Vaccines are the latest tool in the COVID-19 fight

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Long-term healthcare professionals have faced the challenge of caring for residents during a year of extraordinary circumstances. During months filled with more questions than answers, you adapted to new information and strategies to protect our most vulnerable population during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new resource will soon be available nationwide that is hoped to help you slow the spread of the virus in facilities and American communities.

Moderna and Pfizer- BioNTech have developed COVID-19 vaccines that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally granted emergency approval. As the number of infections continues to rise, tens of thousands of doses of the vaccines are currently being distributed across the nation. Long-term healthcare residents and workers will have the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free.

Benefits of vaccination

Vaccines can protect you and others. They help create an immune system response in our bodies without having to experience infection and potential illness. Although research is ongoing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccination may also decrease the severity of the infection and the ability of people to spread the virus.

An infection can be life-threatening to you and your residents. There is no way to know exactly how the virus will affect a person. Additionally, if or how long a person may be immune to the virus after recovering is unknown.

Vaccination does not mean precautions like wearing face masks are no longer needed. However, vaccination combined with these measures cuts off opportunities for COVID-19 to find a way to thrive and spread to others.

Authorized for use

To be granted emergency use authorization, the FDA must determine that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine. Additionally, specific success and research criteria must be met followed by FDA evaluation of the quality and consistency of the vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is recommended for people 16 and older. The vaccine has a reported efficacy of 95 percent for preventing COVID-19 infection. It has been proven safe and effective in multiple trials, including among participants of all ethnicities. Thus far, nearly 44,000 people in the clinical study have received the vaccine and no serious safety concerns were reported. According to Pfizer, the most severe side effects reported were fatigue (3.8 percent of participants) and headache (2 percent).

The Moderna vaccine is recommended for people 18 and older. The vaccine has a reported efficacy of 94.1 percent for preventing COVID-19 infection. It has also been proven safe and effective among participants of various ethnicities. In November, 30,000 people in the clinical study had received the vaccine and no serious safety concerns were reported. The most common side effects included fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint pain.

How do they work?

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in America do not use the live virus and cannot infect a person. Moderna and Pfizer- BioNTech have developed mRNA vaccines. They are created using genetic material from COVID-19 that is similar to DNA called messenger RNA to trigger the body’s immune system to respond.

This material instructs the body’s cells on how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After the cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. The body recognizes that the protein should not be there and creates defensive white blood cells that will remember how to fight the virus if a future infection occurs. Messenger RNA cannot alter or interact with the body’s DNA, according to the CDC. It does not enter the part of the cells where genetic material is stored.

Both vaccines are injected into a muscle, such as the upper arm, and given in two doses. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the second dose is given 21 days after the first dose. The Moderna doses are given a month apart. The CDC recommends vaccine recipients who have both doses still practice social distancing, wear a face mask and practice regular hand hygiene.

Stay informed

We all have an important part to play in hindering COVID-19’s impact on our nation and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. The Compliance Store encourages you to learn more about vaccination and to educate yourself about the available vaccines from credible, evidence-based resources. More information about the vaccines and the distribution plan can found on the CDC website. The Compliance Store also has resources such as vaccination policies and a vaccine consent form. For more information, go to