Eve Bowmaster, BSN, RN, CPHQ, CPPS, is GBMC HealthCare’s Director, Quality & Patient Safety for Physician Practices and has been instrumental in managing vaccine education and distribution processes for the GBMC system. While information is ever-changing, GBMC consistently endorses Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidance in order to help community members make informed decisions for themselves and their families.
Vaccine AccessibilityAccording to Eve, GBMC receives an allocation of vaccines from the state in accordance with Maryland’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. Once the vaccines are received, GBMC opens vaccine clinics to patients and the public who meet vaccination criteria per the phased plan, and those appointments fill quickly. GBMC has vaccinated as many patients and community members as its supply has permitted, and zero doses have been wasted. Unfortunately, the vaccine supply has been inconsistent and GBMC can only administer as many doses as it has on hand.
Patients and community members are encouraged to frequently visit the State of Maryland website, County and other local jurisdiction websites, as well as retail locations such as Giant Food pharmacies and Walgreens pharmacies to secure appointments. In some cases, forms may be filled out online so organizations can contact people when vaccine doses become available. Eve recommends signing up in multiple places and to call or visit websites for updates.
Vaccine Side EffectsFirst, it’s important to explain how the vaccines work. The two currently authorized for use in the U.S. – Pfizer and Moderna – are known as “mRNA vaccines.”
Neither of the two vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. Mild flu-like symptoms following a vaccine dose are normal and generally last 24-48 hours.
Individuals are asked to wait for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine for observation. But, Eve says, of the more than 10,000 vaccines GBMC has administered, 0.01% have experienced a moderate reaction, and no severe reactions have been reported.
There has been noted concern from community members about the vaccine for those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. According to the CDC, there is no known evidence to suggest the side effects of this vaccine will cause adverse effects. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest any mRNA vaccine affects these conditions.
The CDC only advises those who have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past to not receive this one. For most other groups, the health risks posed by contracting COVID-19 far outweigh the potential risks and side effects of the vaccine. If there is a question or concern, individuals should contact their primary care provider or appropriate specialist.
After the VaccineOne of the first questions asked after vaccination is “when can I stop wearing a mask?”
The short answer is not until we, as a country, have reached herd immunity.
The CDC states “Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns. While experts don’t yet know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, vaccination is a safer way to build protection than getting sick with COVID-19.”
Vaccine EffectivenessBoth the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines are approximately 95% effective, which means vaccinated people still have a 5% chance of becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine does not reach its full efficacy until two weeks after the second dose.
Keep in mind no vaccine is 100% effective, so inherent risks remain. GBMC HealthCare encourages people to continue wearing a mask, washing their hands, and maintaining social distance until further notice to protect those who are most vulnerable.
GBMC is committed to providing its patients and community with useful information about COVID-19 and vaccinations. Public health guidance changes frequently, so be sure to follow GBMC on social media and visit www.gbmc.org/coronavirus for new developments.