The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been around for over a year now dramatically impacting the health and wellbeing of the global population. It’s been a year of adjustments to our lifestyles to help mitigate the spread of the virus, including stay-at-home orders, virtual classrooms for school-aged children, take-out only at restaurants, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet, and wearing masks in public places, among other efforts.
In December 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech (“Pfizer”) and Moderna, Inc. (“Moderna”). These vaccines have been through large clinical trials and have shown to be safe and effective in providing immunity against the COVID-19 virus. With the vaccination efforts currently underway, our healthcare providers wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions that we have received from our patients about the vaccines.
Question #1: How do the vaccines work?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which contain material from the virus. Once administered, the vaccines cause our cells to make a harmless protein (called “spike protein”) that is unique to the COVID-19 virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies. Through this mechanism, our bodies will remember how to fight the COVID-19 virus if we are infected in the future. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second shot to get the most protection the vaccines have to offer.
Question #2: Are the vaccines safe?
Yes, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are currently available in the United States, have been through large clinical trials. The FDA has extensively evaluated the results from the clinical trials, including any side effects or adverse reactions that occurred in trial participants, prior to granting emergency use authorization in the US. The data demonstrates that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% and 94.1% effective, respectively, at providing protection against the COVID-19 virus, and therefore the known and potential benefits of this vaccine outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19.
Question #3: Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccines?
No, there is no COVID-19 virus in the vaccine. The vaccine imitates the infection so that our bodies create antibody defenses to fight off COVID-19 virus.
Question #4: What are the side effects?
Side effects depend on each individual and include pain (83.1%) and swelling (5.8%) at the injection site, fever (3.7%), chills (14%), tiredness (47.4%), and headaches (41.9%). However, these symptoms are generally mild and temporary, and a normal sign that your body is building protection.
Question #5: Are the vaccines effective in providing protection against the COVID-19 virus?
More than 70,000 people participated in the clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to test the safety and effectiveness. As mentioned above, the vaccines have shown to be approximately 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.
Question #6: Who is eligible to get vaccinated?
We are currently in phase 1A+ of the vaccination administration in Georgia. This includes adults 65+ and their caregivers. Refer to the diagram above for details on composition of the phases.
Question #7: If I am eligible, where can I get vaccinated?
If you fit into this category, please refer to your respective county’s Board of Health website. In addition, contact your primary care physician’s office as vaccine doses are limited at physician offices. Please note that appointments are required for all sites.
Question #8: Where can I find additional information?
Question #9: Where in the Metro Atlanta area are the vaccines currently available?
The following local facilities are currently offering the vaccine to those who meet eligibility criteria:
- Piedmont Vaccine Clinic
- East Marietta Drugs (only for Cobb residents or existing patients – contact by email only)
- Briarcliff Pharmacy (contact by email)
- Cobb and Douglas County Boards of Health:
- Fulton County Board of Health
- Dekalb County Board of Health
- Gwinnett County Board of Health
Due to the overwhelming number of inquiries we are receiving and our continuing need to serve all of our patients, we ask that you please check on our website, MyChart page, and follow us on Facebook for updates regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our healthcare providers, contact Family Practice Center at one of our Atlanta or Alpharetta locations today.