Many of my patients have asked questions about the COVID-19 disease and the vaccinations available. Let me give you my best view of the situation.
First, as soon as you can get either of the available vaccines take it. As physicians we always use a risk/benefit ratio to decide on treatment. The risks of the vaccines are at most minor and the benefit of avoiding the risk of a COVID-19 infection is so high that there is no other reasonable option about taking the vaccine. I have gotten my first injection, experienced no side effects, and am anxiously waiting for the second on January 9.
Second, the vaccine injections are very tightly controlled in New York State. A number of scams have been identified. DO NOT ACCEPT AN OFFER OF A VACCINATION EXCEPT THROUGH STATE SPONSORED VACCINATION.
Third, currently only first responders, nursing home residents and their caretakers are getting the vaccine. While New York is a leading state in the distribution of the available vaccines, vaccinations are still going more slowly than I had hoped. I expect the 1B group to start sometime toward the end of January. This group includes everyone over the age of 75 but many of my patients are immunocompromised and we will try to get permission for those patients to be vaccinated. There is no certainty that we can get that clearance. If a patient is on chemotherapy they should not get the vaccination within two weeks of getting cytotoxic chemotherapy and we will schedule the vaccination appropriately. Some of our patients, such as patients with myeloma, have trouble making antibodies and I do not know if the vaccination would work for them.
Fourth, the vaccines are only being given in selected, usually hospital, facilities. I do not expect we will ever give the Pfizer vaccine in our office because of the refrigeration required but we may be able to give other vaccines if and when we are given permission and supplies. I do not expect such permission for quite some time. We will let our patients know if we get such permission but, in the meantime, the vaccine will be available at specific official locations. Please remain alert for communication to take the vaccine there when your group is invited.
Fifth, there is no evidence that the current virus mutations (variants) are resistant to these new vaccines but the variant COVID-19 virus is more contagious.
Sixth, patients who have had documented COVID-19 infections rarely get a re-infection and there is good evidence that the immunity from the vaccine lasts at least many months. We do not know how long immunity will last.
Seventh, even if vaccinated, we are still advised to wear masks, wash hands frequently and keeping a safe social distance. This remains the primary defense mechanism against this virus.
Barry H. Kaplan