With the recent rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the subsequent claims from some quarters about possible dangers, many people are asking whether they should get the shot.
But, according to medical experts speaking Thursday on the latest NewsdayLive webinar "Health & COVID-19: What Have We Learned in One Year?" how to answer the question should be the easiest decision you ever make: If you qualify to get the vaccine and can get it, you should.
And, sooner the better.
"Practically speaking, I'd be in a rush to get the vaccine," Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, chairman of the department of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau, said, adding there has been an "extremely low" rate of on-site complications from the vaccine — and, of those, the complications have been minimal. As he said: "I would take this vaccine at the earliest opportunity."
Fellow panelist Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, agreed.
Pregnant? Take the vaccine, the panelists said.
At-risk? Take the vaccine, the panelists said.
Concerned that the current vaccines may not fully protect you against the reported new round of variants?
Take the vaccine, the panelists said.
As Nachman said: "If you have an appointment [to be vaccinated] take the current vaccine. If we have to give you a booster [later], we'll give you a booster."
The suggestion that pregnant women should be concerned about getting vaccinated is, in part, due to a common misunderstanding, the panelists said. Glatt said, "It's important to realize that even the World Health Organization says that every pregnant woman who is at risk should get vaccinated."
That the theoretical concern has come to overshadow any level of real concern is due more to misinformation than scientific data, the experts said.
As Nachman explained, studies conducted using the current COVID-19 vaccines being distributed by Pfizer and Moderna did not include pregnant women in the test groups — just as they did not include other high-risk subjects, such as those with cancers or who are immunosuppressant — and so that's why organizations like the WHO and CDC have not issued claims there's no risk.
But actual vaccination results have given little cause for concern, she said.
"If you're at risk," Nachman said, "please get the vaccine."
The experts agreed that you shouldn't be cavalier once you have been vaccinated. You should still follow all the recommended protocols — wearing a mask, being vigilant about social distancing and hygiene — because it is possible, at least in theory, that you could still spread coronavirus for a time.
And if you have any concerns at all about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor, Glatt and Nachman agreed. Trust a medical expert, instead of hearsay.
Nachman said one of the known adverse affects to the vaccine are reports of blotchiness, itching, warm and tender skin, as well as some limited reports of swollen lymph nodes, in the vaccination area a week or so following receipt of the vaccine. But, she said, those complications have not been serious.
It's barely one year since the first verified case of COVID-19 was discovered in the United States, that being a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, Washington, and almost a year since the first confirmed case in New York, reported last March 1. But, the panelists said, as we continue to build herd immunity with vaccinations infection rates are dropping, Glatt explaining cases are down in 46 of 50 states from where they were in recent weeks — and that includes hospitalizations in both Nassau and Suffolk, he said.
"We all are looking for an end to this," he said. "We all are tired."
But while we're still far from getting back to normal, the panelists agreed trusting the experts, trusting the medicine, getting vaccinated, remaining vigilant and continuing safe practices, will help us all get there sooner rather than later.
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