The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have authorized the use of vaccines to combat the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Currently, there are two different vaccines being produced by drug makers Moderna and Pfizer. Combined, these clinical trials enrolled over 74,000 and, though studies are ongoing, the results appear to show that the vaccines are both safe and effective.
Without immunity, we are left vulnerable to unknowingly spreading the virus and endangering others even while asymptomatic. Vaccination offers us a path toward safety and recovery of our daily lives.
Please see the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the latest information about authorized COVID-19 vaccines.
Who is eligible for vaccination?
Currently everyone aged 65 and older and all those with a chronic health conditions are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Due to the limited vaccine supply coming in from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), HealthWorks Immunization Clinic, a service of Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic, will no longer be accepting new appointments at this time. When more vaccine allotments are made available, patients will be able to resume scheduling appointments through the online patient portal, Iris. For more information on vaccinations at drive-through sites around the state, please visit the MSDH for a full list of vaccination sites, eligibility, and appointments.
Do the vaccines work?
Yes. The Pfizer trial was shown to produce an antibody response in 95% of recipients beginning one week after the second dose. The Moderna trial proved to be 95.2% effective. The responses were the same across age, gender, race, and ethnicities. The Moderna vaccine produced antibodies that were present in the blood for up to three months, but immunity may last longer.
Who should get vaccinated?
At this time, the recommendation is for everyone 16 years and older to be vaccinated as soon as large quantities of vaccines are available. The Pfizer vaccine can be given to those 16 years and older. The Moderna vaccine can be given to those 18 years and older.
Additional trials are being conducted for children down to the age of 12. Results are anticipated in the spring of 2021.
Even if you have had COVID-19, it is advised that you also get vaccinated. There is not enough information to say if or for how long someone is protected by natural immunity.
Who is considered at increased risk for severe illness due to COVID-19?
Older adults. According to the CDC, eight out of ten deaths reported have been those who are 65 years and older.
Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. Severe illness from COVID-19 is defined as hospitalization, admission to the ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death. Those who are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19:
• Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
• Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
• Chronic kidney disease
• COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
• Cystic fibrosis
• Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
• Hypertension or high blood pressure
• Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
• Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
• Liver disease
• Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
• Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
• Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
• Sickle cell disease
• Type 1 diabetes mellitus
• Type 2 diabetes mellitus
• Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
Children with the following conditions might be at increased risk for severe illness: obesity, severe genetic disorders, severe neurologic disorders, inherited metabolic disorders, sickle cell disease, congenital (since birth) heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, asthma and other chronic lung disease, and immunosuppression due to malignancy or immune-weakening medications.
We do not yet know who is at increased risk for developing the rare but serious complication associated with COVID-19 in children called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), nor do we know what causes MIS-C.
Black Americans and the LatinX communities are also more susceptible to serious illness, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19. Per the CDC, Black Americans and Latino or Hispanic persons are 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white non-Hispanic persons.
Are the vaccines safe?
Yes. Safety is a top priority for all vaccines. While the current vaccines were developed and approved at a much faster pace than other vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – as well as all vaccines approved by the CDC and FDA – are required to meet the same very strict standards for safety.
You cannot get COVID-19 from these vaccines. They are different because they are not weakened or inactive virus.
Vaccines today use only the necessary ingredients to be as safe and effective as possible. Each of these ingredients serves a specific purpose to provide immunity, keep the vaccine safe and long lasting, and facilitate the production of the vaccine.
Learn more about the methods and monitoring systems that ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
What are the side effects?
Side effects may include symptoms such as fever, headache, chills and muscle aches. These normal immune responses are more likely to develop after the second dose. Side effects were less severe in older adults than in younger adults and generally disappeared within a few days. The vaccines were tolerated well across all eligible populations and no serious safety concerns were observed.
How many times do I need to get the shot?
At this time, the available COVID-19 vaccines require two doses. The first dose primes your immune system to fight the disease and the second further boosts immunity. Despite feeling bad after the first dose, it is important that you return for your second dose. Participants in the trials said that while the symptoms were uncomfortable, and at times intense, they often went away after a single day.
For more information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit the Centers for Disease Control at: