For planning and local distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, St. Peter's is working as part of a COVID-19 vaccination coordination team established by Lewis and Clark Public Health, which is the coordinating entity for distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccine in Lewis and Clark County.
The team includes representatives from other local health organizations and pharmacies. The team’s mission is to ensure a smooth, transparent and efficient vaccination effort.
Key members of our COVID-19 Incident Command team Clinical Pharmacy Manager Tom Richardson, PharmD, BCIDP and Infectious Disease Specialist and Hospitalist Dr. Anne Anglim have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Does the vaccine give you COVID-19?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine does NOT give you COVID-19
What are the differences between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?
The two vaccines are very similar. The vaccines have shown almost 95% protection against COVID-19 seven to 10 days after the second dose, and carry similar side effects. At this time, the best vaccine is the one that's available to you as soon as possible. There is no evidence that one is better than the other!
What is an mRNA vaccine? Can the virus mRNA affect human DNA?
mRNA – or messenger RNA – is a molecule, not a living thing. It provides a code for a cell to follow to make a protein specific to the virus. Since this protein is unique to the virus your body recognizes it as foreign and develops antibodies. mRNA vaccines do not enter the nucleus of cells and in fact disappears completely from the body in less than a day.
What are the side effects that people may experience?
St. Peter's Health has now vaccinated over one thousand employees. The vast majority have had effects for the first shot have been no more severe than sore arms, headaches, and tiredness, lasting less than 24-36 hours. Side effects are more pronounced after the second shot for many people and have included body aches, fever and chills. Side effects, however, are good news. They mean the vaccine is working, and the body is recognizing the vaccine and is building protective antibodies. If you develop such symptoms as diarrhea, cough, chest pain, sore throat or stuffy nose, or loss of taste or smell, definitely call your provider.
Why do we need two shots?
Studies show you only receive partial protection after the first shot. The second shot is absolutely necessary; only after the second shot are you realizing the 95% protection rate you read about in the news.
Should people who are pregnant or lactating consider getting the vaccine?
This is a gray area at this time. Pregnancy and lactation aren't a disqualifier but clinical studies did not include pregnant women. Pregnant and lactating women need to weigh the risks/benefits of getting the vaccine vs. getting COVID-19 infection. Please speak with your medical provider to ensure you are making an informed decision.
If I've had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?
Yes! People who have had COVID-19 do receive some immunity from the virus. However, this immunity may only last around three months. Vaccination will provide longer and possibly better protection. If you've had COVID-19, you can and should still get vaccinated.
Why do we still need to take preventative measures if we get vaccinated?
We know that the vaccine is extremely effective because it will prevent you from getting sick. However, we do not know if the vaccine prevents you from giving the virus to others. Wearing masks and following other prevention measures helps protect you, others and the community.
Should we be worried about the speed at which the vaccine was developed?
It is normal to have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, especially since it was created so rapidly. St. Peter’s Health endorses the process which led to these vaccines' release. No steps were skipped. In the years since Jenner applied the first rudimentary vaccine, a worldwide commitment to improving vaccine science has brought humanity this immense achievement.
Does the vaccine work against the new strain that has been identified in the US?
New variant strains of COVID-19 are being identified in the United States. It is not unusual for a virus to mutate and more mutations will emerge. The most common new variant, called b.1.1.7 strain, appears more transmissible than other strains. Therefore, it is more important than ever to follow COVID-19 prevention measures. Learn more at: New COVID-19 Variants | CDC. Public health agencies throughout the world, including CDC, are closely monitoring the emergence of new strains. There is no evidence that currently available COVID-19 vaccines don't protect against newly identified strains.
How common are anaphylactic reactions to the vaccine?
There has been information about severe anaphylactic reactions making headlines, but it is important to know that the rate of severe reactions or anaphylaxis to either vaccines is roughly 11 cases per million. This is much lower than severe reactions to common antibiotics (30-50 cases per one hundred thousand). Severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, can be expected with any vaccine. Anaphylaxis to any of the vaccine ingredients (most commonly polyethylene glycol) is most worrisome. Those with a history of severe food, drug, or other allergies can still receive vaccine, but should talk with their provider if there are still concerns. Health care providers will be ready to deal with any adverse effects that may happen.
St. Peter's COVID-19 Response Incident Command Team, a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nursing administrators, pharmacy staff, laboratory personnel and quality managers, supports the criteria that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used to grant emergency use authorizations (EUA) to the COVID-19 vaccine. The criteria outlines the administration's science-based decision-making process that assures quality, safety and efficacy for any authorized or approved vaccine. St. Peter's Health also supports the State of Montana's Vaccination Plan. The plan includes a phased approach for vaccine distribution based on priority populations and limited initial vaccine supply.