Bigfork Valley is following the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information related to the COVID-19 vaccine to keep our staff and community educated about its effectiveness and availability. We anticipate that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will be one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The FDA approved two vaccines in December 2019 for Emergency Use Authorization, one made by Moderna, and one by Pfizer. Neither of these vaccines uses live or weakened versions of the virus, and can not give you COVID-19. Bigfork Valley began administering vaccines to its frontline staff and senior services residents in accordance with the MDH priority matrix in late December 2020 and early January 2021. Vaccines are currently being distributed based on a phased approach to the individuals most in need, including healthcare workers, EMS workers, and residents of long-term care facilities.
We are hopeful that the distribution of the vaccine will mark a turning point in the pandemic. MDH has stated that having a safe and effective vaccine is the top priority and is committed to making vaccines available that meet that expectation.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update: January 15, 2021
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recently announced that health care providers may begin distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to broader populations. In an effort to administer doses to those that need the protection from COVID-19 most, we anticipate that the next phase will include patients 65 years of age and older and individuals with underlying health conditions.
Bigfork Valley is actively working in collaboration with Scenic Rivers Health Services (SRHS) in Bigfork to provide vaccinations to the next priority group. Scenic Rivers will reach out to their patients as they become eligible to receive the vaccine and we will update our website and social media as vaccinations become available to our pharmacy for distribution.
We ask for your patience as we receive guidance from our state health department regarding our vaccine allotment and priority structures. If you do not have a primary healthcare provider, we encourage you to establish care and urge patients to receive the vaccination as it becomes available.
If you have specific questions regarding the vaccine, please call 218-743-3177 and select option 5 to speak to the Pharmacy Director.
COVID-19 Vaccine Q & A
Prepared by Eric Scrivner, MD
This vaccine hasn’t been studied long enough. How do we know that there are no long-term effects?
We do know that there will be long term effects—like not dying from COVID. We know COVID kills some people and causes long-term breathing problems, neurological problems, and weakness in others. Nobody has a crystal ball and can say that there will be absolutely zero long-term effects from the vaccine, but I can say with certainty that COVID infections can cause long-term problems, and all available data on the available vaccines shows them to be very safe.
I’ve heard the ingredients in these vaccines are unsafe. Is this true?
No. They’re likely safer than what’s in Mountain Dew. And they’re definitely safer than what’s in cigarettes.
Will this vaccine cause infertility?
No. There is a popular false story circulating on social media about how this vaccine will cause infertility, and most of the false information that’s out there contains just enough scientific words to make it a little bit believable and prey on people’s anxiety. The vaccine uses the target of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins to generate an immune response, and there are also spike proteins on placental tissue. They have nothing to do with each other, other than sharing a name. The vaccine also won’t hurt your dog if he is named “Spike” just because it shares a name with a protein, but the infertility propaganda “logic” is using the same argument.
Does the vaccine use aborted fetal tissue to make it?
There is no aborted fetal tissue in the vaccine. Cells from fetal tissue from medical abortions were used in the development of the vaccines and have been used to develop vaccines and medications since the 1960s. If it matters to you for religious or personal reasons, the Vatican and Pope Francis have issued a statement that it’s “morally acceptable” to receive a vaccination for COVID-19, even if the vaccine’s research or production involved using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses, given the “grave danger” of the pandemic.
I’ve heard this vaccine will have nanotechnology in it that will allow the government to track our biometric data. Is this true?
No, this is science fiction. It probably comes from people not knowing that the “nanoparticles” used in the vaccine are teeny tiny droplets of fat that help the vaccine be delivered into muscle—these are very different from the nanotechnology of tiny robots in science fiction movies.
Because this is an mRNA vaccine, it will alter your DNA, right?
No. mRNA is like a blueprint that shows cells how to build proteins. It doesn’t incorporate into DNA. It doesn’t even enter the nucleus of your cells, where DNA is kept. All the protein-making machinery of the cells is in the cytoplasm of the cell—outside of the nucleus—and is separate from where your DNA is kept. Even if it got into the nucleus, mRNA can’t incorporate into your DNA.
Is this a live vaccine?
No. It is an mRNA vaccine. It does not contain any live virus or killed virus. It basically contains directions for how to make a protein that is on the COVID virus.
Will this vaccine make me sick or give me COVID?
The vaccine will not (and cannot) give you COVID. The most common reactions to this vaccine are injection site symptoms like soreness, redness, or swelling, or body symptoms such as chills, tiredness, or headache. These symptoms are mostly caused by your immune system responding to the vaccine, which is a good thing. Symptoms, especially soreness at the injection site for a day, are common, but the vast majority of them are mild.
Are there preservatives in this vaccine?
There are not any preservatives in any of the COVID vaccines that are available at the time I’m writing this. Multiple vaccines are in development, so this may not always be true.
If it only lasts for 3 months, what’s the point of getting it?
We actually don’t know yet how long protection from the vaccine lasts. We think that natural immunity (from getting the COVID infection) lasts three months or more—so maybe this is where people have gotten the idea that the vaccine provides 3 months of protection. But we don’t yet know how long protection from the COVID vaccine lasts.
How effective is this vaccine?
Very. The Pfizer vaccine appears to give 95% protection from COVID and the Moderna vaccine appears to give 94.1% protection from COVID. These numbers assume that you have received both immunizations (they are two-shot series).
Why get it if there’s already a new strain of COVID out there?
So far, it appears that the vaccines will probably protect against the new variant COVID strain. This is still being studied, but because the vaccine uses the spike protein as the target for the immune response, it’s a good target that is unlikely to change significantly even if the virus mutates its genetic code. The spike protein is the protein that COVID uses to get inside our cells, so if it changes enough that the spike protein changes or disappears, the virus is unlikely to be able to infect our cells.
Why should I get it if I still have to mask and social distance?
94-95% is really, really excellent protection for a vaccine, but it’s not complete protection. About 1 in 20 people will still be vulnerable to infection even if immunized. There will also be people who refuse to get the vaccine, and they can still become infected and infect you if you are one of the people who is not protected. It is also still unknown if the vaccines prevent asymptomatic carriage—where people without symptoms carry the virus and infect others.
If I’ve had COVID, I don’t need to get the vaccine.
Naturally immunity, which is what you get from being infected, is highly variable as far as how much protection you get from your immune system. It is likely, especially if you did not get severely ill from your COVID infection, that you will only have short-lasting immunity from COVID. We’re pretty sure you’ll be protected for a few months, but beyond that, everyone will be different. We do know that people can become infected with COVID multiple times. This has even been observed in young, healthy people, including a professional cyclist.
If I am immunosuppressed, I can’t get the vaccine, right?
If you are immunosuppressed, you should absolutely get the vaccine so that you have a lower chance of getting severely ill from COVID! You may not have as robust of a response to the vaccine as someone with an intact immune system, but some response is still much better than no response. This includes people on chemotherapy and those that have had bone marrow transplants.
If I am pregnant or lactating, I shouldn’t get the vaccine, right?
If you are pregnant or lactating, I recommend speaking with your medical provider about the COVID vaccine. We know that pregnant women are at higher risk for getting severely ill from COVID than nonpregnant women, but there is very little data on pregnant or lactating women being vaccinated against COVID. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to a nursing infant when the lactating mother receives the vaccine, so it may be a good idea for a lactating mother with high risk for exposure to COVID (like health care workers) to be vaccinated. Again, please discuss this with your medical provider if it applies to you.
Some vaccines worsen the consequences of infection rather than protect, a phenomenon called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). ADE has been observed in previous attempts to develop coronavirus vaccines. How can I know this won’t happen to me?
ADE is a fascinating phenomenon that has been observed in attempts to create vaccines for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and dengue virus, but not human coronaviruses. This email is getting way too long to get into details about something that doesn’t pertain to this vaccine. If you want to read more about this phenomenon (again, it has NOT been observed with the COVID vaccines), I recommend this paper: Lee, W.S., Wheatley, A.K., Kent, S.J. et al. Antibody-dependent enhancement and SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and therapies. Nat Microbiol 5, 1185–1191 (2020).