The rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant has raised concerns about how to stay safe during this latest wave of the pandemic. Between rising cases among the unvaccinated and reported breakthrough infections in the vaccinated, many have questions on how to navigate this ever-changing COVID landscape. Legacy Medical Director of Adult and Family Medicine, Dr. Amelia Averyt recently sat down to answer some common questions about COVID-19, the delta variant and the vaccines available to fight it.
Is the COVID vaccine safe?
I often get this question from my patients. What we can say is that these vaccines are safe. In fact, they are much safer than contracting the COVID-19 virus. We know the technology behind the vaccine has been around for decades. Before the rollout to the public, the COVID-19 vaccines had to go through all the efficacy and safety trials that other vaccines we already use had to undergo.
In the millions of patients that have already gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, we know it is well tolerated. A system is in place called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) that tracks the most common side effects from the vaccine, which include fatigue, headache, gastrointestinal issues and nausea. Symptoms typically go away after 24 hours.
Why is it important that more people get vaccinated?
What we are working towards is herd immunity, which refers to the point in which our entire community is protected from getting COVID-19 illness. With the delta variant of the virus surging, we believe between 70-to-90 percent of people in the United States must be vaccinated, or have contracted the disease, before the country reaches herd immunity.
Can you get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine?
This is absolutely not true. The vaccines contain no live viruses. Meaning that there is no virus that can be injected that will replicate or cause illness. Definitely, the answer is no. It will not give you COVID-19.
Of the three vaccines that are available, is there one that is better or safer than the others?
The safest vaccine is the one that you can get. All three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) have been authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These vaccines have been thoroughly tested and found to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19, as well as serious hospitalization and death from the virus.
Earlier this year, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused while the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated reports of blood clots in women under the age of 50 who had received that vaccine. After careful review, usage of the J&J vaccine has safely resumed.
Is it safe for children to be vaccinated?
Yes, it is for certain ages. Currently, the only vaccine that is currently approved for children ages 12-to-18 is the Pfizer vaccine. With the Moderna vaccine, usage is only approved for those 18 and up. Hopefully, it will be safe for all ages very soon. Trials are ongoing.
Does the vaccine carry a chip or alter DNA?
There is no truth to this. Nor will the vaccine make a person magnetic. The concern about altering the DNA is understandable because these are mRNA vaccines. Now, mRNA is a signal the body uses inside our cells to create new proteins or new building blocks. That mRNA tells the immune system that these are things that should be recognized as foreign invaders and to attack when we see them. However, mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cells, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept, so our DNA is not affected.
What is the Delta Variant and should we be concerned?
Yes, we should be concerned about the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus but also reassured that the vaccine is helping us protect ourselves and our families from serious infection. The delta variant is part of the family of COVID-19 viruses. It is a little bit different in that its genetic material makes it more likely to infect people and cause more severe illness.
What we have seen with the delta variant is that the rates of hospitalization have been high in unvaccinated individuals. There have also been reports of breakthrough cases in those who have been vaccinated, which means people test positive for COVID-19, but they do not typically develop severe symptoms like shortness of breath, pneumonia or hospitalization. It may feel like a bad cold but that is in general the worst that it has gotten for vaccinated individuals.
More than anything this surge is scary and is a call to action for everyone to take precautions especially if you know you are going to be in crowded areas. So continue wearing masks, continue social distancing and encourage everybody around you to get vaccinated.
How much does it cost to get vaccinated and where can you get a vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccination is free. Those who are old enough to qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine can get their vaccines at Legacy Community Health clinics. Call 832-548-5000 or log on to our website to learn more.