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Stories: Donna Jensen, MHA, MN, RNC

Your COVID-19 vaccine questions answered

With multiple COVID-19 vaccines now available and efforts to distribute them underway in concert with the Washington State Department of Health’s phased approach, we know you have questions. And we have answers.

We posed some of your most pressing queries about the vaccine, its effectiveness and its availability to Donna Jensen, the chief nursing officer of Swedish Medical Group and part of the leadership group heading our COVID-19 vaccine planning team. She weighed in with the most up-to-date information available to put your mind at ease. The most important takeaway: We are working diligently to ensure that you and your loved ones receive the vaccine as soon—and as safely—as possible.

These vaccines were developed really quickly. Are they safe?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing COVID-19. Clinical trial data show the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 illness, while Moderna’s has been 94% effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have undergone rigorous evaluation to ensure safety and effectiveness and have been tested on more than 43,000 and 30,000 participants, respectively.

When will I be eligible?

Many of our patients are interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and we recommend getting it when it’s available to you. Vaccinations are happening in phases, with those people at highest risk being vaccinated first. Currently, Swedish is vaccinating only those individuals who fall within Phase 1a of the CDC’s vaccination priority scale. Both the Washington State Department of Health and CDC require Swedish and other medical facilities across the nation to follow this phased vaccination approach. For more information about what phase you’re in, please visit the WA DOH PhaseFinder tool.

Will you contact me when I’m eligible to schedule a vaccine?

Once we begin vaccinating our patients in additional phases, we will notify you through MyChart as well as post information on www.swedish.org/covid-19. (Don’t have MyChart? Contact your doctor to request an activation code, and then sign up here.)

Where can I get it? Will it be offered at all Swedish clinics?

We will release additional details as we get closer to vaccinating those outside of Phase 1a.

President-elect Biden’s team has suggested it might release all of the available vaccine, as soon as possible. Will that prevent some people from getting their second dose on time?

The new plan, outlined by President-elect Biden, requires Swedish to shift our operational plan slightly. We may need to shift appointments by a couple of days, as needed, based on our dose allocation. However, we don’t anticipate that this will have a negative effect on administering second doses.

• For the Pfizer vaccine: It is acceptable to get the second dose within three to five weeks after the first.

• For the Moderna vaccine: It is acceptable to get the second dose within four to six weeks after the first.  

Are there any side effects or reactions that I should be aware of?

According to the CDC and FDA the vaccines cause mild to moderate side effects. The most common side effects during clinical trials included fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever.

Will I be able to stop wearing a mask and socially distancing after I get the vaccine?

Over the next few months we urge everyone to continue wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing and washing your hands frequently until we have achieved “herd immunity.” Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of the population becomes immune to an infectious disease (usually through vaccination) limiting the risk of infection passing through a community from person to person. When enough people are vaccinated and become immune, those who are not immune benefit from the limited spread of the disease. Until this is achieved, we need everyone to keep masking up!  

For more information about COVID-19 and the vaccination process, please visit the following resources:

CDC | COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Phases

COVID-19 Safety

Washington State COVID-19 Response

Vaccinating our community is an enormous – and unprecedented – undertaking. Your gift will help ensure we’re able to reach every member of our community.