(BPT) - COVID-19 vaccines are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for widespread use for those who are eligible. But while vaccines are now more accessible, vaccination rates are slowing across the country.
The seven-day average of first doses administered continues to decline, with virtually no change in the number of Americans who say they will get vaccinated “only if required” or will “definitely not” get vaccinated. Further, nearly half of adults say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance is confusing and hard to follow.
The reasons for vaccine hesitancy are nuanced and complex, with everyone having their own personal reasons for why they remain unsure about the vaccine. The leading causes of vaccine hesitancy can be attributed to mistrust in scientific institutions and the government and worry about the vaccine’s safety and potential side effects. On top of that, some people are concerned about the accelerated vaccine development process, mRNA technology and uncertainty around long-term side effects for COVID-19 vaccines.
Those still uncertain about whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for them can look to trusted health experts within their communities like pharmacists to address key questions or concerns about getting the vaccine, the vaccination process, and common or expected side effects. Dr. Kevin Ban, Walgreens chief medical officer, addresses six common questions about getting the vaccine.
1. What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine has many benefits, including reducing the chances of severe illness if you do get sick with COVID-19 and allowing you to get back to pre-pandemic activities, like gathering indoors without a mask. Additionally, getting the vaccine can help prevent you from getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to those around you.
COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications that may lead to hospitalization, intensive care or even death. There is no way to know how contracting COVID-19 might affect you, or anyone else, so it’s important to get the vaccine to protect yourself and those around you. With COVID-19 vaccine rollout, infections have declined significantly, but more people need to get vaccinated in order to continue to reduce community spread and protect from variants that have proven to be more transmissible. In short, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks associated with getting COVID-19.
2. COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, how do I know they’re safe?
Vaccines were evaluated in clinical trials with tens of thousands of participants, meeting the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, efficacy and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.
In addition, the safe and speedy roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines is backed up by decades of research from a variety of prestigious medical and research institutions on this type of vaccine. Millions of people in the U.S. have received COVID-19 vaccines and these vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Experts are regularly reviewing and monitoring adverse events to assess whether there is a true safety concern.
Vaccines have played a vital role in protecting the health and safety of communities throughout history. I’ve done my homework and recommend the vaccine to anyone who is eligible. I’ve gotten vaccinated, as well as my wife and children. If you’re eligible, I recommend the same for you.
3. Are there any long-term side effects caused by the vaccine?
Some people will experience no side effects at all, while others may experience common short-term symptoms, like pain at the injection site or tiredness. These are normal signs that your body is building protection against COVID-19 and should go away in just a few days. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist about taking over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen to relieve any arm soreness or aches you may feel after getting vaccinated.
Serious side effects are extremely rare following any vaccination, including the COVID-19 vaccination. The FDA required each of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to be studied for at least two months (eight weeks) after the final dose even though anticipated effects occurred weeks before that. Hundreds of millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected. Pharmacists are thoroughly trained to respond and manage any instances of allergic reactions in the rare case they occur, as well as report to the CDC.
4. Do I really need more than one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines?
If you receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, it’s vital that you receive both doses to get the maximum protection they provide . Although the first dose provides some level of protection, the exact length of time you are protected is unknown. Getting the second dose sends a powerful response to your immune system to boost your antibodies, making them more effective against COVID-19.
If you’ve waited longer than the recommended time between doses, it’s better to get the second dose late than not at all. Get the second shot as soon as possible if you missed the recommended window.
5. If I’m young and healthy, why do I need a vaccine?
Although COVID-19 symptoms can vary from person to person, people can get very sick and have complications, long-lasting symptoms or die from contracting the virus. COVID-19 can also be transmitted to others if you’re infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Further, the Delta variant, recently deemed by the CDC a “variant of concern” for being more transmissible, continues to spread, accounting for more than 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
Until more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, the virus will continue to mutate, and there is no knowing how much the currently authorized vaccine will be able to protect you. The vaccine is meant to protect not only you, but also those around you, like family members and friends who may have weakened immune systems.
6. Where do I go to get a vaccine?
You can conveniently and safely get the COVID-19 vaccine at numerous locations including your primary care provider, off-site vaccination clinics or at your local pharmacy. Not only do they have pharmacists to help answer any questions you may have, but they are now offering same day and walk-in appointments. For more information, visit Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine or call 1-800-WALGREENS.