Robert Jacobson, M.D., Medical Director, Primary Care Immunization Program, Mayo Clinic Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota: I'm Dr. Robert Jacobson, a physician at Mayo Clinic. Over my career, I have extensively studied vaccines and I have very good news to share with you today. There are now tested vaccines to protect against getting COVID-19. This coronavirus is a very serious, highly infectious illness. At the time we're making this video, over 16 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus. Over 300,000 people have died from it.
COVID-19 vaccines are one of our best opportunities to get this pandemic under control. From what we know from trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers if you are exposed to the COVID-19 virus, these vaccines can prevent you from getting the infection. That includes severe infections that can send you to the hospital.
Unfortunately, there are not yet enough of these vaccines for everyone. The CDC has set guidelines for what groups should be vaccinated first. The first group to be vaccinated is health care personnel. At Mayo Clinic, we are using our first allocation of vaccine to vaccinate our employees who are in that category so that we can serve patients. As more vaccine becomes available, other high-priority groups will become eligible to receive it, such as people at a higher risk for having serious complications. The plan is to eventually have enough vaccine that everyone can be vaccinated. To get this pandemic under control, it's important that everyone take the vaccine as soon as it’s available to them.
Given the urgency with which vaccines are being developed, you may have some concerns about being in one of the earlier groups. You may think, "I'll wait until more people have taken it and more data are available." Here are some facts that may reassure you. These vaccines have been authorized for use by the FDA. This Emergency Use Authorization is based on data from tens of thousands of people who have taken these vaccines as part of rigorously supervised trials. Studies have shown these vaccines are safe, without serious side effects, and very effective: they can prevent COVID-19 infection in 95% of people who get them. Some people wonder if the COVID-19 vaccines might actually give them COVID-19. That is simply not possible. The vaccines do not contain the virus. Instead, the vaccines contain a non-virus material that teaches your body to recognize the virus if you are exposed. As a result, your body can then fight the virus and prevent infection.
As with other vaccines, you may have temporary reactions that start a day or two after the vaccination and last for a few days. You may have pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given. You may have fever, fatigue, chills, headache, muscle pain, or joint pain for a day or two after the injection. This is your body reacting to the vaccine. These symptoms will not cause harm. As with any medicine, there is a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, which could cause injury or death.
You should talk with your health care provider before getting vaccinated if you currently have COVID-19 or have symptoms that suggest you might, if you feel moderately or severely ill for any reason, if you have life-threatening allergies or a condition that weakens your immune system or if you are pregnant. Please review the appropriate Vaccine Information Statement to learn more.
If you've already had COVID-19, you may wonder, "Didn't having it make me immune?" The fact is, we don't know. We don't know if having COVID-19 provides immunity or, if it does, how long the immunity lasts. In fact, we don't know if the protection provided by these vaccines is permanent, or if you may need a booster in the future. But now that vaccines that have been shown to be safe and effective are available, it makes sense to protect yourself by getting vaccinated.
You may know people who tested positive for COVID-19 and had no symptoms or became only mildly ill. But there is no way to know how COVID-19 would affect you. People of all ages, including people not considered to be in a high-risk category, have become seriously ill with COVID-19, have had serious and long-lasting complications, and have died. We recommend you take the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you.
The vaccination is given in a series of two injections, separated by at least three weeks. As with many vaccines, it typically takes a few weeks for your body to build immunity after you've been vaccinated. The sooner you get your vaccination, the better. We need to use every tool available to us to fight COVID-19. We need to wear masks, we need to wash our hands, we need to practice social distancing and we need to take a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to us. Protect yourself. Protect your loved ones. If you're a health care provider, protect your patients.
Help us stop COVID-19 by getting vaccinated.