ARH hosts online vaccine town hall

Healthcare professionals answer questions, address myths

ARH Regional Healthcare recently held a town hall presentation to help spread information about the COVID-19 vaccine as well as debunk many falsehoods about the vaccine that are prevalent among the general public.

Heather East was moderator of the presentation, kicking off the event by targeting a common misconception about the vaccine.

“This is our first piece of fiction: you can get COVID-19 from the vaccine,” East said. “Dr. (Maria) Braman, do you want to go through what the reality is?”

Dr. Braman stated it is not possible to contract the virus from the vaccine.

“The vaccine’s that are currently available are both mRNA vaccines, and they do not use the live virus,” Braman said. “The side effects should not be confused with getting the virus. You may have heard it reported that once you get the vaccine – that’s two doses – with the first dose, people tend to have mild symptoms. With the second dose, people are having a little bit stronger symptoms.”

Braman pointed out those symptoms may include soreness, headache, chills and possibly a fever.

“These are part of your immune response,” Braman said. “What the vaccine does is get your body’s immune response to be able to identify COVID and react to it.”

Braman said the side effects go away quickly, usually within one or two days.

Another myth addressed was that the vaccine alters DNA.

Dr. Fares Khater shed some light on the issue.

“The vaccine does not enter your DNA,” Khater said. “It has nothing to do with the DNA. It never enters the nucleus or genetic material.”

He explained the vaccine uses messenger RNA to stimulate an immune response. The vaccine itself is then destroyed by the body.

“Our body actually destroys the material injected within hours,” Khater said. “Up to 24 or 48 hours. Usually within one to two days the vaccine is not there anymore.”

Dr. Jeffery Akers responded to concerns that the vaccine has not been tested thoroughly.

“There were two large-scale trials, with about 74,000 people combined,” Akers said. “First thing is, both vaccines showed about 95 percent efficacy in keeping individuals from getting COVID, so that’s really exciting…that’s much, much higher than what we anticipate with the flu vaccine that folks get every year. The other side is the safety issue. We’ve heard a lot of reports about the adverse effects. The vaccines have been out for a number of weeks now, and we have seen adverse events with vaccines, but really not to any great extent that would give us a lot of concern.”

Akers mentioned that while the messenger RNA vaccines are new to the market, this is not new technology.

“There have been a number of vaccines studied that used messenger RNA, but these are the first two to come to market,” Akers said. “The technology is really not that new.”

Akers also mentioned VSAFE, which is a program that uses text messaging to allow the CDC to keep a check on individuals who have been vaccinated and allows them to advise the CDC immediately of any side effects they experience.

“It’s a really important product that we encourage all of our vaccine recipients to use,” Akers said. “The great thing is it also alerts the users of when their next dose is due…it’s a really important monitoring tool.”