Thoughts on the COVID-19 Vaccinations from Jennifer Heidmann, MD

Dr Heidmann receiving vaccine

Humboldt County’s first COVID-19 vaccinations have begun to be administered, and more vaccine is coming. Vaccinations will be distributed based on risk stratification, starting with front-line healthcare providers and elders living in congregate settings. Then the vaccine will be more widely distributed to the population at large.

Although the process to develop this vaccine was unusual in its speed, the appropriate scientific steps were taken to ensure safety and efficacy. Scientists from all over the world have worked together to help us move past this global pandemic.

The vaccine works by allowing the body to recognize COVID-19 and develop antibodies to it. Thus, if you are exposed to the virus, your body acts to fight it right away. This reduces the risk of significant infection and, if you still get the virus, it would be expected to be much less severe than without having received the vaccine.

The vaccines that have been developed cannot cause COVID-19. They can cause side-effects, such as a low-grade fever and a sore arm, in the 24 to 48 hours after it is administered. This is a sign of the immune system doing its work. About 10% to 20% of people in vaccine studies had these side-effects.

Once vaccinated, a second booster shot is required in the following 21 to 28 days (depending on the brand of vaccine). After this, you still need to wear a mask, physically distance yourself from those not within your “COVID pod” (i.e., those you live with), and wash your hands regularly.

Once a large enough proportion of people are vaccinated, we expect to see the COVID positivity rate decrease dramatically, at which time we can discuss loosening stay-at-home requirements.

Without the vaccine, there is no end to this pandemic in sight. If people get the vaccine, we will be able to move on with our lives.

Getting this vaccine serves your own health, protects your family and your neighbors, and speeds up our chances of getting to socialize and eat out and see live music concerts again.

Stay tuned to find out when you are eligible for the shot. And thank a scientist if you get a chance for their amazing efforts on behalf of all of us!

 Dr. Jennifer Heidmann is medical director of Redwood Coast PACE at Humboldt Senior Resource Center.