A Healthier Tomorrow? – With the Vaccine – YES!

A Healthier Tomorrow? – With the Vaccine – YES!

Imagine a Healthier Tomorrow

By Kathleen Findlay, MD, MPH – Family Practice and Integrative Medicine Physician

Our vision at Western Wisconsin Health is “imagine a healthier tomorrow.”  These days, we all spend a lot of time imagining a healthier tomorrow–namely one without COVID-19.  We imagine the day when we can go out without wearing a mask, when we can once again meet our friends for a night out, or when we can enjoy our kids’ sporting events with their grandparents.  The damage inflicted from lockdowns is felt from our bank accounts to our spirits.  We are ready for that healthier tomorrow, and the good news is that we can see that day sooner thanks to the groundbreaking development of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Through global cooperation of scientists, researchers, and medical experts, an extraordinarily effective and safe vaccine is now available.  The speed of development was only possible due to sharing of research on a scale we have never seen before.  Scientists had a head start thanks to prior research done on SARS and MERS.  Additionally, the rigorous vaccine trial process was expedited by conducting multiple phases at the same time, instead of waiting to complete each phase before beginning the next.  The 3rd phase of the trials where tens of thousands of people are enrolled to determine if they developed immunity and/or side effects is quicker during a pandemic, as many people have the virus at the same time.  Finally, due to the urgency of the pandemic, vaccine production was underway before the trials were even completed.  While the producers risked significant financial loss, we benefited by having vaccines available months sooner.

The rigorous vaccine research process has remained transparent and every phase of every trial continues to be scrutinized by a safety board and the FDA.  Furthermore, in addition to the existing vaccine monitoring systems already in place, the CDC has added new systems such as the V-safe smartphone-based tool. Through this continued oversight and expert approval, two vaccines are now available to us in the US.  These groundbreaking vaccines will help bring this pandemic to an end.

The COVID-19 vaccines that are in use in the US are mRNA vaccines.  These vaccines carry the “recipe” for our cells to create a harmless piece of the spike protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus makes.  This enables our bodies to develop the immune response to fight off the virus when we are exposed to it.  mRNA vaccines do not contain the virus, so they cannot give us the infection. Additionally, this RNA does not interact with or affect our DNA in any way.  These vaccines have a limited number of ingredients, and so far, the only contraindication to receiving the vaccines is prior severe allergic reaction to any of these components.  Thus, these vaccines are safe for the vast majority of us.

Getting the vaccine will keep you and your family safe.  At 95% efficacy, the vaccine is extraordinarily effective at protecting you from the virus and is your best tool to keep your family healthy.  The vaccine currently available requires 2 doses to develop that level of immunity—the first dose prepares your body and the second dose given 3-4 weeks later is what helps you create the immune response to prevent illness.  As we await this developing protection throughout our homes and communities, we will still need to use the preventive tools we have had in place for the past year: masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting. The sooner people are fully protected against COVID-19, the faster we will slow the virus.  Then we will be able to move forward and get back to normal as soon as possible.

The vaccine is being distributed in a phased approach, with frontline workers and those most at risk getting the first doses.  In fact, many of Wisconsin’s health care providers and long-term care residents have already or are about to receive their second dose.    As we move into the next phases, more and more people will have the opportunity to help prevent more illnesses and deaths, eliminate and eradicate COVID-19, and end the damage to the economy. 

It is understandable to be skeptical about these vaccines.  Many people are concerned about side effects.  As with any vaccine, we anticipate side effects.  These mild side effects signal that your body is building the protection to the virus, and if you have them should last no more than a few days.  There is less than 0.5% chance of severe side effects.  If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at Western Wisconsin Health.  One of our clinicians will be happy to talk with you.  Our social media sites, along with all the county websites, will continue to provide up to date information on vaccine availability. 

A healthier tomorrow is in sight.  You can help us get there by getting your COVID-19 vaccine!