State Senator Will Haskell says:
Starting yesterday, thousands of health care workers across Connecticut began receiving the first dose of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Connecticut ought to be especially proud that some of Pfizer’s Groton-based employees played a critical role in developing the vaccine.
Many more people will be vaccinated in the coming months, helped along by the expected approval of the Moderna-developed COVID-19 vaccine. Other promising vaccination candidates, including ones designed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, may find approval in the winter.
We’ve lost more than 5,300 Connecticut residents to this terrible virus, and each of us have struggled to maintain a sense of sanity and normalcy during this trying time. Finally, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
In speaking with constituents, I’ve heard a few frequent questions about how our state will administer the vaccine. Below, I’ve tried to answer just a few of them. Of course, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question that I haven’t addressed below.
When does the vaccine arrive?
The COVID-19 vaccine is already being administered in Connecticut. With Phase 1a underway, you can read more details about the upcoming phases of distribution by visiting ct.gov/coronavirus. The United States has ordered 200 million total doses of these two-shot vaccines (enough to inoculate 100 million individuals nationwide). Negotiations with vaccine producers are ongoing, and other promising candidates may still be approved in coming weeks and months. Of course, this would dramatically accelerate the delivery of future doses.
Is it like a flu shot, where I only need to get one dose?
While some vaccine candidates for COVID-19, including the one developed by Johnson & Johnson, are expected to only require one dose, the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna both require two doses to fully prime immune systems for full protection against the virus.
Are there side effects?
If you’ve ever received a flu shot, you likely remember having a slightly numb arm and mild cold symptoms as your body reacted to the immunization. The COVID-19 vaccine is reported to have similar results. While mild flu-like symptoms after each dose may not sound like fun, they reportedly abate within one day of receiving a dose.
When can I get my shot?
That depends on a variety of factors, including the state’s supply and your personal details. The first group to receive the vaccine will be health care workers and other medical first responders, since they face a disproportionate risk of contracting the virus from patients. Also included in Phase 1a are long-term care facility residents and staff, since approximately 70 percent of Connecticut’s total deaths caused by COVID-19 took place inside these facilities.
Next, vaccines will be delivered to members of the critical workforce, those living in congregate settings where transmission risk is high, adults over the age of 65 and high-risk individuals under the age of 65. Adults older than 65 see the highest rate of deaths from COVID-19.
Is the vaccine mandatory?
No. At this point, the demand for the vaccine far outstrips the supply. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will be closely monitoring vaccine recipients who develop any side effects.
How does the vaccine work?
These vaccines use messenger-RNA, or mRNA, that teach the body how to recognize and fight COVID-19. Once both doses are administered, antibodies will develop to help us fight infection after future exposure. Pfizer’s vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95% among study participants, and the vaccine was equally efficacious among all age groups, genders and races. Importantly, the vaccine becomes effective one week after the second dose is administered.
Will the vaccine give me COVID-19? Will I be contagious?
These vaccines cannot infect you with COVID-19. Importantly, they will have a 6-week period to reach full protective effect, so recipients are asked to continue wearing masks and social distance after receiving them. It may be possible to catch COVID-19 through community spread after receiving the vaccine but before it is fully effective (one week after the second dose).
So the vaccine will end the pandemic?
Not immediately. Vaccinations will need widespread adoption in order to reduce the spread of the virus and achieve herd immunity. However, this is a major step forward in the fight to save lives and re-open our economy.
I have more questions. Where can I get them answered?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state government, hospitals including Hartford HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health and your personal physician will all likely be able to provide more information about the vaccine.