COVID Vaccine, Our Best Safeguard
The only way to prevent vulnerable populations from continuing to suffer disproportionately from COVID is to follow safety guidelines and embrace the vaccines.
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On January 20th, 2020, the first case of coronavirus in the United States was diagnosed in the state of Washington. Since then, we have experienced a health crisis unlike any our generation has seen. During the last few weeks, we have begun to feel the second surge sweeping over us. Intensive care units and medicine wards across the country are swelling again with COVID-19. Despite this dark winter, we find some solace in knowing reinforcements are imminent in the form of vaccination.
The Pfizer vaccine was approved for emergency use, and the Moderna vaccine approval is right behind it. Last week marked a historic moment as vaccines were distributed across the nation—starting the long effort to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.
Being a frontline worker, I was fortunate to receive a vaccine on Wednesday, December 16th. As a young Latin American physician, I know that I have privileges that others who look like me are not afforded. It pains me to see how this pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and Brown people. I write this article to motivate those of color to trust science and medicine and accept vaccination when it comes your way. I’ve seen what COVID-19 can do, and the vaccine is our best safeguard against the disease.
I understand that there is widespread apprehension over this new vaccine, and I hope to assure you that it is both safe and effective. I can think of no better way than to share questions I was asked recently by an elderly patient of mine from North Philadelphia. This patient wanted to know how the vaccine works if it’s possible to catch COVID from the shot, and what the side effects are from the vaccine.
First, it’s important to understand that you cannot catch COVID from the shot. The vaccine just gives your body instructions to fight the virus. More familiar vaccines like the flu shot work by introducing a harmless piece of a virus to the body, which then helps your immune system protect you from that virus in the future. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines introduce the instructions (called mRNA) into your body to tell your immune system how to defend itself against COVID.
Second, the most common side effects seen in the Pfizer vaccine trial were pain at the injection site, headache, and fatigue. In my own experience, I had some mild pain in my arm, but otherwise, felt fine afterward.
Last but definitely not least, it is important to remember that a mask is still necessary. The vaccine requires two doses over three weeks to reach maximum immunity. Even after both doses, I will remain masked. We all need to continue to wear masks and social distance until everyone is vaccinated.
The only way to prevent vulnerable populations from continuing to suffer disproportionately from COVID is to follow safety guidelines and embrace the vaccines. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves, trust the science, and bring an end to this pandemic.