Vax Facts: Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

Updated: Feb 23

Zoe McGhee

Managing Editor


Image courtesy of Freepik

As you’ve probably heard by now, there are currently two COVID-19 vaccines in use: The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both authorized for emergency use by the FDA.


This article is here to explain more about the vaccine and when and where you can get it.



Vaccine Basics


Both vaccines require two doses. The Pfizer-BioNTech shots are being given 21 days apart, and Moderna’s are given 28 days apart.


According to goodrx.com, when a vaccine requires two shots, the first shot helps your body recognize the virus and gets your immune system ready, while the second shot strengthens that immune response, making your body more prepared to fight infection.


The vaccines take two weeks to take effect, and prevent about 95% of people from developing symptoms.


Due to the emergency approval of said vaccines, there are still a lot of studies being conducted by the CDC to ensure effectiveness. Until we know more, it is still advised to those that have received the vaccine to continue to wear masks and social distance.


While there have been rumors of multiple severe side-effects, the side-effects that have been reported so far resemble that of a flu-shot: swelling and soreness.



Distribution


According to The Department of Texas Health and Human Services, Smith County has vaccinated 19,179 people with one dose and 6,648 people with both doses as of Feb. 4.


As of now, Texas states that the vaccine is only available for frontline workers and vulnerable populations. Despite these seemingly narrow parameters, the scope is actually quite wide. More information will be provided explaining if you yourself are eligible later on in the article.

Vaccine rollout is proving to be a bit chaotic as the CDC doesn’t currently know how many doses of the vaccine are available, and allocation is sort of all over the place.


“The doses are distributed based on a state allocation plan and a request plan,” Division Chief Medical Officer for UT Health East Texas, Dr. Tom Cummins said. “Initially we didn’t have any input in what we were able to ask for. We couldn't ask, we were just told ‘here’s what you’re getting.’”


However, there is a chart below from the Texas Department of Human Health Services that displays the doses so far that have been administered by organization type.



How and where to get the vaccine


There are currently two vaccine hubs in Smith County: NET Health and UT Health. Christus Health has also recently announced plans to become a hub as well.


Due to the high demand in doses, there are multiple waiting lists that will serve as the first step in getting the vaccine.


After signing up on one of the waiting lists, you will be contacted to schedule an appointment, as all vaccinations are strictly by appointment only. You will arrive on your scheduled appointment day, complete the necessary paperwork, receive the shot, and wait 15 minutes. You will then make the appointment for the second dose.


Unfortunately, vaccine recipients do not get a choice on which vaccine they will receive.


“Because we haven't been able to control what we get, we can’t control what we give to people,” Dr. Cummins said. “We can’t give them a choice.”


All waiting list links and other resources will be posted on the digital version of this article on patriottalon.com.


The Texas Department of Health Services also has a full list of Texas vaccine providers.

When to get the vaccine


There are multiple phases in which the vaccines are expected to be given, but the following phases are eligible currently: Phase 1A and Phase 1B.


Phase 1A are the frontline healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities, and Phase 1B are people over 65 or with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.


According to UT Health, the definition of “chronic medical condition” is being aged 65 or older or:

  • Age 18 and older AND have at least one chronic medical condition that puts you at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as but not limited to:

  • Cancer

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies

  • Solid organ transplantation

  • Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher)

  • Pregnancy

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus


Why you should consider getting it

There’s already a B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus circulating in the DFW area, and the CDC expects it to generate another large spike in cases in March. The best thing to do to ensure that you and your loved ones are staying safe is to get vaccinated, wear a mask, and socially distance yourselves.


“The only way to stop this is to develop immunity,” Dr. Cummins said. “The only way you can stop a widespread illness is about 70% or 80% of the population developing immunity, and then the virus runs out of places it can go and people it can make sick. If we want to return to a world of normalcy where thousands of people aren’t dying every day, the vaccine is the single best tool to do that.”


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