COVID-19 safety guidelines, availability of vaccines, and new information about new variants continue to evolve and emerge. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which informs our policy, unambiguously states that the rise in availability and rate of vaccination will substantially reduce the risks of serious illness associated with COVID-19. Therefore, our approach at Home Care Assistance remains straightforward - We encourage any caregiver or family member who is eligible for a vaccine, and has an opportunity to get one, to schedule it as soon as possible.
Home Care Assistance’s Position on Vaccine
Internal staff are leading by example and getting vaccinated - creating a united front and demonstrating to our caregivers that the vaccine is safe and effective.
Caregivers are frontline health care workers generally have access to the vaccine. Thanks to relentless advocacy, caregivers in many states have been afforded the same early access to the vaccine as other frontline healthcare works such as doctors, nurses, and nursing home staff. Our Care Team members at Home Care Assistance are working diligently to make the vaccine accessible and available to all caregivers. Overcoming barriers to access and protecting our clients is our number one priority.
Current Vaccine Information
The two approved vaccines in the United States are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Both of the approved COVID-19 vaccines are at least 90% effective in preventing an individual from experiencing COVID illness and symptoms. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots to reach maximum efficacy. The Pfizer vaccine is taken 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine is taken 28 days apart.
Which vaccine you get depends on where you live and availability. Senior living communities and health care workers have priority for receiving the vaccine, and some states have rolled out vaccines for those who are 65 and 70-years-old, and older community-dwelling individuals. Each state is responsible for determining who currently has access to the vaccine. There is no federally mandated policy for vaccine distribution or age groups. So, the state where you live determines vaccine distribution and age groups who receive the vaccine. You and your clients may have greater or lesser access to the vaccine depending entirely upon where you live.
Some states contract with major pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens to distribute the vaccine. Others are extending distribution to smaller, local pharmacies in an effort to reach rural and vulnerable populations. The more locations authorized to distribute the vaccine, the better chance of getting people vaccinated in a timely fashion.
Vaccine Side Effects
Minor side effects such as pain around the needle prick, short-term fatigue, some body aches, and headaches have been reported. The majority of individuals who take the vaccine experience some of these minor side effects over 24 hours. AARP reports that “Only about 25 percent of people ages 50 to 64 and 4 percent of those ages 65 to 74 who received the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine between Dec. 14 and Jan. 13 experienced side effects, according to CDC data. Meanwhile, 65 percent of those under 50 reported a reaction.”
Reports of side effects have been variable. Some people have side effects, and others have none at all. There is some evidence that younger people have more effects following the vaccine than older individuals. This is thought to be due to a declining immune system in older individuals. But that doesn’t mean that the vaccine is less effective in older adults.
Current Safety Protocols
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has kept the same safety protocols in place with specific instructions on wearing masks since masks significantly reduce your chances of getting or passing the virus. Other protocols include standing at least 6 feet apart and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor areas.
As of this writing, we do not know whether vaccinated people can still carry the virus and pass it on to others. So, all recommended safety protocols remain in place even for those who have had both shots of either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. The other unknown is the new variants and current vaccines’ efficacy to protect individuals from those variants. Both Pfizer and Moderna are developing boosters, but so far, studies suggest that the current vaccines are at least somewhat protective against the variants.
Best Practices After Receiving the Vaccines
Understandably people are relieved to receive both of their doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. However, that doesn’t mean that safety protocols have changed and that people can go back to normal. Currently, we don’t have enough information to predict with confidence that people who have been vaccinated are not passing the virus to others. We also don’t know the efficacy of current vaccines against the variants that are circulating.
These unknowns mean that the same safety protocols recommended before being vaccinated remain the same after being vaccinated. Recommendations after the vaccine are wearing a mask, keeping a social distance of at least 6 feet, avoiding crowds and staying away from indoor spaces with poor ventilation.
Currently, over 30% of people say they won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine. Discussions include the best methods to overcome individuals’ reluctance to take the vaccine and eliminating those barriers. The reason vaccine hesitancy remains such an important issue is the concept of herd immunity.
Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are protected from getting the virus because they’ve already had the virus or received the vaccine. We don’t know the exact number of people that need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Still, estimates are that 50% to 67% of the population would need to be resistant before we get to herd immunity. So, for things to even begin to get back to normal, we need more people to be vaccinated so we can reach herd immunity.
COVID Safety and Prevention is our Goal
At Home Care Assistance, we recognize and celebrate the incredible resilience and commitment of our caregiving staff. This past year has presented challenges to all of us and none more than the frontline workers that serve our most vulnerable population. We remain committed to educating and supporting our caregivers in the continuing efforts to fight this virus.