Gaston County started vaccinating health care workers in late December. As of Feb. 23, local providers have vaccinated about 10 percent of the county’s population. More than 15,000 people 65 years of age and older, the group most affected by COVID, have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Kenney said that currently, vaccinations have been prioritized for health care workers, long-term care residents and staffers and those older than 65. Feb. 24, vaccinations begin for group three, first opening up to teachers and child care workers. March 10, other essential workers become eligible if they must work in person and are part of one of eight essential sectors (critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety and transportation).
Next up is group four: adults at high risk of exposure or increased risk of severe illness. And then, vaccines will become available to everyone. Considering that supplies should continue to increase in the coming weeks, as well as the addition of new providers who can administer the vaccine, we expect vaccines to be available to anyone who wants one by this summer.
Kenney acknowledged that some people are hesitant about the vaccine and reluctant to be vaccinated.
“We know many of our citizens are ready and waiting for the vaccine, evidenced by the more than 25,000 calls to our local COVID-19 vaccine hotline on its first day of operation,” she said. “But many others are still wary of this new vaccine and the expedited process that led to its development in record time. There is a lot of misleading or outright false information out there about the vaccine, so it is important that everyone has a basic understanding of how it works and why scientists and health experts are confident in its safety.
“You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine,” she continued. “It doesn’t contain a live virus, so you cannot contract it from the vaccine. While it is common to have such temporary reactions as fatigue or fever, these symptoms fade quickly and are signs that your immune system is responding and therefore will be ready to help protect you from COVID if exposed.”
Kenney stressed that the vaccine does not affect your DNA. There has been some confusion, because both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use mRNA (or messenger ribonucleic acid; a molecule complementary to one of the DNA strands of a gene) to instruct your cells on how to make a protein that safely teaches you how to create antibodies that fight the real virus. Your body then naturally destroys the mRNA and gets rid of it. It does not stay in your body or alter any DNA.
“COVID vaccines are safe and effective,” said Kenney. “While the COVID-19 vaccine itself is new, the technology is not. Years of research and development of vaccines for similar viruses paved the way for the quick development of these new COVID vaccines. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been proven to prevent illness with no safety concerns during clinical trials in more than 70,000 people. Most importantly, they’re better than 95 percent effective.
“Vaccines protect you and your community,” she added. “The real beauty of vaccines is that they don’t just protect you personally; they help protect your family, your co-workers and your entire community. Even though there are many people who don’t have serious complications from the virus, we also know there are plenty of healthy, young people who have gotten very sick and that COVID is incredibly dangerous for older adults and those with compromised immune systems. When we get a COVID vaccination, we are protecting ourselves and those around us.”
It will take some time to determine how long COVID vaccinations provide protection from the virus and whether a booster shot is needed, as Kenney informed.
“In the meantime,” she said, “masks, social distancing and hand-washing will continue to be our friends. These practices will very likely become familiar strategies used in public settings to help us prevent the spread of both COVID and other seasonal illnesses as well.
“As vaccines become widely available,” she continued, “we are hopeful and optimistic that in the near future, getting your COVID vaccine will be just as easy as getting a flu shot. We also hope those currently on the fence about the vaccine will do their own research and speak with those they know who have gotten the vaccine to help ease their fears. A vaccinated community will finally help us create the herd immunity and community protection that will allow us to move back towards normality. And I know that’s what we all want.”
And Kenney added that those concerned will want to be sure to check out the following resources for vaccine information. For details on where to get your vaccine and eligibility, see the Website at www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov.
Sign up for our waitlist or get local information about vaccine clinics at www.gastonsaves.com/covid19vaccine. North Carolina’s COVID vaccine landing page is www.covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.
Track the number of vaccinations in Gaston County and North Carolina at www.covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations.
And contact the health department about a COVID vaccination at (704) 866-3170 or email@example.com.
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