Around 200 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States, about 40 million in the UK, almost 82 million in Canada, and around 200,000 in the Philippines, as of 9:45 AM, April 13, 2021. Worldwide, close to 734 million vaccines have been administered. On this same date, there have been 137,464,817 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,962,554 deaths, globally, almost 32 million in the USA, with about 577,000 deaths, nearly 885,000 cases in the Philippines, with 15,286 deaths.
Are the vaccines safe, effective?
In spite of rare cases of complications, all the vaccines administered in the United States have been found to be effective and safe. The current concern about formation of blood clots in the veins in the brain (cerebro-venous sinus thrombosis) following receipt of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine involves six women (ages 18-48), out of the more than 9 million J&J vaccines administered worldwide. Studies and reviews are being taken as the FDA recommends pa pause in the use of J&J vaccine. In the USA, the incidence of “spontaneous” blood clot in the general population is between 300,000 to 600,000 a year.
Is the risk/benefit ratio worth it?
The risk posed by COVID-19 is obvious and scary, with almost 138 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 3 million deaths, worldwide, with millions losing a parent or both from this pandemic. The evidence so far shows the vaccines against this virus is safe and effective. Even considering the rare serious side-effects, the effectivity of the vaccines in general have protected almost a billion people around the globe. Indeed, it is worth getting the vaccines, with the risk/benefit ratio (how many died from the vaccines/how many died from COVID-19) tilts towards and favors vaccination. Those who have a history of severe allergies should consult an allergist/immunologist prior to getting the vaccine.
What are the side-effects?
Not all individuals will feel side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccines. Most common is pain, mild swelling, in the injection site. Others could have any of these: headache, tiredness, not feeling well, fever, chills, which could last for 2-4 days. If symptoms get worse or allergic reaction occurs, seek immediate medical attention. Allergies usually manifest a few minutes after the shot, the reason those given the vaccine are observed for about half an hour prior to discharge. If one already had the first does without incident, most likely, the second shot would also be uneventful. The common side-effects mean the body’s immune system has been activated (and nicely reacting) to form antibodies against the SARS-CoV2 virus or its various strains of COVID-19.
What is v-safe?
v-safe is a smartphone-based tool which uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins for people who received the COVID-9 vaccine. This enables individuals to report to the CDC about side effects and who might get a call from the CDC. v-safe will also remind people when to get their second dose.
When does protection start?
This is still not 100 percent certain. So far, clinical evidence shows the protection could be as early as two weeks. But since the protection for the full dose is about 95 percent, theoretically there is still 5 percent risk present. How long the immunity will last is still being studied. This is why the recommendation is to continue masking and distancing after getting the vaccines.
When is herd immunity coming?
In general, when about 70-80 percent of the population is vaccinated, herd immunity follows. With the almost 7.9 billion people in the world, around 5.93 billion will have to be vaccinated to achieve global herd immunity. In the USA, with a population of 332,535,608, we need about 249 million to receive the shots to expect herd immunity. It looks like the USA could reach this before the Fall of this year. Let’s all be patient and continue to be cautious and help realize our goal without causing any more delays.
What may I do after the shot?
Two weeks after the second dose of a 2-shot vaccine is considered a low-risk for fully vaccinated people to gather in a small group, mask and social distancing being then optional.
Can post-vax transmit the virus?
Yes, those who had been fully vaccinated can still get infected (albeit milder) and harbor the virus and spread it to those who have not been vaccinated, at home or in public. So, it is best for both the vaccinated people visiting non-vaccinated individuals (especially seniors and immune-compromised) to wear mask, do social distancing, and frequent hand-washing or sanitizing. The more closely and the longer people interact, the higher the risk of getting infected or spreading the virus.
What about a home mix?
When adults are vaccinated and the children are waiting for vaccination, it is best to still be cautious, especially when the adults are seniors, who are high risk for COVID-19, and children can bring the virus home and infect the elders, especially those not vaccinated. I lost two medical colleagues when they got the virus from their unvaccinated sons. One of the seniors already got the first does a week before. If the adults at home have medical issues, they and the children should mask-up, do social distancing, intensive hygiene, and making sure they have a good ventilation (even open windows) at home. It might be a weird and inconvenient situation but this could save the lives of your loved ones. Seniors with health problems have a very high mortality rate, almost a death sentence when infected with COVID-19.
Is shopping/dining allowed?
Vaccinated people should still wear a mask, do social distancing, frequent handwashing/sanitizing when in public, in restaurants or shopping malls, because they can still spread the virus and get infected themselves. With a small group (family/friends who are all vaccinated) dining in public, mask should be taken off only when eating, and do social distancing with strangers. Hand sanitizing is essential.
How about traveling?
Traveling (domestic or international) post vaccination could still pose some hazards (getting infected or spreading the virus). Here, below are the CDC guidelines: “Currently, the CDC says it is safe to travel within the US if you are fully vaccinated, although it is still possible to get or spread COVID-19. Also check local and state requirements at your destinations, including any need for COVID-19 tests or quarantine. Take standard precautions while traveling:
- Wear a well-fitted mask on public transport and in public places
- Avoid crowds and stay at least six feet away from anyone not traveling with you
- Wash your hands often (or use hand sanitizer).
- Follow state and local recommendations or requirements.
- Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. If you develop them, isolate and get tested.”
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com Email: email@example.com