By now you have probably learned that COVID-19 vaccines will soon be approved and ready for distribution to the healthcare workers and residents in long term care. We have long awaited this exciting news.
We understand that some of you may be concerned about the safety of these new vaccines, as they have been developed and tested far more quickly than those in the past. We want to assure you that the speed with which these vaccines were developed is not due to skipping important safety steps, but rather the result of focused, collaborative work performed by experts across the globe. Vaccines approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have undergone the same level of rigorous testing for safety and efficacy as other vaccines, and have been tested in tens of thousands of people, including older adults. Two independent advisory committees of experts from academic institutions also monitor vaccines to ensure their safety.
Most of the COVID-19 vaccines require two separate doses given about three or four weeks apart, depending on the vaccine. Participants of clinical trials have reported experiencing short-term side effects after being vaccinated, with more pronounced discomfort after the second dose. These possible side effects include headache, muscle pains, fatigue, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. Sometimes there is misunderstanding about the cause of these reactions, as you may have heard someone say a vaccine has “made them sick” or given them the disease that the vaccine was intended to prevent. We want to be clear that this is not the case. The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you a COVID-19 infection. The vaccine works by helping the body create antibodies to fight off the virus. Feeling discomfort after getting the vaccine means that the vaccine is doing its job and your body is making antibodies.
We, along with thousands of other long term care facilities, are participating in a program with the Centers for Disease Control to help us most efficiently distribute these vaccines to our residents free of charge once they are available. We will keep you informed of this process as we move forward. Our staff will also have the opportunity to get vaccinated through this program, if they have not been vaccinated previously.
Please know that the safety and wellbeing of our staff and residents have been and remain our top priority. We are confident that the worldwide, unprecedented scientific achievement of these COVID-19 vaccines will eventually enable to us enjoy life with our loved ones again. We look forward to doing our part in this effort by getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and hope you will join us.
Is the vaccine safe and effective?
The vaccine has gone through 3 phases regarding safety and effectiveness. These involved thousands of patients in the trials. To date, the vaccine has proven very effective up to 95% with only mild side effects and no serious adverse reactions.
What are the side effects?
The most common side effects are soreness with possible redness and swelling at the site of injection. Other potential side effects include headache, muscle aches and general “flu like” symptoms which may persist for 24 hours or a few days. Persons may also experience fever, but any high fever should be reported for evaluation.
Should everyone take the vaccine?
Yes, everyone should take the vaccine. Currently, there are no restrictions or contraindications from any other healthcare condition regarding use of the vaccine.
Is a one-time vaccine effective?
- No, you must receive the second dose because the vaccine will not protect you if you only get one dose.
- It is important to get the SAME VACCINE as the first dose
- At some point a one dose vaccine may be available.
Should the vaccine be administered even if the person has contracted COVID-19 as an infection?
Yes, it is unknown whether long-term immunity will be present with COVID-19 infection and the vaccine should be administered even with history of infection.
Is personal protective equipment [PPE] still necessary after receiving the vaccine?
Yes, until further notification from the Center of Disease Control or state health officials, PPE including mask, gloves and gowns will be utilized.
In summary, the COVID-19 vaccine is the best opportunity to stop the pandemic of the serious life-threatening infection. Not only should we do it for our own health and safety, but to prevent infection in the most vulnerable population which we care for daily.
The CDC has created the below resources regarding the COVID-19 vaccine:
·COVID-19 Vaccines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
·Benefits of getting a COVID-19 Vaccine: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits.html
·Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html
Older adults living in long-term care centers remain high on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 vaccination priority list, along with healthcare workers, essential workers, and adults with certain high-risk medical conditions.
Early phases of vaccine distribution will focus on healthcare workers including our staff, with our patients to follow. To facilitate efficient distribution, the CDC is partnering with CVS and Walgreens to deliver and administer the first phase of vaccines to long-term care patients free of charge. These partner pharmacies can ensure cold storage of the vaccine and meet all the documentation and reporting requirements. This program focuses on skilled nursing centers, assisted living facilities, and similar congregate living settings where most individuals are over 65 years of age.
At NHC, we have taken proactive measures to help ensure our patients and partners are protected by choosing to partner with Walgreens to deliver and administer our vaccines. The Walgreens healthcare providers will complete our required health screening prior to entering the center and use our infection prevention protocols including appropriate personal protective equipment. As we receive additional information regarding the COVID-19 vaccination, we will be sharing this information with our families and our patients. We expect distribution of the vaccine to move quickly once resources are mobilized. Then, we will provide information to gather each patient’s consent if the vaccine is selected by the patient.
Published December 7, 2020
Updated December 14, 2020