Community • 25 Feb 2021
Integrative Insights | Q&A with an Expert | COVID-19 Questions Answered
I am very healthy and think I will be OK if I get the virus. Why should I get the vaccine?”
More than 100 million people have been infected with COVID-19, many of whom have been healthy. But even they have a sizeable risk of post-infection symptoms. People who have recovered from COVID-19 have experienced prolonged achiness, joint pain, brain fog, headaches and other debilitating problems.
When you’re talking about a pandemic and something as highly contagious as this virus, unfortunately being healthy doesn’t prevent you from unexpected effects of this virus nor does it prevent you from being contagious and passing it along to someone else. We all have both a personal and social responsibility to try to prevent the virus from spreading.
The COVID-19 vaccines can do that because they are incredibly effective. The two that are offered here in the United States are 95% effective against COVID-19. We couldn’t have created a better scenario. By mid-April, we anticipate that the vaccine will be widely available.
I am worried that the vaccine may worsen my autoimmune condition. What is my risk?
People with autoimmune conditions or cancer often have to take medications to suppress their immune system. In addition, other people may have conditions that directly affect the immune system. These individuals are also at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease, including hospitalization and even death. Therefore, they are among the most important groups that need to get vaccinated. Many national cancer and transplant societies have come out with strong recommendations that individuals with a weakened immune system should be vaccinated.
The concern about giving vaccines to this group is not one of safety, but rather that the vaccine may not achieve 95% protection for them. However, it could offer 90% or 80% or 70% protection. Remember. any level of added protection in someone who is highly susceptible to severe disease can be incredibly important.
What is the difference between getting the vaccine versus dealing with COVID-19 naturally as the population develops herd immunity?
It’s unfortunate but having COVID-19 does not generate solid or persistent immunity. In fact, the immune response is so variable and uncertain, everyone who has had COVID-19 should get the vaccine.
What we’ve seen over and over again with the millions of people who have been infected with COVID-19 is that they just don’t develop stable immunity. They are protected for two to three months. After that it is really variable.
The vaccine does produce very stable immunity against the virus in the vast majority of people because it hones your immune system to make the antibodies that are the most protective against infection. The vaccine’s second dose locks in that protection, so hopefully immunity lasts for at least a full year.
I am pregnant and am worried about the effects of the vaccine on my fetus. Is this vaccine safe in pregnant and breastfeeding women?
Pregnancy is a naturally immunosuppressed state so that the mother’s immune system doesn’t attack the baby. Because of this, people who are pregnant are more susceptible to serious COVID-19 infection. National obstetrics societies have recommended that all pregnant women should be offered the vaccine. [Add link: https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-advisory/articles/2020/12/vaccinating-pregnant-and-lactating-patients-against-covid-19]
These mRNA vaccines do not cross the placental barrier. The only thing that crosses over to the baby are the mother’s antibodies (through the placenta and in breast milk). This allows her antibodies to protect newborns for the first three months of life.
The best way to protect our children is through adult vaccination, because vaccines are not yet available to children.
I’m not ready to get the vaccine yet, I just feel more comfortable waiting. What do you say to that?
Currently, more than a million Americans a day are receiving one of two authorized COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. This continues to add to the data from the two large clinical trials, which vaccinated more than 35,000 participants, plus 44 million people already safely vaccinated in the United States. On top of that, more than 25 million people around the world have received these two vaccines. and the numbers continue to grow by the day. These millions of doses confirm that this is a very safe and effective vaccine.
In Orange County, we are still seeing more than 150 cases COVID-19 cases a day, and many deaths. Now is the time to get vaccinated.
More questions? Please review our COVID-19 vaccine FAQ: ucihealth.org/covid-19/covid-vaccine-faq