Monday, January 25, 2021

Navigating the COVID-19 Vaccine Process

The COVID-19 vaccine is now becoming available to others outside the healthcare industry, but it can seem like a dangling carrot with no real access. So how can you navigate the COVID-19 vaccine process? It won't be available from you primary care provider (PCP) because of the strict cold storage requirements. But some large healthcare organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, CVS, and Walgreens are able to safely store and provide it. Sites such as Disneyland or sports stadiums are allowing use of their parking lots for drive-up inoculations.

COVID Vaccine

Find Information Online

The best possible means of getting truthful and transparent information is through your county public health department. Trying to reach them by phone may be almost impossible, so you will likely need to access them online and it may be a slow process because literally millions are trying to access as well. Be patient but persistent!!  You may need a family member or friend to do this for you. Your local Senior Center also may be able to assist you.

A Google search for your specific county health dept. would look like: XXX county public health department. And then search for COVID-19 vaccine information. It might be front and center. Or you may need to start with your state health department website. Go directly to the government websites and please don't fall for any scams!!!!!  DO NOT pay anyone to help you access a vaccine! You can sign up to receive emails with updated information.

FREE Vaccine

The vaccine is free of charge, and you should NOT be asked for insurance information. Vaccines are provided on an APPOINTMENT ONLY basis. Don't just show up!

Some counties or vaccine sites are charging a fee to administer the vaccine and charging your insurance for this fee. This is questionable as to whether it should be allowed. But you might have to provide your insurance info or pay a small fee - be prepared. Hopefully this is not the case in your county. 

Why Delays?

There is a shortage of vaccine in many areas. The health department or other providers will only take appointments that they can fulfill. This is why it may appear that there are no appointments. Keep checking daily. More vaccine arrives each week and appointments will open up. You can also sign up for updates or alerts to notify you of available appointments. Understand that this process is under construction and evolving as quickly as possible to be efficient and get everyone vaccinated. It was not a well though out plan and in many cases dumped on the local health departments just a couple of weeks ago with little to no notice!

President Biden will also enact the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of the vaccine to meet the need for all Americans needing/wanting the vaccine. 

Is it Safe & Effective?

Multiple pharmaceutical companies and independent research agencies have been focused on corona viruses for years. The common cold is caused by a corona virus and for YEARS researchers have been trying to cure the common cold.

nurse with COVID vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is not like your typical vaccine. It does NOT contain COVID-19 virus!!! It will NOT give you COVID!! It's basically an immunity booster. It contains a protein that hates COVID and will kill it off if your body becomes infected. 

You will need two doses to become 95% protected. The second dose is given 21-28 days after the first dose depending on the manufacturer. When you receive your first dose you'll be notified how and when to get your second dose. Register for any website they tell you to follow. Some will make daily check ups for the first week.

Getting Your Vaccine

Once you have your appointment, arrive on time and allow yourself time to get into line. This will vary depending on your own habits. Running late will possibly lose you your appointment so be prepared to arrive early. Your appointment time will likely have a group of people assigned the same time and you'll be ushered to check in and then wait in another line, or possible be seated. Pharmacies and clinics offering the vaccine may have fewer people at each appointment to avoid crowding issues.

Once you receive your vaccine, you'll be directed to a waiting area to sit for at least 15 minutes to ensure you have no adverse reaction. You'll be dismissed once they are sure you're OK. You will receive a card with your vaccine information including the manufacturer (i.e. Pfizer or Moderna), lot number, date, dose, and person administering the vaccine. KEEP this card and take with you for your second vaccine. And the next time you see your PCP, take the card with you so they can enter it into your medical records. Keep this card with your important papers. If the entire process is efficient, it will take about an hour.  Watch your local news and newspapers for information to glean how well the process is running in your area and what glitches to expect.

Be Prepared to WAIT

The important factor is to be prepared to wait! Some sites may not be amenable to wheelchairs and you'll likely have to do a lot of standing.  Take weather in to account when going to your appointment. Dress accordingly. And be sure to wear clothing you can easily expose your upper arm in as there likely will not be privacy to undress.  Drive through locations may be preferred for the elderly.

What to Expect After the Vaccine

The main side effects include pain or itching at the injection site. This varies with the recipient and the administrator. Tylenol and warm compresses can alleviate discomfort. If it worsens or lingers, consult your PCP.

Of course, any major reactions should be reported and immediate emergency medical care sought  such as trouble breathing or sense of your throat closing up.  These are rare, but should not be ignored. 

Some are reporting more symptoms after the 2nd injection such as body aches and fatigue in addition to pain or itching at the injection site. It's suggested that you limit or avoid other activities on the day of and at least 1 day after the vaccine in case you do experience mild reactions. 

Continue to Protect Yourself

Continue to wear a mask, socially distance, wash you hands frequently and avoid any crowds or exposure. It will take 2-3 weeks to completely build your immunity. The vaccine will REDUCE your chances of infection, but not 100% protect you. It's important to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible to reduce the spread of the virus, lower infection rates, and prevent massive numbers of deaths. 

As with any virus, there are and will be mutations, and it will continue to mutate. The vaccine is thought to be effective against the new strains known to be present, but the effectiveness may be reduce. This should not deter you from getting the vaccine. As with any medical treatments or procedures, ALWAYS check with your PCP for recommendations and instructions. 

It is also important to stop the spread of false and misleading information. Please fact check your sources! 

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