Oklahomans are rolling up their sleeves by the thousands for COVID-19 vaccines. Although demand is outpacing supply, many remain uncertain about aspects of the shots. Experts at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation offer answers to five frequently asked questions about the vaccines.
—Ryan Stewart, OMRF
1. Which vaccine should I get?
"Whichever one is available to you", said OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott.
Pfizer and Moderna's vaccine, the only ones currently authorized in the U.S., are shown to be nearly 95% effective against COVID-19, after two doses.
"These are among the most effective vaccines ever created. Getting vaccinated is more important than which vaccine you receive," Prescott said.
2. Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines or vaccines in development in the U.S. contain live virus.
Prescott noted that the mild side effects associated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, such as fatigue, fever, and headache are part of the bodybuilding protection against the virus.
"It's unfortunate that the side effects experienced by some share some similarities with virus symptoms, but it's not the virus. It's a sign the vaccine is working," Prescott said.
3. Why are there two shots, and what if I don't get my second dose on time?
SAR-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is brand new to our bodies. That means your immune system needs an extra boost as it learns how to fight it, explained OMRF immunologist Dr. Eliza Chakravarty. According to Pfizer trial data, its vaccine nearly doubles in effectiveness after the second shot.
" The first dose teaches your body to recognize the virus," explained Chakravarty. " The second dose further instructs the immune system to remember the virus and make a stronger, more focused response if it sees it again."
Although Britain is adopting a wire gap between doses to get more first doses administered, data is not yet available on its impact. "Stay as close as you can to the schedule recommended by the CDC, but don't worry if you're a few days late," said Chakravarty.
4. If I've had COVID- 19, do I still need the vaccine?
The short answer is yes, said Chakravarty. "It's unknown how protective the natural antibodies to the virus will be or how long they will last, but we do know it is possible to get Covid-19 twice," she said.
Research at OMRF are investigating the body's immune response to the virus and how that response caries in different ethnic group. They're also studying whether the immune response is protective against future infections - or if it might worsen them.
5. Once I'm vaccinated, can I return to life as normal?
"Data from the trial shows it about two weeks from the time your second dose to achieve maximum immunity," said Prescott
And while the vaccine will prevent most people from becoming ill, scientists are still studying whether vaccinated people can spread the virus.
"for the time being, I will keep wearing my mask and practicing physical distancing until Dr. Fauci tells me it's safe," said Chakravarty. "We're already used to these practices; we just need to keep them up a little longer."
Ryan Stwerat is the media relations coordinator for Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation