Pediatricians at Eugene Pediatric Associates have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the first wave of medical providers in the community to be vaccinated against the virus. These vaccinations are the beginning of what many believe will be a turning point in the pandemic.

“We have vaccines available that can decrease infections by 94-95%, and in addition decrease severe disease—people needing to go to the intensive care unit on a ventilator and people dying—by almost 100%,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “That’s amazing and it’s going to make a huge impact in ending this health crisis.”

“It made me proud to stand in line to get my vaccination,” says Dr. LoRanée Braun, a pediatric infectious disease expert. “Beside me was a whole line of co-workers who were also receiving their shots because we believe it’s safe and effective and the best way to protect our population from COVID-19.”

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccines?
Under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization, the Pfizer vaccine is approved right now for all people 16 years and older and the Moderna vaccine for those 18 years and older, unless you have a known allergy to any component in the vaccines. Both vaccines require two doses.

Dr. Braun says sharing credible, evidence-based information about the vaccines with individuals and families will help our communities feel more comfortable receiving the vaccines.

“The best thing health care providers can do right now is to take the time to answer questions, to bring the information forward as we receive it and to help people fully understand that information.”

When can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that initial supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine be given to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents (Phase 1a).

In the next phases (Phase 1b and Phase 1c), the CDC recommends that vaccination be offered to people in the following groups:

Phase 1b:

  • Frontline essential workers such as fire fighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, United States Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the educational sector (teachers, support staff, and daycare workers).
  • People aged 75 years and older because they are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19.

Phase 1c:

  • People aged 65—74 years because they are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19.
  • People aged 16—64 years with underlying medical conditions which increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19.
  • Other essential workers, such as people who work in transportation, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health.

As vaccine availability increases, vaccination recommendations will expand to include more groups. According to the CDC, the goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as large enough quantities of vaccine are available.

Do the vaccines have possible side effects?
Despite misinformation circulating on social media, Dr. Braun says these are the most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, according to data from clinical trials:

  • Swelling or redness at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Headache

“All of those can be common reactions to a vaccine. That is an indication that your body is receiving that stimulus and is making an immune response to it.”

When will we see widespread protection from these vaccines?
In order to achieve community-wide protection against coronavirus, known as herd immunity, it’s estimated that about 70% of the population will need to become immune to COVID-19.

Getting COVID-19 may offer some natural protection, but experts don’t know how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity. COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience sickness.

“Getting enough people vaccinated against COVID-19 is something that is definitely achievable,” Dr. Braun says. “It just needs buy-in and people to trust the vaccine, and I think that will take time.”

Vaccinating children is key to reaching that 70% of the population needed to achieve herd immunity. There are plans to study the COVID-19 vaccine in children, but there’s no timeline yet on when we could see vaccine approval for younger kids.

For answers to a list of frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, click here.