April 23, 2021

The COVID-19 Vaccine: Your Questions Answered and Why It’s Critical to Roll Up Your Sleeve

Michele Pilon

Michele Pilon

By Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC

There have been many low points that our country has faced since COVID-19 arrived in the United States last year, from the early days of the pandemic when we didn’t understand much about the virus, how it was spread, or its effects, to the tragedy of more than 560,000 dead in this country alone.

In an amazing scientific feat, vaccine options opened up to us in just a year’s time: Moderna and Pfizer. There has been reticence among some who are worried about the COVID vaccines’ safety, and it’s perfectly normal to have questions. Some people worry about how quickly the vaccine was developed, and wonder if its safety is impacted by that. Rest assured that though the vaccine options were fast-tracked because of the urgency of this national health crisis, safe testing and proper science were not compromised in their development. The vaccines being administered have obtained emergency use authorization (EUA) from the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) as well. Adverse reactions to the vaccines are constantly being monitored.

The federal government sends vaccines to every state, and then they’re distributed to health systems, hospitals, and federally qualified health centers (FQHC). It is critical that vaccine isn’t wasted, and any facility accepting vaccines has to prove that they have the capability to store it in freezers that keep it very cold, so it stays viable and usable.

Since December, we focused on offering vaccines to our employees and medical associates. As we have received vaccine shipments, we have shared doses with Transylvania Public Health, and are so happy to be collaborating with them in this way. They have been holding public vaccination drive-through clinics in Brevard. Call them at 828-884-4007 for information or visit their website to sign up for appointment alerts. Vaccines are also available at federally qualified health centers (FQHC). Transylvania County’s is the Blue Ridge Community Health Center.

There is no charge for getting your vaccination, and though there had been a tier system in place where people were prioritized by age, underlying health conditions, and other factors, as of Wednesday, April 7, every North Carolina resident age 16 and older is eligible for the vaccine.

Initially, much of the vaccine supply was allocated to larger cities in the middle of the state, but the distribution equity issue has been righted and western North Carolina now has plenty of vaccines.

I also frequently hear concerns about possible side effects from the vaccine. You’ve probably heard by now that for many, the Pfizer and Moderna have minimal side effects after you take the first dose except for arm pain at the injection site, but that achiness, fever, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms can occur after the second dose. These symptoms are actually good signs that prove the vaccine is doing its job, causing your immune system to respond to the COVID-19 virus and subsequently providing great preventive protection from getting sick with the virus, suffering severe complications and being hospitalized, and dying as a result of COVID. Conversely, if you don’t suffer any side effects, this does not mean that the vaccine is ineffective.

The differences in each vaccine’s efficacy are minimal, which is why providers are discouraging people from choosing to wait until they can receive a particular one. Both provide the same crucial protection from developing grave COVID symptoms, and lower your risk of being hospitalized to nearly zero.

For those concerned about a severe post-vaccine reaction, such instances have numbered less than 1 in 10,000 during the vaccine rollout, and after you get each injection, you’re observed by medical professionals for 15-30 minutes, depending on risk factors, and treated if necessary.

The word “unprecedented” has been used over the last year to refer to many challenges posed by the pandemic, but we’ve learned an amazing amount about the COVID-19 virus, how it behaves and spreads, and how we can curb its spread through frequent handwashing, waiting six feet apart, and wearing our masks — otherwise knowns as the 3 Ws. Following these protocols remains vitally important, even after you receive your vaccine.

Our community members have every right to have their vaccine-related questions answered so they can feel well-prepared before they receive it. I’m excited that we are now at a pivotal point: By taking the vaccine, you can help turn the tide of this devastating pandemic and bring us closer to the life we all remember. And don’t forget, you’re not just protecting yourself, you’re protecting your neighbors, co-workers, family, friends, and our entire community.

Transylvania Regional Hospital

Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital.

Transylvania Regional Hospital, a member of Mission Health, an operating division of HCA Healthcare, is a full-service community hospital serving Transylvania and the surrounding counties. Located in Brevard, North Carolina, the hospital offers 25 inpatient rooms and 10 transitional care unit rooms. Transylvania Regional Hospital offers comprehensive services representing a full spectrum of specialties. Transylvania Regional Hospital was recently named one of the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States.