Posts

Myth or Fact – Understanding the COVID Vaccine

Everything about COVID-19 came at us quickly in 2020. From how the virus spreads to vaccine options, we have learned so much about. But it’s also no surprise that there are questions and misunderstandings. That’s why NOAH experts are responding to some of the most common COVID vaccine myths.

Myth #1 – It’s too soon to know if the vaccine is safe and effective.

Fact – Approved vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson – did not skip any necessary step. The two initial vaccines approved in the U.S., Pfizer and Moderna, were about 95% effective in trials. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is 66.3% effective in preventing all COVID-19. All available vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection, as well as preventing hospitalization and death from the virus.

The vaccines are safe. Other than expected side effects like headaches, chills, and arm pain, severe allergic reactions are extremely rare. All patients are monitored for 15 minutes after receiving their vaccine to monitor for any signs of these rare reactions so they can receive immediate treatment if needed.

Myth #2 – If I had COVID, I don’t need the vaccine.

Fact – People can – and have – gotten COVID-19 more than once. Plus, this virus can have serious and lasting health risks. We also don’t yet know how long natural immunity (from having COVID-19) will last. Early evidence shows that natural immunity may not last long enough to stop the spread. The evidence scientists are seeing from the vaccine tell us that the vaccine may offer better protection than natural immunity.

Myth #3 – I don’t need to wear a mask after getting the COVID vaccine.

Fact – Fully vaccinated people can still carry and spread the virus to unvaccinated people. By wearing masks and continuing to give physical distance from people that don’t live in your home, you are protecting them from infection, and from you getting the virus and carrying it to other unvaccinated people.

At this time (4/5/2021), none of the vaccines are approved for children under 16. Those trials are underway but are not fully approved yet. Wearing your mask will continue to protect children and other unvaccinated individuals.

Myth #4 – The vaccine causes infertility in women.

Fact – None of the available COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. This myth happened because a false social media report (*read more on this at the end) was shared saying that the spike protein on the coronavirus was the same as another spike protein that is involved in placenta growth and attachment during pregnancy.

The spike protein in the coronavirus is what allows it to enter the cell and replicate. The vaccine targets this spike protein.

The false report said the COVID vaccine would target the protein in a woman’s body that helps with healthy placenta growth and harm her fertility. The COVID vaccine ONLY targets the specific spike protein of the coronavirus because it is completely different. The vaccine won’t interact with a woman’s fertility or fertility treatments. More information from Johns Hopkins Medicine on this topic is available here.

Myth #5 – The COVID vaccine gives you COVID.

Fact – The COVID vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology and do not use any form of any virus. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses what is called a viral vector to carry the information to our body. This vector is a harmless version of a different virus. None of the vaccines can give someone the virus because none of the vaccines contain any part of the virus. What all of the vaccines will do, though, is tell our healthy cells how to respond to COVID-19.

Any side effects from getting the vaccine, like arm pain where you received the shot, a fever, body aches, chills, or a headache are actually a good thing! We know they aren’t fun, but they are temporary and show that your body is responding to the vaccine and building protection. Many people don’t experience any side effects.

Myth #6 – The mRNA technology is new and changes your DNA.

Fact — The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology to give instructions to our bodies on how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19. The mRNA does enter the cell, but does NOT enter the part of the cell that contains our DNA, so it cannot change our DNA.

This mRNA technology is not new to science or medicine; it has been used and studied for almost 20 years. The COVID-19 vaccine is the first time, though, mRNA is being used in a vaccine. Scientists were able to create the vaccines happened faster than if scientists were using a new technology because of past experience and studies.

NOAH’s own Dr. Bell shares a helpful and easy-to-understand information about COVID-19 and the vaccine in this brief YouTube video.

So much has happened around COVID-19 in just one year. Ensuring our patients and community understand how to stay safe and healthy is important. Your NOAH provider can answer any questions you have about COVID, the vaccine, or any other health and wellness concerns. Check out the NOAH COVID-19 page on our website for additional information.

*Social media allows us to stay connected and to share helpful, fun, and important information with people in our lives. However, the prevalence of misinformation shared across social media platforms can cause real and harmful outcomes. At NOAH, we only share our NOAH provider’s (doctors, physician assistants, nutritionists, counselors, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, dentists, etc.) expert insight and knowledge, or trusted third-party sources of information. We will never share questionable information, rumors, or unverified medical insights in our blogs or on our social media platforms.  

Patients 18+ Can Get COVID Vaccine at NOAH

New age groups eligible for vaccine

Starting Wednesday, March 24, NOAH patients who are 18 and older can schedule to get the COVID vaccine.

NOAH is currently administering the Moderna COVID vaccine which has emergency use authorization for individuals who are 18 and older at several NOAH locations:

  • Venado Health Center
  • Palomino Health Center
  • Desert Mission Health Center
  • Copperwood Health Center

To schedule your appointment, complete the form below, or call 480-882-4545. There are drive-thru, drive-up, and in-clinic appointments available at different clinics on different days. You can request the location that works best for you.

After you submit the request form, a NOAH representative will call you to discuss available days and times for your appointment, and whether it is a drive-thru, drive-up, or in-clinic appointment.

Here are a few tips to get ready for your vaccine appointment, including what to bring with you and the process of getting the vaccine.

Get Ready for the COVID Vaccine.

As other age groups, like 16 and older, are available, NOAH will update the information and communicate with patients. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for individuals 16 and older, the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are only approved for 18 and older. For more information about that, visit this Maricopa County Eligibility and Prioritization page.

To learn more about the COVID-19 and the COVID vaccine, read our Ask the Expert article or visit our Coronavirus page to updates about signs and symptoms, testing, updated prevention tips, and vaccine information.

NOAH offers comprehensive, integrated healthcare for all individuals. At the nine different locations, NOAH provides services including pediatrics, dental, behavioral health, internal medicine, prenatal, family medicine, community resources, nutrition services, and more. To learn more about other services, visit our Services page.

Ask the Expert: COVID-19 Vaccine

Alicia Ottmann, MMS, PA-C | Director of Advanced Practice

COVID-19 has been part of our lives for almost a year. With the welcome news of a vaccine, there is a lot of information to understand. That’s why NOAH’s expert, Alicia Ottmann, NOAH’s Director of Advanced Practice, answered some of the most popular COVID-19 vaccine questions.

When will the vaccine be available?

There are a few different versions of the COVID-19 vaccine, all in different phases of development or use. Currently (as of Dec. 22), the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines have both received emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are starting to be distributed and administered to people who need it.

The federal and state governments have categorized groups of individuals who will receive the vaccine first, these people are the highest risk for contracting the virus or developing complications as a result of infection. Examples of those who will be vaccinated first include healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents.

The next group will include people who are at increased risk of getting severely ill or who are more likely to be hospitalized if they contract COVID-19, this includes the elderly and essential workers such as bus drivers, teachers and grocery store workers. After that, the people that the CDC identifies as needing to take extra precautions – those who are undergoing cancer treatment, living with a chronic disease, etc. – will likely be next. The priority categories are similar from state to state, but subcategories and the rate at which they move from phase to phase may have some differences depending on where people live.

Vaccinating millions of people can take time, so for those individuals in the general population, who do not get vaccinated as part of the first priority groups, vaccines will likely not become available until spring of 2021 or beyond.

Can I get vaccinated at NOAH?

NOAH doesn’t have the vaccine yet. The vaccines have arrived in Arizona but are not available for us to order just yet. We are planning on offering multiple easy ways to get vaccinated, which might include drive-up appointments or drive-through events so patients can avoid coming into the clinic.

Keep checking the NOAH COVID page for updates about the vaccine, testing and other COVID news in Maricopa County.

How will I know when the vaccine is available for me?

If you are in one of the categories that will get vaccinated first – healthcare worker, frontline employee – then you will be contacted by whatever entity has been tasked with serving your employer. For example, healthcare workers, teachers, EMS, etc., all get assigned to geographic groups. The organization in charge of that group will be responsible for scheduling all of those who are interested in getting vaccinated.

People who are high-risk or who qualify because of their age will likely be assigned to one of these geographic groups, or will be provided with vaccination sites that they can go to (the details are still being worked out).

How do register for the vaccine?

If you qualify to get the vaccine because of your job, your employer will send your information to the responsible organization and they will contact you when it is time to schedule. The health department is working on the process for the remainder of the priority groups (1b, 1c etc.).

Different zip codes have different groups, or pods, that manage that information. For example, if you work in healthcare in Mesa, you will have a specific site where you will get vaccinated.

After the highest risk individuals are vaccinated, the general public will likely be able to get the shot at primary care offices or specific pharmacies.

Will we have to take it every year like the flu shot?

At this time we are unsure. We have recently seen some changes in the virus, similar to what happens with different strains of the flu year to year. At this time the vaccine is still effective, but scientists are learning more about COVID-19 all the time.

Is the vaccine going to work?

The COVID-19 vaccines currently available do not use a live, weakened virus, unlike many of the other vaccines we are familiar with. Both vaccines currently available are about 95% effective. This means that after someone gets both doses, they will develop an immune response that will fight off the virus the majority of the time.

However, we need around 70-80% of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity which will allow us to recover from the pandemic and the strain that it has placed on our systems. Herd immunity helps to protect our entire community, especially those who cannot get vaccinated. It’s also worth noting that right now, the vaccines aren’t authorized for children.

Will it be effective if children can’t get the vaccine?

The reason we are not able to vaccine children under 16 years old is because not enough studies have looked at the safety and effectiveness in children. Those studies are currently underway, and it is a rigorous process. Since we know it is safe for adults, we have now started looking at children, pregnant women and other populations with the hope of expanding the number of people who are candidates. It will just take more time for it to be authorized for widespread use.

What will the vaccine cost? What if I don’t have insurance?

There is no cost for the vaccine. If you have insurance, it will be billed to your insurance company, but you will not be responsible for any portion. If you don’t have insurance, there will be no cost to you as it will be covered by federal funds.

What if I get one dose and miss my appointment to get the second?

Unfortunately, if you miss the window for taking the second dose, you may have to start the vaccine process over. The effectiveness of the vaccine hinges on getting it at the right time, the studies have not looked at huge differences in timing and thus we are unsure about whether you would need to start over, or if you could get the second dose outside of the recommended window of time.

Also, it is important for you to get your second dose from the same vaccine manufacturer. If the first dose is the Pfizer COVID vaccine, then the second dose also has to be Pfizer. No switching or mixing allowed.

Will this vaccine alter my DNA because it uses mRNA?

No, it won’t alter your DNA as it never enters the nucleus of the cell. The science used for the mRNA COVID vaccines has been used safely for other medical purposes for over a decade, but COVID-19 is the first time the science has been used in widely distributed vaccines. The way it works is, instead of giving our bodies a weakened virus or portion of a pathogen to trigger our immune system to make antibodies like typical vaccines, the mRNA process is giving our body the “recipe” to make the proteins which trigger an immune response (antibodies).

And, the good news is that the process to manufacture the vaccines is faster and looks to be highly effective, maybe more effective than traditional vaccine methods!

Check back with NOAH for more updates about COVID testing and vaccines and your other healthcare needs.