The Latest on the Coronavirus Vaccine and What to Expect

The moment Philip and I learned we were eligible to receive the Coronavirus vaccination at Ochsner Health, we signed up. We were ecstatic! Our appointment was only 3 days away.  

We mentally blocked out the morning, expecting an arduous process. After all, in the two days prior, Ochsner administered the vaccine to more than 22,000 patients. And the day before our appointment, they received 56,000 phone calls requesting a vaccine. 

Our fears were unfounded; we found the process simple, efficient, and organized. The staff was upbeat and competent. Dose One was a breeze. It didn’t take much to convince us to get the vaccine. The numbers are staggering. As of this writing, more than 23 million Americans have contracted this virus and nearly 400,000 have died. In Louisiana, more than 350,000 have been infected and almost 8,000 have died. 

Safe and Effective 

“The first thing to know is that this vaccine is extraordinarily safe and effective,” says Dr. Joseph Dalovisio, infectious disease specialist at Ochsner. 

The two vaccines currently being administered under the Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA are about 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 illnesses. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, the second administered 2-4 weeks after initial dose. Maximum protection is achieved about one week after the second dose, although there is partial protection before that. Duration of protection is unknown, but more will be known as studies continue.  

Minimal Side Effects 

“Side effects are minimal, much like a flu vaccine. Some patients might experience some temporary soreness at the site of the injection, a fever or headache, fatigue or muscle ache, but in most cases a Tylenol or Advil will take care of any complaint.”

– Dr. Joseph Dalovisio

If side effects take place, they will appear within three days after the inoculation and last about a day. 

Because neither vaccine is made from a live virus, there is no way either can cause COVID-19. The Corona virus has spike-like structures on its surface called S-proteins. After vaccination, cells begin making the S- protein. The immune system then recognizes that the protein is foreign and begins building a protective response and antibodies. If a person has had COVID-19, they still need to be vaccinated; no data exists on how long natural immunities last.  

The speed of the vaccine’s development is attributed to sophisticated genetic sequencing of the COVID-19 genome and scientists’ willingness to share data quickly with the global scientific community. It also was fortunate that the vaccine trials did not show any deaths or significant adverse effects. 

Continue to Safely Distance 

Conquering this virus will take all tools available and those who have been vaccinated will still need to wear masks, stay socially distant, practice good hygiene, and stay home if sick. 

“There are no definitive answers as to how long these precautions will be needed. It really depends on how many are vaccinated. But we can expect to practice these behaviors until next fall, at least,” he says. 

For herd immunity to take place, up to 70-80% of the population will need to be vaccinated. “We hope that we reach that number,” says Dr. Dalovisio. “But your first responsibility is to protect yourself and your family and friends. By getting vaccinated, you do just that. It’s really all you can do.”  

Laura Claverie is a longtime New Orleans journalist and Nola Boomers executive editor. 

Laura Claverie is a longtime New Orleans journalist and Nola Boomers executive editor. 

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