By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Experts answer vax questions in online info session
V

With the COVID-19 vaccination rollout opening to new people, different vaccines available and concerns about when life can return to normal after receiving vaccinations, there are plenty of questions surrounding vaccinations. 

With that in mind, this week, the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce hosted a second virtual vaccine information session to answer questions from the public, which was hosted by chamber president CEO James McCoy and Northside Hospital Forsyth Administrator Lynn Jackson. 

“As you can imagine, we received many pre-submitted questions during the registration process, and during our panel discussion we will work through [them],” McCoy said. 

McCoy and Jackson posed questions to a panel of local doctors made up of Georgia Department of Public Health District 2 Director Dr. Zachary Taylor, Northside Forsyth Respiratory Therapy Medical Director Dr. Daniel Callahan, Northside Forsyth Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Doug Olson and Dr. Jennifer Maddox, a manager of clinical pharmacy and chair of several committees at Northside Forsyth.

What are the differences between the vaccines?

With three vaccines now being distributed – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – many have questions about which they should get and which has the most benefit.

Taylor said Pfizer, which is being given at vaccine distributions in Forsyth County and the only one given to those 16 and older, and Moderna are similar in that they take two shots and share a similar mechanism for how they induce immunity, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one-shot, can be stored more easily and has been less used by the department.

“The J&J vaccine is a one-dose vaccine; that’s a big advantage,” he said. “It’s a little less effective in preventing COVID-19 than Pfizer and Moderna, somewhere between 66% to 76% at preventing COVID-19, however, it is greater than 80% at preventing severe COVID-19, and from the trial results, it’s 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and death.”

Taylor said Johnson & Johnson was used to vaccinate teachers at recent events. 

While those receiving vaccines don’t have much choice which one they get, Maddux said all three were effective. 

With the COVID-19 vaccination rollout opening to new people, different vaccines available and concerns about when life can return to normal after receiving vaccinations, there are plenty of questions surrounding vaccinations.

With that in mind, this week, the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce hosted a second virtual vaccine information session to answer questions from the public, which was hosted by chamber president CEO James McCoy and Northside Hospital Forsyth Administrator Lynn Jackson.

“As you can imagine, we received many pre-submitted questions during the registration process, and during our panel discussion we will work through [them],” McCoy said.

McCoy and Jackson posed questions to a panel of local doctors made up of Georgia Department of Public Health District 2 Director Dr. Zachary Taylor, Northside Forsyth Respiratory Therapy Medical Director Dr. Daniel Callahan, Northside Forsyth Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Doug Olson and Dr. Jennifer Maddox, a manager of clinical pharmacy and chair of several committees at Northside Forsyth.

What are the differences between the vaccines?

With three vaccines now being distributed – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – many have questions about which they should get and which has the most benefit.

Taylor said Pfizer, which is being given at vaccine distributions in Forsyth County and the only one given to those 16 and older, and Moderna are similar in that they take two shots and share a similar mechanism for how they induce immunity, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one-shot, can be stored more easily and has been less used by the department.

“The J&J vaccine is a one-dose vaccine; that’s a big advantage,” he said. “It’s a little less effective in preventing COVID-19 than Pfizer and Moderna, somewhere between 66% to 76% at preventing COVID-19, however, it is greater than 80% at preventing severe COVID-19, and from the trial results, it’s 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and death.”

Taylor said Johnson & Johnson was used to vaccinate teachers at recent events.

While those receiving vaccines don’t have much choice which one they get, Maddux said all three were effective.

Tips for getting a vaccine

With more people eligible to get the vaccines, demand in the metro Atlanta area has gone up, but the experts did have some tips for finding appointments.

Taylor said if appointments can’t be found in Forsyth at the DPH website, those looking for them should check surrounding counties.

“We do have lots of spaces in our more northern counties, and, in fact, if they’re interested in Moderna, that’s usually where we offer the Moderna vaccines because of the storage requirements,” Taylor said.

He said the DPH also doesn’t schedule vaccinations too far in advance because of “vaccine shopping,” or people signing up for multiple events to ensure they get an appointment.

He said large businesses can also contact DPH for possible vaccination events for their employees.

Do we keep wearing masks?

Responding to a question from Jackson about whether workers should continue wearing masks after receiving vaccinations, Callahan said they should “absolutely” keep them on.

“First of all, no vaccine is 100% effective,” Callahan said, “and second of all, there is a possibility that you can transmit the virus as an asymptomatic carrier. Then, we have to realize that we are around people who have very poor immune systems, and we are putting them at risk potentially.”

Olson, also responding to a question from Jackson, said while there might not be long-term data on receiving the vaccinations, the long-term effects of COVID-19 aren’t known either.

“I would say that most people that get [COVID-19] that recover quickly and don’t have severe illness most likely won’t have long-term effects. Again, we may not know that answer completely,” he said. “On the other hand, patients that are more seriously ill, or critically ill for that matter, definitely can have long term effects: fatigue, lung compliance issues, difficulty with shortness of breath and energy levels, exercise tolerance.”

He said those with severe COVID-19 cases had also experienced issues with blood clots.

For short-term effects, Maddux said commonly reported issues like injection-site pain, headaches or other pain might happen, but are common with all vaccines and less frequent for those 65 and older.

“If you look at percentages of side effects from all the studies, the first dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna actually had a pretty low rate of reactions, usually just a little bit of arm pain or feeling a little bit tired if you feel anything at all,” Maddux said. “The more noticeable effects with the two-dose vaccines typically occur with the second dose because your body already has some antibodies and T-cells and B-cell immunity that recognize the spike protein that the vaccine creates with that second dose and can mount an even greater immune response with tat second dose.”

She said the adverse effects of the vaccines typically only last 24 to 48 hours.

 

Protecting against variants

With variants of the virus being reported in countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom, Olson said all three current vaccines seem to be effective against the new types.

Taylor recommended that younger people who can receive the vaccine should get them to slow the spread of the disease and prevent the virus from replicating and mutating into new variants.

“The virus only does one thing: it replicates,” Taylor said. “If it mutates to a variant that increases its ability to be transmitted or whether or not that causes more severe disease, it certainly could replicate into a variant that causes more severe disease in younger people. The only way to stop the creation of these mutations, these variants is by not allowing the virus to replicate.”

 With more people eligible to get the vaccines, demand in the metro Atlanta area has gone up, but the experts did have some tips for finding appointments.

Taylor said if appointments can’t be found in Forsyth at the DPH website, those looking for them should check surrounding counties.

“We do have lots of spaces in our more northern counties, and, in fact, if they’re interested in Moderna, that’s usually where we offer the Moderna vaccines because of the storage requirements,” Taylor said.

He said the DPH also doesn’t schedule vaccinations too far in advance because of “vaccine shopping,” or people signing up for multiple events to ensure they get an appointment. 

He said large businesses can also contact DPH for possible vaccination events for their employees.

Do we keep wearing masks?

Responding to a question from Jackson about whether workers should continue wearing masks after receiving vaccinations, Callahan said they should “absolutely” keep them on.

“First of all, no vaccine is 100% effective,” Callahan said, “and second of all, there is a possibility that you can transmit the virus as an asymptomatic carrier. Then, we have to realize that we are around people who have very poor immune systems, and we are putting them at risk potentially.”

Olson, also responding to a question from Jackson, said while there might not be long-term data on receiving the vaccinations, the long-term effects of COVID-19 aren’t known either.

“I would say that most people that get [COVID-19] that recover quickly and don’t have severe illness most likely won’t have long-term effects. Again, we may not know that answer completely,” he said. “On the other hand, patients that are more seriously ill, or critically ill for that matter, definitely can have long term effects: fatigue, lung compliance issues, difficulty with shortness of breath and energy levels, exercise tolerance.”

He said those with severe COVID-19 cases had also experienced issues with blood clots.

For short-term effects, Maddux said commonly reported issues like injection-site pain, headaches or other pain might happen, but are common with all vaccines and less frequent for those 65 and older. 

“If you look at percentages of side effects from all the studies, the first dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna actually had a pretty low rate of reactions, usually just a little bit of arm pain or feeling a little bit tired if you feel anything at all,” Maddux said. “The more noticeable effects with the two-dose vaccines typically occur with the second dose because your body already has some antibodies and T-cells and B-cell immunity that recognize the spike protein that the vaccine creates with that second dose and can mount an even greater immune response with tat second dose.”

She said the adverse effects of the vaccines typically only last 24 to 48 hours.

Protecting against variants

With variants of the virus being reported in countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom, Olson said all three current vaccines seem to be effective against the new types.

Taylor recommended that younger people who can receive the vaccine should get them to slow the spread of the disease and prevent the virus from replicating and mutating into new variants.

“The virus only does one thing: it replicates,” Taylor said. “If it mutates to a variant that increases its ability to be transmitted or whether or not that causes more severe disease, it certainly could replicate into a variant that causes more severe disease in younger people. The only way to stop the creation of these mutations, these variants is by not allowing the virus to replicate.”