Local residents will likely be getting the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, according to health officials from Otsego County and Bassett Medical Center, which held a vaccine information webinar Thursday, Dec. 17, via Zoom.
Bassett officials Kelly Rudd, the director of pharmacy services for PharmD, Charles Hyman, the senior attending physician for infectious diseases, and Scott Cohen, the chief medical information officer, joined Otsego County Public Health Director Heidi Bond to discuss the coronavirus vaccine, its makeup and distribution schedule, dispel some myths and to urge upstate adults to get vaccinated when it is their turn.
The Moderna vaccine, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration Thursday, ships and stores at much higher temperatures than the other breakthrough vaccine, produced by Pfizer. The Pfizer vaccine needs much colder temperatures and therefore the Moderna version is more likely to be used in rural areas without a surplus of high-tech equipment.
However, Rudd said the Pfizer vaccines ship in a way that allows them to be kept in their container for a week as long as dry ice is replenished, so some frontline workers locally will get the Pfizer vaccine.
Bond said it is possible all county adults who want to be vaccinated could have the first of the paired vaccines by late spring or early summer.
She said hospital staff members who work with COVID patients would be the first people to get the vaccine locally. Direct-care workers, including EMS workers, would be in the second group to receive the vaccinations. High-risk individuals, including nursing home residents and employees, would be the third group, with help from federal vaccination teams. Essential workers would be in the next vaccination group.
The classifications and distributions outside of nursing homes are being left to individual states, and all the officials stressed new information would continue to be released about the vaccination schedule.
Rudd and Charles talked about the nature of the vaccine, calling it an amazing achievement and lauding not only the medical professionals involved, but the thousands of volunteers for the vaccine trials.
Rudd said the development of the vaccines was unusual in terms of its speed. She compared it to a car, saying in a normal garage, a mechanic looks at one thing at a time until the car is ready to drive. This vaccine process, she said, has been more like NASCAR, where the car pulls up and everyone in the crew jumps out to do all the work at once and the car gets out of the pits rapidly.
Charles said it is important to understand the vaccine is not a live vaccine, which is derived from part of the virus. Instead, the COVID vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which trigger an immune response by convincing cells to create a harmless "spike protein" that exists on the surface of COVID-19. That protein triggers the antibodies needed to protect people from the virus.
Charles said the trials have shown the vaccine clearing the body after doing its job.
The group busted some myths about the vaccine, including that it would cause sterilization, narcolepsy or contain microchips. Bond held up her cell phone and said people who worry about microchips in a vaccine should know they carry one around in their phone. Charles said reports of Bell's palsy were a small number of patients in a small trial and would likely not be a factor in large numbers.
The vaccine is for adults only, although Pfizer is doing tests on some teenagers. It comes in a paired dose. The doses are to be given three to four weeks apart.
The vaccine will be free, but some providers will charge to administer the doses, Rudd said. It will be given out by normal health providers, including those who give flu shots.
There will be some allergic reactions to the vaccine, but most will be mild and local, as with getting a flu shot. Rudd said some people will be highly allergic and people with strong allergies should consult their physicians to determine if they might have issues with the vaccines. The same applies to people with other health concerns.
More information about the vaccines and their trials are available at www.fda.gov.
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7218.