As a community, it is our duty to do whatever we can to keep each other safe. This has never been truer as the COVID-19 pandemic continues – especially since COVID-19-related deaths are currently the third highest cause of death in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
As a health care provider, I was able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when it was made available in late December. As the availability increases in Kentucky, we encourage you to get vaccinated as a way to keep yourself, your family and your community safe from the disease. Even if you have had COVID-19, reinfection is possible and you should still get the vaccine because it offers additional benefits. As they have become eligible, I am thrilled multiple members of my family have now been vaccinated with the various brands of the vaccine, with excellent tolerance. It has given us all a great sense of security in seeing one another and interacting in our communities.
More than 1 million Kentuckians have received at least the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, which require two doses, as of late March. In addition, the state is starting to get supplies of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine. Kentucky has added individuals age 50 and older to Phase 1C, making them eligible to receive the vaccine now. The governor has set a goal of making all Kentuckians 16 and older eligible for the vaccine by April 12.
These vaccines were developed quickly, and that has raised concerns for some. All these vaccines, which have been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, have gone through rigorous evaluations and clinical trials where they were tested on tens of thousands of participants before being deemed safe for the general public. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which can be produced faster than other vaccines and were paved from years of science and innovation. Researchers used existing clinical trial networks to begin conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials as soon as possible.
There are side effects from these vaccines, ranging from headache and body aches, to chills and fatigue, similar to what you might expect from your annual flu shot. But these vaccines will prevent you from getting sick or having serious complications if you contract COVID-19. Even if you’re young or not considered at high risk for complications, you can still infect others with COVID-19 as an asymptomatic carrier – meaning you don’t have symptoms of the virus.
Until we reach what is called herd immunity, you should continue to wear a mask, wash your hands often and practice social distancing even after you are vaccinated because you could still spread the virus to others.