As COVID-19 case numbers dwindle in the state of Mississippi and the Golden Triangle, many still have questions surrounding the virus and its vaccine. The first COVID-19 vaccination was administered in the United States in December 2020. Now, three different vaccines are available with nearly 2 million doses already administered to Mississippians.
The Pfizer-BioNTech is a two-dose vaccine given three weeks apart, and the Moderna vaccine is a two-dose vaccine given four weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine is a one-dose vaccination.
Anyone ages 18 and older are eligible for any of these types, but the FDA just recently approved ages 12-17 to qualify and receive the Pfizer vaccination.
“Pfizer is the only one approved for kids in the age group,” Mississippi Department of Health State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.
Some people believe the vaccine can cause irreversible transformations to the human body such as causing an individual to become magnetic, altering DNA or provoking infertility, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have debunked all of these myths and proven them to be false. The CDC has also established that the vaccine will not cause someone to be infected with the virus after receiving it.
While the effectiveness of the vaccine is higher than 90 percent, even those who have received the vaccination can acquire the virus. Those who choose not to receive the vaccine, though, have a substantially higher chance of contracting the virus, Dobbs said. Even though fully-vaccinated individuals can catch COVID-19, the chance of death or long-term illness is considerably lower than those who choose not to get vaccinated.
Starkville Kroger Pharmacist Jay Cumberland said he has not seen many people in the Golden Triangle area catch COVID-19 after being vaccinated.
“I really haven’t seen a lot of people who have gotten the vaccine that have been gotten COVID,” Cumberland. “It’s statistically still a possibility, but it’s very minute.”
While Dobbs said he recommends everyone obtain the vaccine, the CDC cannot mandate or require vaccination for individuals, but people should know the consequences when they choose not to receive it.
Most healthcare personnel are able to administer vaccines, but the CDC recommends that they receive comprehensive, competency-based training on vaccine administration policies and procedures before administering them.
Mississippi Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said people can have some natural immunity from the virus for a short period of time, but that immunity does not last forever and is not equivalent to the vaccination.
“I think the thing that we want everyone to understand is yes, you can get some immunity from previous infection, and yes, that can protect you from becoming reinfected…,” Byers said. “It’s important to know, even if you’ve been infected, that the best way to ensure immunity, to ensure that you have long-term and full protection is to get vaccinated.”
While the vaccine is the only way to truly prevent the possibility of contracting COVID-19, Dobbs said there are side effects of which people should be aware. Because it takes time for a body to build up protection after any vaccine, individuals could experience tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever or nausea after the first or second dose.
Those who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be at risk of developing a rare adverse event called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which involves blood clots, typically in women 50 years or younger, but only seven in every 1 million vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson acquire this syndrome. Dobbs said myositis, inflammation of the muscles, is also an extreme side effect that could occur from any vaccine but is also rare with only 16 in every 1 million statistically contracting the condition.
“The virus is going to cause myositis at a far higher rate than even theoretical concerns about the vaccine will,” Dobbs said.
Multiple variants have arrived in Mississippi over the last few months, prominently the variant strain originated in the United Kingdom. Other variants found in the state include the South African variant strain and the Indian variant strain. While some of these variants can be highly transmissible, Byers said all the vaccines prove to protect against them.
“There have been a number of variant strains identified in Mississippi,” Byers said. “Today, we see that the vaccine still protects against the variant strains we have identified and are circulating in Mississippi. This is why we still want people to get vaccinated.”
The CDC announced in May that individuals who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks. Masks were recommended in all public settings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Even though people can still contract COVID-19 even after receiving the vaccine, masks are not required anymore for fully-vaccinated individuals.
“I really think healthcare providers should still be wearing masks,” Cumberland said. “But if you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t have to wear one anymore.”