Vaccines are new tools in the COVID-19 fight

Vaccines

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has united people across our nation. Within a few months, life as we knew it changed. Yet, so many people have shown resilience and consideration as they adjusted to new information and health precautions to protect themselves and others from the threat. Frontline healthcare workers, like those at Capitol Hill Healthcare, selflessly took up the challenge of caring for and providing comfort to our residents during unprecedented times.

A new resource will soon be available nationwide to help slow the pandemic’s spread and protect the most vulnerable of our citizens. Long-term healthcare residents and workers will have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free.

As part of Capitol Hill’s commitment to caring for our residents and protecting our staff, we support the effort to get the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home facilities. We join the Alabama Nursing Home Association and the Alabama Department of Public Health in recognizing that vaccination is an important tool to prevent COVID-19’s spread in American healthcare facilities and communities.

Benefits of vaccination

Vaccination protects the recipient and others. To survive and spread, viruses like COVID-19 need a host such as a person or animal. Once the virus enters, the host’s immune system kicks into action and special white blood cells create proteins called antibodies to fight off the infection. Vaccines create an immune system response without having to experience infection and potential illness. Although research is ongoing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccination may also decrease the severity of the infection and the ability of people to spread the virus.

A COVID-19 infection can be serious and life-threatening and there is no way to know exactly how it will affect a person. Additionally, if or how long a person may be immune to the virus after recovering is unknown.

Vaccination does not mean health precautions like wearing face masks are no longer needed. However, vaccination combined with these measures cuts off opportunities for COVID-19 to find a host where it can thrive and have a way to spread to others.

Authorized for use

The COVID-19 vaccine currently being distributed across the nation is one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. At a later date, vaccines developed by Moderna and other companies may also become available.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has met the safety requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization. To be granted this authorization the FDA must determine that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine. Additionally, specific success and research criteria must be met followed by FDA evaluation of the quality and consistency of the vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been proven safe and effective in multiple trials, including among participants of all ethnicities. Thus far, nearly 44,000 people in the clinical study have received the vaccine and no serious safety concerns were reported. According to Pfizer, the most severe side effects reported were fatigue (3.8 percent of participants) and headache (2 percent).

How does it work?

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in America do not use the live virus and cannot infect a person. Pfizer and BioNTech have developed an mRNA vaccine. It uses genetic material from COVID-19 that is similar to DNA called messenger RNA to trigger the body’s immune system to respond.

This material instructs the body’s cells on how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After the cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. The body recognizes that the protein should not be there and creates defensive white blood cells that will remember how to fight the virus if a future infection occurs. Messenger RNA cannot alter or interact with the body’s DNA, according to the CDC. It does not enter the part of the cells where genetic material is stored.

COVID-19 vaccine in Alabama

The initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived Dec. 15 at selected Alabama hospitals; however, statewide distribution is planned for the future. The vaccine is recommended for people 16 and older. It is injected into a muscle, such as the upper arm, and given in two doses. The second dose is given 21 days after the first dose, providing protection from COVID-19 within 28 days of the initial vaccination. The CDC recommends vaccine recipients who have both doses still practice social distancing, wear a face mask and wash their hands often.

We all have an important part to play in hindering COVID-19’s impact on our state and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. Capitol Hill encourages everyone to learn more about vaccination and to educate themselves about the available vaccine from credible, evidence-based resources. More information about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the distribution plan can found on the CDC, Alabama Nursing Home Association and Alabama Department of Public Health websites.

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