Vaccine watch: 16 and older are all eligible
Pfizer availability increases, near Mill Creek
Last updated 4/21/2021 at 10:01pm
Editor's Note: This is a pro-vaccine story that is regularly updated April 20 at 7 a.m. The writer had one of two Pfizer shots and it went well. Check back for updates. Bookmark, share with friends and family. Send COVID-19 vaccine questions here and I'll seek out an answer: [email protected]
The take-homes are these: a fourth wave is possible (https://bit.ly/3tz91mh) and the vaccination effort is going well. Growing data shows risk for the shots is mostly a risk of being tired for a while and having a sore arm. Vaccines are showing effectiveness for preventing COVID-19 infection, even against some variants. The CDC says current vaccines "should work" against variants: so get vaccinated, and keep being cautious.
Continue to mask up and wash up, as exhaustively advised since spring of 2020, but the vaccination effort so far is reassuring.
Round-up on this vaccination-era
• Variants are circulating, and are proving more infectious and some a bit more dangerous. The B.1.1.7 mutation of COVID-19 has a death rate that is 2% higher, said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District in a past JIC meeting.
Note: The Department of Health is monitoring variants and releasing a weekly report. No data on variants has redirected pandemic protocols, which is moderately good news.
• The majority of people "recover" from COVID-19 without hospitalization, but lingering illness impacts about two-thirds of positive and symptomatic cases, Spitters has said. Health officials worldwide are referring to that reaction to COVID-19 as "Long COVID" and they do not understand it yet. As such, all are advised to avoid COVID-infection through vaccination and preventative measures. Lingering illness can include breathing difficulty and lethargy, and that lingering effect has involved some children.
• Reinfection: Researchers still do not know why some people get sick again, once already recovered from COVID-19. That is also being studied.
• Vaccination slows the spread of COVID-19, reducing hospitalization, death, lingering illness, and the ripple effect all of this has had on mental health and the economy. Health officials advise vaccination even for those who are not high-risk, to help the community as a whole get to the 80% or more of herd-immunity. That is the level of immunity needed to assess risk, and consider a lift of restrictions.
• Teenagers 16 to 17 are cleared for Pfizer only, and it is available (as of April 21) at the newest mass vaccination site (https://bit.ly/3grCk6D) as well as some pharmacies and health care facilities. If scheduling for a 16- or 17-year-old, remember to ask if it's Pfizer. Studies are underway to free up Pfizer for those younger than 16.
The Golden Rule for COVID-vaccination is this: If you get an appointment, take it. If you get an appointment elsewhere, cancel the unneeded appointment(s).
Who is eligible now?
Simplified eligibility details were unveiled April 15, and now everyone older than 16 is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. People under the age of 16 are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna are available to all over 18 years of age. Both Pfizer and Moderna require two shots, spaced several weeks apart.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible people.
Late for the second dose?
Get the second dose anyway, even if you are having trouble accessing the second appointment within the recommended time-frame. Data shows that vaccination still works well, even if the second shot is not given at the ideal time.
Should I reschedule?
Scheduled for J&J? Up to you. Anyone, anywhere, can reschedule to another site to get a vaccination, but Snohomish County Emergency Management said it is reaching out to those scheduled at Angel of the Winds. Appointments were cancelled due to the J&J safety-review pause. However, people with those appointments can schedule elsewhere on their own, for another site and another type of vaccine. The goal for all is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Do I need to stay in my county?
No. Get vaccinated where you can get an appointment. Just keep in mind that for Pfizer or Moderna you'll need a second appointment, and a second trip.
What about the kids?
Studies are underway to free up emergency use vaccines for kids, younger than 16. Scientific American reported at the end of March that all three emergency use vaccines were conducting studies, in hopes of offering vaccination to kids under the age of 16.
What's the best way to schedule a shot?
The best way is the way that gets you a confirmed appointment. But here are the options:
• PrepMod.com, a website managed by the state Department of Health, is the go-to for scheduling. The site will still ask a number of questions around eligibility, but the only requirement now is to be older than 16. The process takes a few minutes. Keep going to the end, and it will either tell you there are no appointments available, or offer you options for times, at a specific site.
• Your doctor can give you a vaccination, if they have the supply.
• Pharmacies are getting supply from a separate federal program. QFC, Fred Meyer, Costco and other locations have vaccines, and require online scheduling.
• In Snohomish County, people who have trouble scheduling online or lack internet access can contact the health district's COVID-19 call center. It is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 425-339-5278. The county offers mobile vaccination for the vulnerable and underserved.
• Veteran's Affairs offers vaccines to veterans. More information is here: https://bit.ly/3vnRAGM.
Are the vaccines safe?
• Only J&J, a viral vector vaccine, is under review for a safety concern. The one-shot vaccine had safety concerns in six to seven people, according to various media reports. Health officials anticipate the vaccine will be deemed safe again after a safety review. The CDC says the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has scheduled a second emergency meeting to discuss J&J on April 23. The window of concern would be anyone who has had the J&J shot in the past three weeks and has symptoms associated with stroke: severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. Anyone with those symptoms within three weeks of a J&J vaccine should seek medical care.
Angel of the Winds in Everett was closed at The Beacon's last check-in with the Snohomish Health District.
• Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines. The risk-factor is for those who tend to have dangerous allergic reactions. Most common side effects are pain at the injection site, fatigue and headache. Not all people who get the vaccine report side effects.
• Safety data for approved, emergency-use vaccines in circulation now is weighted against the safety data for COVID-19. Unless a health care provider managing your care tells you to avoid a COVID-19 vaccine, medical advice says getting vaccinated is the best choice. If a medical professional advises you to avoid a vaccine, a second opinion from a licensed medical doctor is in your grasp: seek out that second opinion. Medical officials use a risk-benefit ratio for all medical decisions, and few treatments are without risk; save for meditation and positive thinking.
Will I need another shot after fully vaccinated?
Booster shots are possible but the data is new. Embrace the day, and follow the current medical advice.
Does it work?
For mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, The CDC reports 80% efficacy of preventing symptomatic COVID-19, 14 days after the first dose. After the second dose, data shows people are 90% less likely to get COVID-19. That data is from testing nearly 4,000 health care personnel, first responders and essential workers after they were vaccinated, per the CDC.
I am still afraid of getting a shot
Apprehension is common with new medical innovations but the current vaccination effort is based on a decade of science around mRNA vaccines. The specific vaccines are new, but mRNA studies are not. Trust the science, and talk to the scientists when you have doubts. Here are a few articles that may or may not ease your mind, but they are reliable information:
• Looking back: STAT News: https://bit.ly/3n3ugdC.
• Viewing now: CDC: https://bit.ly/3sAu7zz.
• Look ahead: Nature Research: https://go.nature.com/32pyvXs.
My employer won't free me up to go
If an employer is getting in the way of your ability to access vaccination, contact us: [email protected] to schedule a call.
What happens next?
Health officials expect to assess the need for restrictions after about 80% of the public is vaccinated. The hope is to lift them. That day is months out, so for now the advice is to get vaccinated and continue all precautions. Fully vaccinated people are cleared per the CDC to join unmasked with other fully vaccinated people, and that's an individual choice. Variants of COVID-19 are circulating and whether the current vaccines work against them is still not fully determined.