WISCONSIN — On Wednesday afternoon, officials from Advocate Aurora Health hosted the Facebook Live event "Ask the Experts: COVID-19 Vaccine" to answer common community questions regarding safety, timeline and much more.
The broadcast featured Advocate Aurora Health CEO Jim Skogsbergh, Executive Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Prevention Dr. Robert Citronberg and primary care physician Dr. Jacqueline Ivey-Brown.
If you've had COVID already, should you even bother getting the vaccine?
Citronberg: "Yes, it is still recommended even after you've had COVID. Ninety days after is what we recommend according to CDC guidelines."
I'm in the eligible population. Why haven't I gotten mine yet?
Skogsbergh: "Our number one problem is supply. Our cupboards are bare as we speak, so when the next dose of vaccines arrive, we're going to put those in arms as soon as we possibly can. I believe we have vaccinated about 10% of our over-65 population thus far, so you're right, we have too many seniors who aren't getting invitations ... In our plan, we've decided that we're going to focus on vaccinating the over-65 with chronic conditions. If you're a relatively health 65-year-old, you're not going to get put at the top of that list."
Citronberg: "We know that the mortality rate goes up significantly for those over the age of 75 and particularly at the age of 85. People over the age of 85 have extraordinarily high risk of death from COVID-19 infection, so we are factoring that into the equation about who gets invited. We're looking a bit more closely not only at those over 65, but how far over 65. For example, 75 is worse than 65, 85 is worse than 75 ... There are so many patients in our population who are over 65 that it's just not physically possible to get it all done right now."
"By the time we get to 1C, we're going to have a lot more vaccines available, so I think that the issues are going to be less restrictive as we roll out to the next phase," he continued. "Our goal is really to have everyone in this country who wants a vaccine to be able to get one by the end of June."
Which brand of the vaccine should I get?
Ivey-Brown: A lot of individuals have been saying 'I think I'll just wait for the one-shot,' but what I've been really encouraging patients on is that COVID isn't waiting for the one-shot dose. So, as soon as you have the ability to get vaccinated, please get vaccinated."
Skogsbergh: "One question that comes up so often is 'How do you decide who gets what brand of vaccine?' The answer to that is we don't really decide. The state sends us the vaccine and we provide the vaccine that is given to us."
What will the after effects of the vaccine be?
Ivey-Brown: "I did get some muscle aches and I felt a little bit tired. That lasted for roughly around 48 hours, and after that I felt back to normal."
Citronberg: "[The topic that you cannot take something before or after] has probably truthfully gotten blown out of proportion. There were some very preliminary studies of where people who have gotten other viral infections or got COVID that if they were taking something like ibuprofen, they didn't develop as many antibodies, but there's no evidence that you still can't produce a good immune response. In general, we don't recommend pre-medications only because we don't want you to mask the symptoms of a potential allergic reaction, but if you've got symptoms afterwards like fevers or chills, you can take ibuprofen or Tylenol as long as your doctor approves after the vaccine ... If you're on a chronic medication like prednisone, we do not want you to stop your medication before the vaccine. It's really important that if you have any questions, make sure you talk to your doctor before, but you don't need to stop your medicine."
The vaccine came out so quickly. How can it be safe?
Citronberg: "One of the things I hear from a lot of people, and have heard all along, is that they're skeptical of about the vaccines because they're perceived to have come out too soon. We hear, 'They came out within a few months, it can't possibly be safe because they came out so quickly, they can't be adequately tested.' Well, we know that there are a lot of reasons that enabled those vaccines to come out so quickly, and when we talk about vaccines being safe, it doesn't mean they're free of side effects ... One thing that I hear, that I hate to hear, over and over again is, 'If there's a 99.5% chance I won't die from COVID, why bother with the vaccine?' There's evidence now that up to one-third of people who get COVID have these long-term symptoms that follow. It's not just about life or death, it's about living with COVID after you've had it.
"There's a few reasons [why it got pushed out so quickly," he continued. "One important one is that the mRNA vaccines are easier to make than the traditional vaccines. The other thing that is important is that these vaccines were already funded, they were already paid for. A lot of the delays and development of vaccines is because you don't have the money for it and you have to raise that money for it. These vaccines were already funded, in large, by the government. The third is that they took a risk. They mass produced the vaccines before the results of the trails were known, so there was a risk there that if the vaccines didn't work, they would have to throw all the vaccines out. But once they learned that the vaccines were effective, they already had a supply of vaccines ready to go. Any other situation, that might have taken two years to ramp up the production of a vaccine. Those are the principal reasons why these vaccines were able to come out so quickly."
When will we return to a sense of normalcy?
Citronberg: "It's going to be gradual. It's not going to be one day and everything is back to normal, and maybe we start to see this very soon with outdoor events, particularly in people who are vaccinated. We'll start to see some activities return to normal. I think the last things that will return to normal as we know are are those indoor events that are congested like concerts and indoor sporting events where they're really packed venues. Toward through this summer and fall, I think we'll start to really be able to do a lot of the things that we weren't able to do in the past year."
Ivey-Brown: "I too would love to just take my mask off and be close to family and friends and not have my invisible six-foot ruler with me everywhere I go, but the reality is that even after you are fully vaccinated, we still have to be vigilant. That does mean we do need to continue to mask, we do need to wash our hands because there is a chance that we could still spread viral particulars even though we ourselves are not sick. However, if you are in a situation where you are fully vaccinated and your loved one is fully vaccinated, then you can engage and be a little bit closer together than previously."
See the full video on Facebook Live here