, your doctor’s office or hospital looking for the vaccine. Don’t assume your local provider has vaccine available or that you can be vaccinated right away.”
Byrne acknowledged that some may be concerned about vaccine side effects. “The reality of the reactions related to the vaccine is that it’s a very small group of patients out of the total number of those vaccinated,” he said.
“Temporary side effects from vaccination may feel like flu symptoms — sore muscles, feeling tired or mild fever — but they should go away within a few days.
“If you have a history of allergic reactions to medications, check with your physician on whether to proceed with vaccination. Even though the number of reactions is small, each vaccination site is well-equipped to handle such a situation.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about the COVID-19 vaccine and answers common questions.
According to the CDC, “Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19. Experts also think that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. These vaccines cannot give you the disease itself.
“A vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease without having to get the disease first.”
As Byrne noted, “The side effects from COVID-19 vaccination may feel like flu symptoms (sore muscles, feeling tired or mild fever) and might even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days,” according to the CDC.
But, even after receiving two doses of the vaccine, the CDC recommends “you will need to keep wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, washing your hands often and staying at least 6 feet away from other people you do not live with. This gives you and others the best protection from catching the virus.
“Right now, experts don’t know how long the vaccine will protect you, so it’s a good idea to continue following the guidelines from CDC and your health department. We also know not everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away, so it’s still important to protect yourself and others.”