Community officials, including Palestine Mayor Steve Presley, Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston and Police Chief Mark Harcrow, kicked off the new year with COVID-19 vaccinations Monday, Jan. 4 as part of Phase 1B of the vaccination plan.

Healthcare workers are distributing the vaccine in accordance with prioritization guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government and our state health departments. Phase 1B includes people 75 years old or over and non-healthcare frontline essential workers.

“I have never had a shot feel so good,” said Presley. “The number of COVID cases in our county continue to rise. It will be a while before we’re through the worst of this virus but this is a turning point. It’s a dose of relief for the dedicated healthcare workers who have put themselves in harms way for others over the past 10 months. I hope we can get this vaccine spread far and wide soon. We have had too many patients die, and I’m tired of the stress of it all, but better times are near. Thanks to Palestine Regional Medical Center and all our healthcare workers that have treated so many cases here and saved so many lives. By working together, we can and will defeat this virus.”

Johnston said he was also happy to receive the vaccination.

“The feeling that I got was like the first warm spring day after a long cold winter,” he said. “ It gives you hope. That’s the feeling that I have today after receiving my first COVID-19 vaccine. I urge everyone to make an appointment to receive your vaccine. It was a very long, sad, frustrating year that we all went through. The best way to make certain that we don’t have another year just as bad is for everyone to participate. Please help yourself and your neighbor by signing up.”

Vaccine administration began with frontline healthcare workers.

The next phase, Phase 1C will include persons aged 65-74, persons aged 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers not in Phase 1B.

As soon as the vaccine becomes more broadly available, it will be available to all members of our community and you are encouraged to get vaccinated.

According to Palestine Regional Medical Center, “the United States vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is the top priority while federal partners work to make the COVID-19 vaccines.”

PRMC noted that despite what the name may suggest, “Operation Warp Speed” does not mean that manufacturers were able to skip steps or cut corners in the vaccine development process. Instead, after development of the vaccine, manufacturers took a secured risk and overlapped the study, manufacturing and distribution phases. The FDA committed to giving these vaccinations priority, not rushed, review at all phases of the studies, which helped speed up the overall process. Ongoing monitoring of vaccine effectiveness and side effect reports will continue to be evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and the manufacturers.

PRMC suggests that even after you get a COVID-19 vaccination, you should still wear a mask and continue to incorporate other proven methods of preventing COVID-19 which include hand hygiene and social distancing. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

PRMC reported that at this time, the vaccine is recommended even if you previously tested positive for COVID-19. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people who have had COVID-19 greater than 90 days ago should proceed with getting the vaccine. Due to limited vaccine supply, if you have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days, your likelihood of reinfection is low enough during this time period that you can wait to get the vaccine until you hit the 90-day mark after being sick.

PRMC said the vaccine is not a live vaccine, and it is not possible to contract COVID-19 from receiving it. Some people experience side effects from the vaccine, such as headache, muscle pain, or fever – but that does not mean you have COVID-19. It means your body is working to build the necessary immunity against the virus, which is a good thing.

The most common adverse reactions reported have been fatigue, headache, fever/chills and joint pain. This means your body is working to build the necessary immunity against the virus. You can read more in Pfizer’s FDA Briefing Document about the side effects reported among the vaccine study participants.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not indicated for children younger than 16 years old at this time.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals. It is important to note that the COVID-19 vaccines currently available have not been tested in pregnant women, so there is no safety data specific to use in pregnancy. Pregnant women should make an informed decision after discussing with their healthcare provider.

For both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, two doses are required. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be administered 21 days after the first dose. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine should be administered 28 days after the first dose. It is very important to note that the second dose must be from the same manufacturer as the first dose. Health officials suggest you get the second dose as soon as possible after the desired date has passed, as it is better to get the second dose late than not at all. You will still experience the same efficacy in the long run, although you may not see the full effect of the immunity until a few weeks after the second dose.

Similar to the flu vaccine, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection. As a general rule, the vaccine is considered effective about two weeks after the second dose, according to the manufacturers. There is evidence that the first dose will begin providing some immunity, but it is still very important to receive the second dose for optimal results.

There are some people who want to choose which brand of vaccination they receive. Health officials do not recommend waiting for a specific manufacturer. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have similar efficacy and potential side effects, and have shown decreased disease severity in the small numbers of study participants who contracted COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. Both manufacturers require two doses. It is important to remember that the second dose you receive must be from the same manufacturer.

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