The Hamilton County Health Dept. conducted a virtual town hall Jan. 27 to inform county residents about COVID-19 vaccines and answer frequently asked questions.
HCHD Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Christian Walker, Interim Administrator Jason LeMaster and Health Education Specialist Jim Ginder provided information during the program.
Since COVID-19 vaccines became available in Hamilton County last month, 30,348 doses have been administered, which is the second highest in the state behind Marion County. Nearly 480,000 Hoosiers have been vaccinated as of press time.
Ginder said approximately 16 percent of people have experienced mild symptoms, such as a low-grade fever, fatigue or soreness, following the immunizations. Ginder said even people who have recovered from COVID-19 should still consider receiving the vaccine because it is unknown how long COVID-19 antibodies stay in the body. The vaccines are produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses given a minimum of 21 days apart. Ginder said with both vaccines, the second dose can be given up to 42 days after the first dose, but immunity cannot be guaranteed if the doses are further apart. The Pfizer vaccine is not offered by the health department because it is required to be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Hospitals Riverview Health and IU Health have the ability to store the Pfizer vaccine, so they offer both vaccines.
The Pfizer vaccine provides 95 percent protection against COVID-19. Patients are fully protected seven days after they receive their second dose. The vaccine is available for patients 16 and older.
The Moderna vaccine also requires two doses. The second dose is given at least 28 days after the first dose. The Moderna vaccine provides 94-percent protection against the virus, and patients are fully protected two weeks after receiving the second dose. The vaccine is approved for people 18 and older. The Moderna vaccine is stored at a temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ginder overviewed other vaccines in clinical trials that have not been granted emergency authorization by the FDA. Vaccines in development include those by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which are expected to be the next two vaccines to be approved. They are both in the third stage of clinical trials, and Ginder said he hopes they will be approved by mid-March. Vaccines by Novavax and Sanofi are further behind in clinical trials. Ginder said the four vaccines in the works are not mRNA vaccines.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Will these vaccines work against different variants of the virus?
A: Maybe. Research studies are underway that show the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may work against new COVID-19 variants, but more clinical data is needed.
Q: How long will the vaccine protect me?
A: Clinical trials are being conducted to see how long immunity from the vaccines lasts.
Q: How do we know the vaccine is safe, and what are the chances of an allergic reaction?
A: Both vaccines have received authorization for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after completing multi-staged clinical trials.
Ginder said out of all patients vaccinated at the Hamilton County’s site at the 4-H Fairgrounds in Noblesville, no one has experienced allergic reactions. If someone were to experience a severe reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, the health department has basic emergency supplies on hand, a doctor is present and other response measures are in place. Patients are screened prior to receiving the vaccine, and they must wait 15 to 30 minutes after receiving it before leaving to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction.
Q: When can those with underlying health conditions receive the vaccine?
A: The Hamilton County Health Dept. is following the state’s instruction, so the vaccine is only available to those ages 70 and older, health care professionals and first responders.
Q: When will herd immunity occur?
A: Herd immunity is expected to occur when 70 percent of the state’s population has been vaccinated. Currently, only 7 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
Q: How can I register for the vaccine?
A: Those who qualify to receive the vaccine can register at ourshot.in.gov or by calling 2-1-1. Residents also can register by calling the AARP or local libraries, where librarians are undergoing training to assist patients with scheduling their vaccine.
Q: Should I make multiple appointments to receive the vaccine?
A: No. The health department requests patients only make one appointment for their vaccine, as some people are making five or six appointments to shop for the best vaccine, and that delays the vaccine process for others.
Q: Where can I get vaccinated?
A: County sites include the Ascension St. Vincent in Noblesville, the Fishers Health Dept. clinic, the Hamilton County Fairgrounds, IU Health North, Riverview Health, two Meijer locations – one on West Carmel Drive in Carmel and one on Mercantile Boulevard Noblesville and a Walmart location on Clover Road Noblesville.
Q: What does the vaccine cost?
A: The vaccine is free, but insured patients should still bring their insurance card. Uninsured patients also can receive the vaccine at no cost.