As a vaccine for COVID-19 starts making its way out to the public, health professionals are urging people to keep using basic precautions for now.
The first shipments of a vaccine from drugmaker Pfizer were sent out over the weekend and one from Moderna should be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week. Sanford Health in Bismarck received 3,400 doses of the vaccine and was preparing to start vaccinating front-line health care workers Monday, Dec. 14.
Dr. Greg Glasner, the chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota, said the recommendation is that people who have been vaccinated should still wear a mask. That’s because the vaccine doesn’t kill the disease — it stimulates an immune response that should prevent the vaccinated person from getting symptoms.
“You can get the vaccine and still be shedding virus,” Glasner told the Williston Herald, which means people could still be contagious.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses three and four weeks apart, respectively, to be fully effective.
He pointed out that things are changing quickly because scientists are still studying the disease and don’t understand everything. That is why taking precautions like staying six feet apart and wearing masks can help slow the disease.
“Wearing a mask is a nuisance, but it helps,” Glassner said. “There’s no magic bullet to this, but it does help.”
Even still, the vaccine is a key component of a return to a normal world, he said. Waiting for natural immunity to build in the population isn’t a good strategy.
“That’s why we have vaccines,” Glasner said.
And the dangers are real. North Dakota recorded five new deaths of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,157. Nearly everyone knows someone who has had a friend or relative die from the disease, Glasner said.
“The reality is right in front of our face,” he said. “We just have to look at it.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield is waiving any cost for the vaccine in an effort to encourage people to be vaccinated.
“We want people to not have barriers,” Glasner said. “We really do want to get everyone.”
The short timeline in which the vaccine was developed has worried some people, but Glasner said he is happy the FDA took time to review results before approving the vaccine.
“This is science in the making,” he said. “We’re watching it unfold in front of our eyes.”
This page contains all of The Williston Herald’s coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the illness it causes, called COVID-19.
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