The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now has approved not one, but two, vaccines for COVID-19 and we could see final data on a few others later this winter. This news is good … very good … but I do want our patients to know that things still won’t be completely back to normal for some time. If you have questions about what’s coming next, or about the vaccine, I hope you’ll ask our team, or your family practitioner.
In the meantime, let’s going to try to answer a few common questions.
People Are Having Reactions To The Vaccine – Doesn’t That Indicate It’s Unsafe?
In short: no. In fact, if the reaction is a fever or aches and pains those actually are a sign that your body is processing the vaccine correctly. That discomfort means you’re building immunity. Truly adverse reactions to reactions to vaccines are rare. If your pain or fever hasn’t subsided after a day or two, give your doctor a call, but chances are, just like with the regular flu vaccine, you’ll feel better in no time.
Trying to explain how aches and pains mean a vaccine is working? Check out the August 14 episode of But Why? A Podcast for Curious Kids for an engaging, kid-appropriate discussion with your little ones.
When Will I Get The Vaccine?
That question is up to each state to answer. In Maryland, there will be three phases of delivery:
- Phase 1A: health care workers, long-term facility care staff, and first responders;
- Phase 1B: high-risk individuals, including those with underlying conditions, and adults who live in congregate settings (e.g., homeless shelters or long-term care homes);
- Phase 2: individuals who work in “essential industries”; and
- Phase 3: the general population.
Right now, Maryland is in phase 1A, which as WBAL-TV explained, includes hundreds of thousands of individuals.
According to WUSA-9, the District of Columbia’s plan is very similar to Maryland’s except that individuals at long-term care facilities are in the first group of recipients.
Will My Doctor Give Me The Vaccine? How About My Dentist Or Orthodontist?
Perhaps. Each state, each city, and each local health system will determine how, to whom, and where the vaccine will be administered. Because the goal is to get the vaccine as quickly as possible to as many people as possible, it is likely that you’ll see it being administered in places where you wouldn’t usually go for healthcare.
Businesses might be able to offer the vaccine onsite to employees, for example, or schools or even malls and convention centers could become vaccine sites. We certainly are looking into the possibility of offering our patients the vaccine when supplies are more plentiful. Stay tuned, but please also remember that the two current vaccines are not yet approved for use in individuals under the age of 16. Chances are mom and dad will be inoculated well before the kiddos.
How Long Does The Vaccine Provide Protection?
The short answer is: we do not know. We know the individuals who participated in the vaccine trials continue to be evaluated and, so far, it looks like the drugs are working even months after being administered, but it’s impossible to know how long that will last.
We’re watching this question closely, so feel free to discuss it during your next visit!
Can I Take Off My Mask Once I Have The Vaccine?
The short answer is: no. As noted above, because it will take a while for everyone to receive the vaccine, things still will not look “normal” for some time. And while we know that the vaccine does a very good job of protecting you from getting sick, we are not sure yet if it prevents you from spreading the virus.
Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Network who was a co-investigator for the Pfizer vaccine trials, explained why to the data analysis website FiveThirtyEight. She said, “Theoretically, a vaccine should stop both the infection as well as the transmission and spread,” but noted, because the focus of these clinical trials was narrow, scientists only looked at whether the vaccines prevented illness and were safe, not into other questions like whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus.
We wear masks to protect our loved ones, our neighbors, our teachers, and, yes, our orthodontists and dentists. We’ll be asking you to wear masks in our office even if you have received the vaccine.
If you have other questions, please don’t hesitate to raise them during your next visit, or to give us a call. We’re here for you.