Safety of Vaccinations

Image Source: Canva

The CDC considers vaccinations to be one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.1-3 Thanks to vaccines, the incidence, morbidity, mortality, and prevalence of vaccine-preventable diseases have considerably diminished since vaccinations became available. However, now that the COVID-19 vaccine has finally arrived, consumers are wondering whether it will be safe.

If you are having COVID-19 vaccine hesitation, know that the FDA has considered the vaccine adequately safe and effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have both received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for public use. To further ease any vaccine fears, below is information about vaccine safety, facts and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine and the benefit vaccines have on your health.

How the COVID-19 Vaccine works

This new vaccine works unlike any previous vaccinations, using a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) in a mechanism researchers have been developing for over 30 years. When infected with COVID-19, the virus uses a “spike protein” to attach and enter human cells. The vaccine uses mRNA to provide the body with a blueprint which stimulates human cells to make their own version of a spike protein (not the real virus) that triggers the immune system to make antibodies against it. Once the body makes antibodies against this synthetic spike protein, the body will be able to recognize the actual COVID-19 viral protein and quickly fight the real virus before it attaches to human cells and causes harm.

Herd Immunity

Herd immunity is when a large portion of a community (herd) becomes immune to a disease, lessening the spread of the disease from person to person. Current research shows that the development of natural immunity in people who have previously built-up antibodies from COVID-19 is not going to be enough to cause herd immunity within the community. Not everyone with a previous COVID-19 diagnosis is developing natural antibodies which protect against the spread of the virus, and those who do develop antibodies may begin to lose them over time. Therefore, routine vaccination against COVID-19 is essential to prevent living through another pandemic a year full of face masks and social distancing. Vaccines will first be prioritized to high-risk populations, including healthcare personnel and long-term care facilities. Recommendations suggest 2 shots into the muscle of the upper arm 3-4 weeks apart depending on the manufacturer (Pfizer vs Moderna). Per the FDA, available data currently shows receiving 2 doses of the vaccine is between 90.3% to 97.6% effective at preventing COVID-19.

The benefits vaccines have on health

There are two main benefits for vaccination:

  1. You can help lower your chance of getting certain disease
    • Hepatitis B vaccine lowers your risk of liver cancer.
    • HPV vaccine lowers your risk of cervical cancer.
    • Flu vaccine lowers your risk of flu-related heart attacks or other flu-related complications from existing health conditions like diabetes and chronic lung disease.
  2. You can lower your chance of spreading disease.
    • Some people in your family or community may not be able to get certain vaccines due to their age or health condition. They rely on you to help prevent the spread of disease.
    • Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious disease.10

Facts surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine

There is now an authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccination in the Unites States and many people are concerned about its safety. It is crucial to make sure you are getting accurate information about the vaccination. Below are FACTS from the CDC about COVID-19 vaccines:

  1. The COVID-19 vaccine will not give you COVID-19. It is not a traditional vaccination, currently none of the COVID-19 vaccines use the live virus that causes COVID-19. This vaccination helps our bodies fight the virus without us having to get the illness.
  2. Even if you have gotten sick with COVID-19, you may benefit from getting vaccinated. Re-infection is possible; therefore, it is advised to get a vaccination even if you have had COVID-19 before.
  3. Right now, there is a limited supply of the vaccine in the United States, but more will come in the following weeks and months.
  4. Getting a vaccine that uses mRNA will not change your DNA.  The COVID-19 vaccine contains mRNA or messenger ribonucleic acid which is best described as instructions for how to make a protein. It is important to know that that mRNA is not able to alter a person’s DNA. The mRNA from the COVID-19 vaccine will not enter the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is found.

Myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine

There is a lot of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccination. Below are MYTHS about the vaccine:

  1. Other immunizations such as the flu shot will prevent COVID-19.
  2. Infertility or other serious medical problems will occur if you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  3. You will get a positive COVID-19 viral test if you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  4. There will not be enough vaccinations for everyone.

If you are struggling to find credible vaccine information, use this link for recommendations of trustworthy sources: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/evalwebs.htm.

Stats on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines

Vaccines are both safe and effective. They go through years of testing before the FDA licenses them for use. Both the CDC and FDA continue to track the safety of all licensed vaccines.6 The CDC tracks the safety of vaccinations through The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS was created in 1990 to detect any potential safety issues with U.S. vaccines. If anyone experiences problems after an immunization, they can submit a report to VAERS. This monitoring system makes it possible to spot any unusual side effects from vaccinations as well as identify any risks for health issues related to vaccinations. If you are ever concerned about the safety of immunizations, you can have peace of mind knowing they are constantly being monitored.9

Below are the facts and figures that show the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations:

  • According to the World Health Organization, immunizations prevent 2-3 million deaths every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.5
  • Most childhood vaccinations are 90% to 99% effective in preventing diseases.7
  • The flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60%.6
  • The CDC estimates that immunizations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.8
  • About 85-90% of vaccine side effects are mild and not serious.9

How Pharmacists can Help

Pharmacists are also in a unique position to identify those patients who are in target groups for certain vaccinations. They may also be able to ease the fears of many patients by providing them with facts such as clinical data and by dispelling common misconceptions and myths about vaccinations; they can also stress the significant risks associated with not being vaccinated.4

Tria Health was founded on the belief that pharmacists play a vital role in the management of high-risk patients. With Tria, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins, supplements and lifestyle habits. Your pharmacist will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding vaccinations.

Sources:

  1. Oldfield BJ, Stewart RW. Common misconceptions, advancements, and updates in pediatric vaccine administration. South Med J. 2016;109(1):38-41. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000399.
  2. Ventola CL. Immunization in the United States: recommendations, barriers, and measures to improve compliance: part 2: adult vaccinations. P T. 2016;41(8):492-506.
  3. Temoka E. Becoming a vaccine champion: evidence-based interventions to address the challenges of vaccination. S D Med. 2013;(theme issue): 68-72.
  4. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2019/january2019/adult-vaccination-rates-are-rising-but-fall-short
  5. https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/immunization
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm#:~:text=Recent%20studies%20show%20flu%20vaccine,to%20the%20flu%20vaccine%20viruses.
  7. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Vaccine-Safety-The-Facts.aspx
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0424-immunization-program.html
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/ensuringsafety/monitoring/vaers/index.html
  10. Reasons for Adults to be Vaccinated | CDC
  11. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits/facts.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fvaccines%2Fabout-vaccines%2Fvaccine-myths.html
  12. https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/covid-19-vaccination-program/19-vaccine-myths-vs-facts
  13. Herd immunity and COVID-19 (coronavirus): What you need to know – Mayo Clinic

Get Ready for Flu Season

Image Source: Unsplash

Fall is approaching which means that the 2020-2021 flu season is also. Experts recommend the flu shot now more than ever as the coronavirus pandemic could mix with flu season. This overlap could cause major issues and overwhelm hospitals. It is critical to get vaccinated, as preventing the flu saves lives and preserves healthcare resources.

Why you should get vaccinated

Influenza affects people differently. While some people only develop mild symptoms, others develop serious illnesses such as bacterial pneumonia, ear, and sinus infections. The flu can worsen chronic medical conditions like heart failure, asthma, and diabetes. This contagious disease affects the lungs which can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. People that are infected with influenza can spread the disease for up to 5-7 days. Getting vaccinated not only protects you but the people around you.

Key facts about the flu shot

  • The flu shot is recommended every year for anyone 6 months and older.
  • September and October are the best months to get the flu shot.
  • Antibodies develop in the body around two weeks after the vaccination.
  • Common side effects of the shot include low grade headache, soreness at injection site, muscle aches, nausea, and fatigue. Keep in mind that these potential side effects are nothing compared to the pain of contacting the flu.
  • The influenza virus spreads via droplets when people cough or sneeze which is why it is so important to wash your hands regularly.
  • The most common flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue. Although these symptoms are similar to the common cold, the flu is more severe, develops quicker, and leads to severe complications.
  • Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year. Characteristics of the person being vaccinated such as age and health affect its effectiveness.
  • There is a high-dose shot called Fluzone High-Dose, or FLAUD, available for people 65 and older. FLUAD has four times the antigen than a regular dose has. It works by pairing a regular vaccine with an immune stimulant increasing the response to a vaccine.

Why the flu vaccination is especially important this year

COVID-19 has caused health care facilities to be full. If people do not get a flu shot and contract the flu, they will have to seek treatment which may increase their exposure and risk of contracting the coronavirus. Furthermore, oxygen and ventilators are resources used to keep both COVID-19 and flu patients alive. If there is a big influx of flu patients this year, there is a possibility of people having to compete for resources. Protect yourself and others by getting vaccinated!

Do you have any questions regarding the flu vaccine?

Tria Health provides one-on-one confidential counseling with a pharmacist for any of your medication related questions. If Tria Health is currently a part of your healthcare plan, call the Tria Health Help desk today for any of your questions.

Tria Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/08/21/flu-shot-during-covid-what-know-2020-2021-season/3392376001/
  2. https://www.today.com/health/flu-season-2020-2021-what-know-when-get-flu-shot-t188740
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm

Pharmacists and Vaccinations: A Perfect Match

Syringe surrounded by three bottles
Image Source: qimono/pixabay.com

The CDC considers vaccinations to be one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.1-3 Thanks to vaccines, the incidence, morbidity, mortality, and prevalence of vaccine-preventable diseases have considerably diminished since vaccinations became available. Unfortunately, while vaccines are considered safe and effective in preventing illness, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 US adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases every year.4-5 In order to improve the overall vaccination rate, it’s important we utilize all our resources. Pharmacists are easily accessible and can be instrumental in providing patients with pertinent information to help them make informed choices regarding immunizations.

Why Vaccines are Important

There are two main benefits for vaccination:

  1. You can help lower your chance of getting certain disease
    • Hepatitis B vaccine lowers your risk of liver cancer.
    • HPV vaccine lowers your risk of cervical cancer.
    • Flu vaccine lowers your risk of flu-related heart attacks or other flu-related complications from existing health conditions like diabetes and chronic lung disease.
  2. You can lower your chance of spreading disease.
    • Some people in your family or community may not be able to get certain vaccines due to their age or health condition. They rely on you to help prevent the spread of disease.
    • Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious disease.

Vaccines are both effective and safe. They go through years of testing before the FDA licenses them for use. Both the CDC and FDA continue to track the safety of all licensed vaccines.6

Recommended Immunization Schedules

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the following vaccination schedules:

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/

How Pharmacists can Help

Pharmacists are also in a unique position to identify those patients who are in target groups for certain vaccinations. They may also be able to ease the fears of many patients by providing them with facts such as clinical data and by dispelling common misconceptions and myths about vaccinations; they can also stress the significant risks associated with not being vaccinated.7

Tria Health was founded on the belief that pharmacists play a vital role in the management of high-risk patients. With Tria, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins, supplements and lifestyle habits. Your pharmacist will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding vaccinations.

Sources:

  1. Oldfield BJ, Stewart RW. Common misconceptions, advancements, and updates in pediatric vaccine administration. South Med J. 2016;109(1):38-41. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000399.
  2. Ventola CL. Immunization in the United States: recommendations, barriers, and measures to improve compliance: part 2: adult vaccinations. P T. 2016;41(8):492-506.
  3. Temoka E. Becoming a vaccine champion: evidence-based interventions to address the challenges of vaccination. S D Med. 2013;(theme issue): 68-72.
  4. Bach AT, Goad JA. The role of community pharmacy-based vaccination in the USA: current practice and future directions. Integr Pharm Res Pract. 2015;4:67-77. doi: 10.2147/IPRP.S63822.
  5. Poland GA, Schaffner W, Hopkins RH Jr, US Department of Health & Human Services. Immunization guidelines in the United States: new vaccines and new recommendations for children, adolescents, and adults. Vaccine. 2013;31(42):4689-4693. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.03.031.
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/reasons-to-vaccinate.html
  7. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2019/january2019/adult-vaccination-rates-are-rising-but-fall-short

Everything you should know about vaccines

As National Immunization Awareness Month, August is a great time to learn about vaccines and make sure all of your immunizations are up to date. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children be vaccinated for 14 diseases during the first year or two of their lives (see the full recommended vaccine schedule here). Other vaccines are recommended for adolescents, adults and those considering international travel.

A Brief History of Vaccines
Before vaccines were developed, outbreaks of infectious diseases that are now vaccine-preventable – like smallpox, diphtheria and measles – were fatal, especially for children. These diseases created widespread fear and panic, and killed a significant number of those infected. But those who survived developed immunity, and were unable to contract the disease again.

In the late 18th century, the English doctor Edward Jenner used cowpox to develop a vaccine which created immunity against smallpox, similar to the way surviving the disease created immunity. Over the next 200 years, effective and safe vaccines for several other infectious diseases were developed, significantly decreasing the occurrences of these diseases (see a full timeline of vaccine development here).

How do vaccines work?
Vaccines are created using an inactivated or weakened version of the virus that causes the disease. This allows the immune system to prepare the defense it would need to protect the body from the infection-causing virus. Vaccines create immunity to the diseases they prevent, similar to the immunity developed from exposure to a disease. Even though many vaccines are developed using some version of the bacteria that causes the disease, you can’t contract the infection itself from the vaccine, making it safer than developing natural immunity (
if you’re interested in a more in-depth assessment of how vaccines work, look here).

Benefits & Risks
Vaccines have effectively reduced the number of cases of vaccine-preventable diseases 
by more than 90%, and for many diseases by more than 98%. Before the measles vaccine was discovered, there were more than 500,000 cases a year. In 2009, there were 71.

Vaccines don’t just protect individuals, either. If a large enough percentage of a group is immunized, the risk for any member of the group contracting the disease is reduced substantially. It’s called community immunity. If members of that group stop being vaccinated, instances of the disease increase significantly.

There are risks associated with vaccines, but the majority of them are minor (think a little bit of redness or soreness around the injection site or other minor discomforts). The risk of contracting a disease preventable by vaccine is usually much more significant than the risks of side effects. Prior to any vaccination, discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor or pharmacist.

The perceived risks of vaccines, more often than not, are the result of common misconceptions about where vaccines came from and how they work. 

What Vaccinations Do I Need?
The CDC produced a vaccination schedule for all to follow (
the recommended schedule can be found here). Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your vaccination history or what vaccine requirements you have.