Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Written by Tanya Terry
Questions are being asked in large numbers by many Americans, including those within the local African American community, about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some community members just want to be reassured the vaccine doesn’t cause more harm than good for themselves or their loved ones.
But as of Friday Feb 19 about 1,000 vaccine doses had been given at all the Hamilton Community Health Network clinics, and about half those vaccine doses were given to African American patients, according to Stacy Sawyer, director of communications and marketing for Hamilton Community Health Network. Hamilton had received 500 vaccine doses a week for last two weeks from the state. Eligible Hamilton patients are being contacted about being vaccinated based on the categories approved by the state. Groups 1a and 1b can currently get the vaccine, and those 65 and older have been extended the opportunity along with those 75 and older. In addition, healthcare workers, long term care residents and staff, frontline responders, correction staff and school and child care staff are also eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Our patient base is 50/50 African Americans and white,” Sawyer said. “So the vaccine is pretty much a 50/50. What we are doing is educating our patients right now because we have such few vaccines. We’re letting them know we have it, it’s available and we’re encouraging them to come in and get it.”
The North Pointe Clinic, located at 5710 Clio Road, serves north Flint residents. There are five other Hamilton health clinics located throughout the Genesee County area, as well as a dental clinic.
Hamilton is focusing on vaccinating their patients rather than the general public because of the smaller number of doses that have been available.
“The state has been telling us what to do,” Sawyer said. “We have not set a goal because we don’t know the number of vaccines we’re going to have. The state of Michigan wants 70% of Michiganders vaccinated.”
That goal applies to residents over age 16, equates to about 5.6 million people and is intended to be met by the end of 2021, according to Michigan.gov.
“We are helping to reach that goal.”
Sawyer and other Hamilton staff members have been vaccinated. Sawyer said she had no side effects from either of the two doses, although she said her arm hurt after the first shot.
“Because you have antibodies I your system already, introducing more (with the second shot) can sometimes cause a reaction. But, for a number of staff here that have received the vaccine and both vaccines-we didn’t have reactions. I think what people need to be aware of is, yes, you can have a reaction, and it’s just your body reacting to the medication. You cannot get COVID from the vaccine.”
Hamilton Community Health Network has received the Moderna vaccine all along, and Sawyer believes they will continue to receive it. Moderna is 94.1% effective and doses are taken 28 days apart.
On the other hand, the Pfizer’s vaccine is 95% effective after two doses, and the two dose series separated by 21 days.
“I think what people need to realize is the vaccine prevents you from getting COVID, but you can still carry COVID and give it to someone else. So, you still have to wear a mask. You still have to protect others until everybody gets vaccinated and we have herd immunity.”
Sawyer said out all our medication goes through the same safety standards that the COVID vaccine has gone through.
“Every medication we take, whether it is Tylenol or blood pressure medication, is all going through the same safety standards. At one point in time, Tylenol was brand new. People really know then what it was, but they trusted it because it did go through these standards. So, I think it is important to understand, that if we are trusting our other medications, why not trust this vaccine?”
Pain at the injection site was the most frequent and severe reported solicited local reaction among vaccine recipients, according to cdc.gov. After dose one, the younger age group (aged 18 to 64 years) reported pain more frequently than the older, 65 and over age group (86.9% vs 74.0%); a similar pattern was observed after dose two (90.1% vs 83.4%).
For more information about possible reactions to the Moderna vaccine, visit https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/moderna/reactogenicity.html.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Researchexternal icon (CBER) is responsible for regulating vaccines in the United States.
According to the CDC’s website, the sponsor of a new vaccine product follows a multi-step approval process, which typically includes: an investigational new drug application, pre-licensure vaccine clinical trials, a Biologics License Application (BLA), inspection of the manufacturing facility, presentation of findings to FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committeeexternal icon (VRBPAC) and usability testing of product labeling.
After approving a vaccine, FDA continues to oversee its production to ensure continuing safe.
For the week of Feb. 22, vaccinations were being offered at the Hamilton Main Clinic Monday, at the Clio Clinic Tuesday, Northpointe Wednesday and the main clinic again on Thursday. No vaccinations were available on Friday Feb. 26 as of Friday, Feb. 19. However, on Friday Feb. 19 vaccinations were being done at the Burton clinic. At the time Feb. 19, Sawyer indicated there were only 180 vaccines available for the week of Feb. 22-a huge difference from 500. However, she said this amount could change.
Sawyer encourages anyone who is hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine to do research with a credible organization.
“Don’t necessarily pay attention to what your friends are posting on Facebook, but actually go to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ website. Go to the CDC website, and do some of your own research. Everyone needs to decide what is best for them.”
V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the cdc website. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. V-safe will also remind you to get your second COVID-19 vaccine dose if you need one.
For details on V-safe, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html.