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COVID-19 Vaccine Questions? Dr. James Hildreth Provides Answers.

*Versión en español aquí

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, many of us have questions. At Rocketship, we believe it’s important to equip every member of our community with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision. Rocketship recently had the privilege of hosting Rocketship Nashville board member and nationally-recognized medical expert, Dr. James Hildreth, for an hour-long webinar on the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Hildreth is the President of Meharry Medical College, on the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee that approves all COVID-19 vaccines for use in the United States, and a newly announced member of President Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Featured regularly on national news for his expertise as well as his advocacy within Black communities, Dr. Hildreth presented some background on the vaccine development, vaccine effects, and answered questions from Rocketship staff.

We found this insightful, so we wanted to pass this information along to our wider community, so you have the information you need to make an informed decision when you’re eligible for the vaccine.

Important statistics to note:

• Even though COVID-19 only has infected 5% of the population, more than 25% of cases are in the United States. It is believed that for every one person who is diagnosed, three likely go undiagnosed.

• More than 500,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 as of February 25, 2021.

• People with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer are at a higher risk of severe illness and death due to COVID-19. Black and Latinx communities have higher rates of these chronic conditions and as a result, they have beared the burden of this disease. For instance, in Louisiana Black people were 5x more likely to pass away from COVID-19 than white people. Listen in at the 17-minute mark to hear more.

• 70-80% of the population must get vaccinated in order for herd immunity to be effective and stop the mass spread of COVID-19.

Answers to Common Questions:

How does the vaccine work?
Listen in here for a full breakdown of how the vaccines work.

What is in the vaccines?
There are five ingredients in the vaccine: modified mRNA encoding shape-constrained SARS-CoV2 spike protein, a mixture of charged and neutral lipids including cholesterol, inorganic buffer salts, sucrose, and water. Listen here for Dr. Hildreth’s breakdown of the ingredients. He also noted that there are no microchips, preservatives, heavy metals (mercury), cellular products, or animal products in the vaccine.

How can this vaccine be safe if it was developed so fast?
To quote Dr. Hildreth, it’s true this was created quickly. However, due to technology and the number of companies working on this, it took only two months to find the genome for the COVID-19, a process that usually takes two years. That alone helped expedite the process. For a more detailed explanation listen here.

Do the vaccines prevent you from getting sick from COVID-19 and infected by it?
Dr. Hildreth noted the vaccines prevent people from getting sick from COVID-19. However, he noted that scientists don’t currently know if it prevents infection. That means after getting vaccinated you could get infected with COVID-19 but not become sick by it. However, you may be able to pass it on to other people. That’s why it’s important to still wear a mask until scientists do additional research from their initial study of trial participants. Listen in here for his complete response.

Do we have clinical trial data from BIPOC communities?
There were Black and Latinx people who participated in the COVID-19 vaccine trials. Learn more here. 10 percent of participants were Black, 25-30 percent were Latinx, and 25-40% percent had underlying conditions. There were no members from the indigenous communities in the trials. There were also Black doctors and scientists involved at every step of the way including creating the vaccine, reviewing the data, and approving the vaccine. For more information on this, listen here.

Does the vaccine protect from variants? What’s the likelihood a booster will be necessary?
Dr. Hildreth said he did not think the boosters will be necessary at this time because so far they have seen the current vaccine builds immunity against current variants. Moderna and Pfizer are currently going back and changing the sequence so they match the variant in case they’re needed. In a worst-case scenario, there is a small population of people who may need a booster who were some of the first to get the vaccine. For a full understanding of variant strains, listen in here.

Will people be protected from COVID-19 variants with the current vaccines?
According to Dr. Hildreth, yes, however, companies are currently creating booster shots to build immunity against these. Dr. Hildreth noted it’s critical for as many people as possible to get vaccinated soon because the more time that goes on, the more chance there is that a more detrimental variant can emerge, which the vaccine may not work against. If that does occur, we could go back to ground zero. For more information on the variants, listen here.

Have there been allergic reactions to the vaccines?
Dr. Hildreth noted one in 4-6 million people will have a severe allergic reaction. Listen in here. He noted that no one has died of an allergic reaction. However, if you have a severe reaction to anything you should both bring your epi-pen or medications that normally treat your allergic reaction and get the vaccine where you can be treated by medical staff.

Should I wait to get a specific vaccine? Is there a difference between the current options?
From Dr. Hildreth’s perspective, the two vaccines currently available are indistinguishable. Some people have a stronger reaction than others to one vaccine versus the other. However, he noted these reactions are signs that your body is building immunity to fight the virus. Listen in here.

Has anyone died from the COVID-19 vaccine?
According to Dr. Hildreth, no one has died from the COVID-19 vaccines.

Will you have any symptoms of COVID-19 after getting the vaccine?
Dr. Hildreth noted that the vaccine does not contain COVID-19, so you cannot get symptoms of COVID-19 from this vaccine. So, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 after you’ve been vaccinated you may be sick with something else such as the flu or a cold. Learn more from Dr. Hildreth here.

If someone has had COVID-19 do they need to get vaccinated?
Dr. Hildreth said, yes because scientists don’t know for sure that getting COVID-19 makes you immune from getting it again because there have been cases where people have gotten COVID-19 multiple times. Learn more about this here. Listen in here.

If I had COVID-19, how long should I wait to get the COVID-19?
Dr. Hildreth says to wait at least several weeks up to 3 months after you’ve fully recovered to receive your vaccine to ensure your body takes the vaccine. The CDC recommends three months to ensure your body accepts the vaccine. Hear why here.

How safe is the vaccine for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding?
Dr. Hildreth said there were 27 women in the Pfizer study who became pregnant and he recommends those who are pregnant get vaccinated. Listen in here. You can read more information on this topic here.

What can you tell us about children getting vaccinated? When will that happen?
It’s likely that children won’t be getting the vaccine until later this year or early next year. To hear more about this, listen here.

Dr. Hildreth shared much more helpful information beyond these questions. While we tried to highlight the key points and questions you may have, we recommend you listen to the full webinar to hear everything for yourself. We hope this helps! Feel free to share this with any friends or family who have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Published on March 1, 2021

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