COVID-19 VACCINES

Currently, anyone who lives, works or attends school in Hamilton County, ages 12 and older, is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.  Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best and safest way to protect us against COVID-19. COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how the disease will affect you. If someone gets infected, they could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around them. 

When a large segment of the population is immune to the infection, then “herd immunity” develops and that stops the infection from passing from one person to another.  Vaccines are readily available, and everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated. 

All of the 3 currently available vaccines, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are extremely effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19,” said Dr. Valerie Boaz.  Dr. Valerie Boaz retired from the Health Department in July 2019 after serving 32 years as the Health Officer.  She recently rejoined the Hamilton County Health Department to promote awareness and acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Hamilton County, Blacks or African Americans comprise 19.3 % of the population.  As of May 18, 2021, Blacks comprised 17% of the COVID-19 cumulative cases but 27% of the COVID-19 cumulative deaths in Hamilton County.  Only 27% of the Black population in Hamilton County are vaccinated.    “We need to dramatically increase the number of people who are vaccinated,” Dr. Boaz said.

As part of the goal to achieve equity in vaccine access and distribution, the Health Department, under the leadership of Bill Ulmer, and with the assistance of Calvin Bibbs, continues to work with the churches and local partners.  This is alongside the educational and awareness campaign that Dr. Boaz is leading.

Many of the elderly in Hamilton County have not been vaccinated.  Young adults and children 12 and older should also be encouraged to get vaccinated.  Even though adolescents and young adults may have mild symptoms if they get infected, they are at the same risk for long-term symptoms.  If infected, adolescents and young adults can spread the infection to family members, friends and co-workers, many of whom may be at high risk of infection. 

COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing.  This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines on the same day, as well as co-administration within 14 days.  A person is considered fully vaccinated if 14 or more days have elapsed after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 14 or more days after the one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. 

People with chronic medical conditions, including people with autoimmune conditions, Bell’s palsy and Guillain-Barre’, may get the vaccine.  People with immunocompromising conditions may get the vaccine, but may not mount the same level of protection in response to the vaccine as those who are not immunocompromised.  Pregnant women are considered at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.  Since the vaccine has not been studied in pregnant women, they are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider. 

People who had COVID-19 and recovered still need to get the vaccine.  If someone was treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, or if there is a history of multisystem inflammatory syndrome linked to COVID-19, consideration should be given to waiting 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the coronavirus so it cannot infect you.  It does not alter the DNA or reproductive system.  It does not contain eggs, latex or preservatives. The COVID-19 vaccine will not interfere with medications.  People with allergies to foods, such as peanuts and shellfish, pets, venom or environmental agents or oral medications may receive the vaccine.

Someone should not get the vaccine if they are allergic to any of the vaccine components or if they had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The body starts building protection to COVID-19 after vaccination.  Some people may have some side effects after receiving the vaccine, which are normal signs that the body is building protection to COVID-19.  Others may not have side effects, but the body is still building protection. The local side effects are pain, redness and swelling at the injection site.  Other reactions are fever, chills, tiredness, headache, body aches and flu-like symptoms.  Serious adverse reactions are rare, and a small number of people have experienced blood clots after receiving the Jansen COVID-19 vaccine.   V-Safe is a CDC smartphone-based tool where people can report any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The Hamilton County Health Department is administering the COVID-19 vaccine.  No appointments are necessary, but if someone wants to make an appointment, they can do so online or by calling 423-209-5398.  Free transportation is available by calling 423-209-8383.  In addition, a full list of providers and pharmacies offering COVID-19 vaccine in our area (by zip code) is available online at https://vaccinefinder.org/search   

“This COVID-19 vaccine is what we have been waiting for to curb this pandemic.  We do not want anyone to miss out on getting this vaccine because of some questions or concerns that could have been addressed,” Dr. Boaz said.

 For more information, please call the Health Department’s hotline at 423-209-8383 or visit the website https://health.hamiltontn.org.

Valerie A. Boaz, MD

Hamilton County Health Department