In honor of Black History Month and in partnership with the Charles County NAACP, we recently hosted a COVID-19 vaccine Q&A. With over 100 people in attendance at this virtual event, we weren’t able to answer all of the questions we received. So UM Charles Regional’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Moser is stepping in to address the remaining questions.
Additional COVID-19 vaccine resources are available at the end of this blog — including access to the full Q&A event recording!
What is in the COVID-19 vaccine?
The current COVID-19 vaccines have two main components. One is messenger RNA that replicates a “spike” protein found in the virus. The second is a lipid coating that lets it enter our cells. Once in the body, our cells recognize the “spike” as a foreign object and produce antibodies to fight it. This way, if COVID-19 ever enters the body, your immune systems will already have the tools to neutralize it. The COVID-19 vaccine itself does not bring the virus into your body or cause your body to produce the virus.
When can children get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The current COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved on adolescents. This is because it is more difficult to test the vaccine on children since they are not able to consent to participating in trials. It’s a longer process to be able to include children as research subjects which means it will take more time for the vaccine to become available to them.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have an autoimmune disease?
Yes. There is nothing that would cause a problem with the COVID-19 vaccine if you have an autoimmune disease. If you’re taking certain drugs that suppress immune response, then you might not have as strong of a reaction to the vaccine. This means that even if you still end up catching the virus, you will likely have a lower severity if you have received the vaccine. If you have a specific disease, be sure to consult your doctor to learn about any additional risks before getting the vaccine.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I take blood thinners?
Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is still recommended. If you take blood thinners, the only additional step you should take is applying firm pressure on the injection site for a longer period of time. This precaution is the same that should be used in any case of a needle stick when using blood thinners. You are more likely to bruise following your vaccination, but the protection outweighs this risk.
Is the Black community receiving the same level of access to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Data from state health departments shows a significantly lower percentage of Black people receiving the vaccine compared to white people. This is alarming. While there may be several reasons for this, Maryland’s Department of Health says that they are trying to ensure vaccine access for Black communities. It is something we continue to follow closely.
Are hospitalized patients being given the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. Hospitalized patients are offered the COVID-19 vaccine if they want it. The only conditions are that they do not currently have COVID-19, they have not had COVID-19 in the past 30 days, and they have not had any other vaccine in the past 30 days. Any patients undergoing chemotherapy are advised to consult with their oncologists before taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine compare to the flu vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine have virtually no ingredients in common, as they prevent different types of illness. Taking one vaccine will not offer protection for the other. Because COVID-19 is 10 times more deadly than influenza, COVID-19 prevention is more urgent. Both vaccines are safe and recommended though.
What’s the difference between Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines?
There has been no evidence that the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines differ in effectiveness or side effects. Both have been fully tested and approved. There is also no difference between the two for autoimmune patients. You can find complete information about the currently available COVID-19 vaccines through the CDC fact sheets.
Want to learn more?
You can watch the full-length COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A online here. Dr. Moser has also released two other blog posts covering the COVID-19 vaccine: “Should I Get the COVID Vaccine?” and “The Disease Can Kill You But You Don’t Want the Vaccine?” You can find more information about the phases for COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the state of Maryland online here.