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Need to know: Q&A as COVID-19 vaccine rolls out in Aiken

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As the COVID-19 vaccine has rolled out, many residents have had questions about it. Here are some common questions, along with their answers, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Question: Does the vaccine contain a live virus?

Answer: The vaccine does not contain a live virus. It contains the gene for a virus protein. Thus, residents cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

Q: How will I know when it's my turn to get the vaccine, and how will I be notified?

A: DHEC has plans to notify the public when and how the vaccine will be available to them. The agency says these plans will include traditional forms of public notification – news release, website and social media updates – as well as public service announcements; print, radio and TV ads; community-level outreach; direct mailers and other forms of outreach to ensure South Carolinians know when it’s their time to receive the vaccine. Health care providers will also notify their patients. There is no list that residents can get on to register for the vaccine.

Q: How is the vaccine administered?

A: The COVID-19 vaccine will be administered via a shot to the patient's arm.

Q: How many doses of the vaccine will patients receive, and how much time is there between doses?

A: There are two different vaccines – one by Pfizer and one by Moderna. They both require two doses, but there are a few differences. One of the differences is that the two Pfizer doses must be separated by an interval of 21 days, while the two Moderna doses must be separated by an interval of 28 days. The doses cannot be interchanged. For example, a person cannot get the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Q: How will I know when it is time to get the second dose?

A: After receiving the first dose, people will receive a paper immunization record that will include the vaccine received, date and location of the vaccine and the date when the next shot is needed. Individuals will be reminded when it’s time to receive their second shot.

Gordon.jpg (copy)

Dr. Gerald Gordon, an infectious disease specialist, was the first recipient of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Aiken Regional Medical Centers on Dec. 17.

Q: Is the vaccine safe?

A: The vaccine has undergone the rigorous scientific and clinical testing that all vaccines in development receive. The COVID-19 vaccine took less time than other vaccines to develop because scientists had already begun research for a coronavirus vaccine during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses, such as SARS.

Q: Are there any side effects from the vaccine?

A: Results from the first COVID-19 vaccines show no serious side effects, and South Carolina has not had any patients experience severe side effects. Any vaccine or medication can cause minor side effects, such as a sore arm or low-grade fever, but these go away within a few days.

Q: Is there an age limit on the vaccine?

A: COVID-19 vaccines are not approved in people under the age of 16.

Q: What if I get COVID-19 between vaccine doses?

A: If a person contracts COVID-19 between doses, that person should wait until the illness has passed and the isolation period is complete. It is OK if the second dose of the vaccine needs to be delayed past the usual time span, as there is no maximum interval for either vaccine.

Q: What is the cost of the vaccine?

A: The federal government will cover the cost of the vaccine.

Q: What are the phases of the vaccine rollout?

A: There are four different phases in South Carolina's vaccine plan: 1a, 1b, 1c and 2. South Carolina is currently in phase 1a, with frontline health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, home health and hospice workers, dentists and dental hygienists/assistants and pharmacists receiving the vaccine. There are an estimated 350,000 individuals in phase 1a, according to Stephen White, DHEC immunizations director.

The agency plans to move to phase 1b in late winter 2021, which will include persons 75 years of age and older with or without underlying health conditions and frontline essential workers, including firefighters, law enforcement officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, USPS workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers and those who work in the educational sector.

Phase 1c is planned to begin in early spring 2021, which will include persons between the ages of 65-74 with or without underlying health conditions, persons between the ages of 16-64 with underlying health conditions and more essential workers, including people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety and public health staff who are non-frontline health care workers.

Phase 2 is slated to begin in late spring or fall 2021, when there will be widespread availability of the vaccine and anyone who wishes to be vaccinated can be.

For any further questions, visit DHEC's website.

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