The COVID-19 vaccine’s speedy development has left many Arizonans skeptical, but experts have proven this shot to be safe and effective. We’ll get you up to speed on where, when and how to get vaccinated — and why nearly everyone in the state should do it as soon as they can.
March 19, 2021
After living through a devastating pandemic for over a year, people are wondering exactly when and how to get the COVID vaccine in Arizona. Some people have shown skepticism and uncertainty toward the shot due to its rapid pace of development. This hesitation is understandable, but it’s important to note that this vaccine has been proven completely safe and effective by the country’s top medical experts.
As of March 1, the country has administered more than 96.4 million doses. Early estimates predicted we would have enough supply to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of July 2021, but this timeline has recently moved up to the end of May 2021.
If you want your vaccine within the next couple months, doctors encourage you to get it. Everyone older than 16 is eligible to receive the vaccine, but now it’s a matter of when you can access it. The vaccines are still being studied in children younger than 16.
Here are the most important things you need to know about the vaccine:
The rollout process for the COVID-19 vaccine on both a state and federal level prioritizes the most vulnerable people. Now that more supply is available, we can start reaching the general population.
1A) Prioritizes frontline healthcare workers and those living or working in long-term care facilities.
1B) Arizona is currently in this stage. Federal guidelines recommend prioritizing teachers and individuals over age 75, but our state has opted to include an early rollout for people ages 55 and up.
1C) Prioritizes those with high-risk medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and other chronic illnesses.
Within the next 1 to 2 months, experts predict that the general public will be able to get the shot based on supply and availability. Be sure to visit the Arizona Department of Health Services Vaccine Eligibility Checker regularly, as information changes daily.
The vaccine is available at no out-of-pocket cost to individual patients so communities can reach herd immunity more quickly and easily. The federal government provides the vaccine free of charge, but your healthcare provider may bill your insurance company, Medicaid or Medicare for an administration fee.
Let’s get down to the science behind the first two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Essentially, mRNA vaccines serve as a blueprint that helps our immune system recognize a foreign substance like a virus, develop antibodies as a response, then quickly degrade before embedding into our DNA.
The mRNA vaccines teach our cells with instructions to make a protein that acts as a harmless copy of the virus. After creating those protein copies, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Once our bodies realize the protein shouldn’t be there, they create T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that remember how to fight off the virus if we’re ever infected in the future.
The third vaccine, from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, also referred to as Johnson & Johnson, works in a slightly different manner. This is called a Viral vector vaccine. Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells. For COVID-19 viral vector vaccines, the vector (not the virus that causes COVID-19, but a different, harmless virus) will enter a cell in our body and then use the cell’s machinery to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. This piece is known as a spike protein, and it is only found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Just like the mRNA vaccines, the cell displays the spike protein on its surface, and our immune system recognizes it doesn’t belong there. This triggers our immune system to produce antibodies and activate other immune cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection.
Side effects vary with each individual. The most common include injection site pain, fatigue, headache and muscle aches. Joint pain, chills, nausea, swelling, diarrhea and fever are less common but still possible. Usually, these symptoms end after roughly 24 hours and are more pronounced after the second round of the vaccine.
Serious side effects are incredibly rare, occurring at a rate of just 5 people per 2.8 million doses — mostly from individuals who already were susceptible to severe reactions. Overall, there have been no long-term adverse effects shown in month-over-month studies so far.
Yes! Those who have been previously infected should still get the vaccine. Since natural immunity has not proven to be as effective as the vaccine, fully recovered patients should still get their shot as soon as their quarantine period is over, and the vaccine is available to them. When it comes to reaching herd immunity, health experts say, “the more, the merrier.”
Two weeks after the first dose, your body will begin to develop antibodies through an immune response. This prevents the spread of the virus to an extent — around 55% to 70%. The second dose gives you even more protection, as re-exposure significantly accelerates and strengthens your ability to fight off the virus. Two weeks after round two, you’ll be 95% protected from becoming symptomatically ill, and nearly 100% safe from severe illness or death.
You’ll likely receive some natural immunity after getting the virus, but doctors are unsure of its duration or degree. Many experts believe this protection only lasts up to three months.
After being vaccinated, you should still follow the three steps of COVID safety: social distancing, wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene. Medical experts don’t know if individuals who have been vaccinated can asymptomatically transmit the virus. That’s why we need to do our part to stay safe until we reach a point where COVID-19 is no longer transmitted within our community.
Arizona’s numbers are declining daily due to multiple factors, including the vaccine, less holiday gatherings and people taking responsibility to protect themselves and those around them. Statistics are currently trending in the right direction, but it’s up to everyone to do their research, stay socially distanced and get the vaccine as soon as they can.
The whole world, including government entities, doctors, scientists and the general public, came together focus on one task: developing a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine. We moved quickly because we had to, and it worked. As a result of our efforts, we now have the power and potential to end this pandemic once and for all in 2021. So, check your state’s most reliable resources regularly and get your vaccine as soon as it’s available to you!
Let’s finish strong! Have more questions about how to get the COVID vaccine in Arizona? Visit covid19.valleywisehealth.org.