As health care professionals, we have a responsibility to be public health leaders in our communities. An important way to fulfill that responsibility is by respectfully sharing accurate and science-based information about the vaccine—especially with those who might be hesitant.
Public discourse around COVID-19 vaccines has become highly charged, with widespread misinformation creating confusion and fear. To make your conversations on vaccines productive, it is helpful to remain empathetic and non-judgmental, and to listen to people’s concerns. You can also guide people to trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control or their primary care physicians.
Below are some answers to commonly asked questions you can share with the people in your life:
Information about the vaccine is changing all the time. Why should I trust it?
As a novel virus, the COVID-19 virus was one we hadn’t encountered before. We’re learning more about it as time goes on, and it would be irresponsible to not update recommendations as new findings come to light. In addition, developments such as the COVID-19 Delta variant can cause recommendations to change, as the situation itself evolves. What has remained consistent since vaccines were first approved for use is that they:
- Are safe and effective, especially against serious illness, hospitalization, and death
- Can help prevent long-term complications of COVID-19
Why should I get the vaccine instead of relying on immunity from COVID-19 infection?
While COVID-19 infection provides some antibodies, immunity from COVID-19 vaccines is two to three times higher than natural immunity and can greatly lower your risk of reinfection. The vaccines also provide additional protection against virus variants.
If you have not yet had COVID-19, the vaccine can help prevent you from getting infected or seriously ill in the first place, lowering your risk of long-term complications.
My vaccination status doesn’t impact anyone else. Why is it anyone’s business?
In a pandemic, especially one with a virus as easily transmissible as COVID-19, our vaccine status does impact others. Vaccination does more than protect us from infection or serious illness; it makes us less likely to spread the virus to others. This layer of protection is especially important for those who are immunocompromised or who are unable to be vaccinated.
In addition, being vaccinated against COVID-19 lowers the risk of serious illness and hospitalization. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous stress on health care systems, pushing resources and staffing to new limits. The vaccine lowers the chances we will need to use precious resources.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 serves the greater good, allowing us to protect ourselves and those around us, and to help bring an end to the pandemic through broad-scale immunity.
How do we know the vaccines are safe when they were developed so quickly?
The COVID-19 vaccines went through all the same safety studies and protocols as other vaccines. However, due to the urgency of the situation and unprecedented global funding, steps that may have been delayed for years were able to occur in rapid succession or simultaneously, greatly speeding up the process. In addition, COVID-19’s broad spread around the world allowed data on the vaccines’ effectiveness to be gathered quickly, as the protective impact of vaccines was rapidly apparent.
I’m currently expecting, and the vaccines make me nervous. Is it safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?
Yes, it is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant. In fact, the American Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommends that pregnant people be vaccinated against COVID-19, as the risks of COVID-19 infection while pregnant are so high. Pregnant people who are unvaccinated face much higher rates of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. COVID-19 infection also increases the risk of preterm delivery and stillbirth, making vaccination important for the baby’s health as well.
The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe while pregnant, with no associated increase in miscarriages or other pregnancy complications. Getting vaccinated while pregnant can also pass antibodies to the baby, providing protection after they are born. For those who are already vaccinated, ACOG recommends a booster vaccine dose once they are eligible to bolster their protection, as immunity from the initial vaccine series can wane over time.
I’m confused by the new recommendations on booster vaccine doses. Why would I need a booster, and should I get the same vaccine as before?
Booster doses can strengthen your immunity to COVID-19, as the vaccine’s effectiveness naturally decreases over time. This is like many other vaccines, which are given in a series to build more robust immunity. Booster doses are recommended for certain populations, which varies based on the vaccine originally received. A quick guide to booster dose eligibility is available here.
The CDC also approved the mixing of booster doses. For instance, if a person originally received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, they may elect to receive one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) for a booster dose, as the mRNA vaccines have generally been more effective against COVID-19. People can also choose to receive the same vaccine for a booster as their original series.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists and medical experts–including those at Trinity Health–have continued to learn more about the COVID-19 virus, acting quickly to respond to new evidence and stop surges throughout the country. Science is a process of learning and making the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time to protect as many lives as possible.
In addition to sharing the information above, please encourage everyone you know to educate themselves about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy by directing them to the COVID-19 vaccine information page on the Trinity Health website, and to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state vaccine information pages.
Celebrate Holidays Safely
We wish you and your loved ones safe, happy holidays. Follow the CDC’s recommendations on safer ways to celebrate them.