Spring 2021 Community Newsletter

In the latest edition of Watertown Regional Medical Center's Making Communities Healthier Newsletter, learn more about COVID-19 vaccines, get your allergy-related questions answered by one of our doctors, read a message from our CEO, and meet one of our newsest providers, Dr. Myszkowski.

COVID-19 Vaccines: What you should know
Helen Box, MD, Primary Care Provider

Helen Box, MD
Primary Care Provider

With the arrival of effective vaccines that can protect us from COVID-19, we have a great opportunity to put this pandemic behind us. In this issue of Making Communities Healthier, we’re asking Dr. Helen Box, a primary care physician with Watertown Regional Medical Center, some of the most frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Read on to learn more about these vaccines and how they can help us get back to all the things we’ve been missing over the past year.

Making Communities Healthier: The COVID-19 vaccines have been created quickly relative to other vaccines throughout the history of medicine. Are they safe?
Dr. Box: Yes. COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same rigorous process to gain the FDA authorization that all vaccines available in the U.S. have gone through. As for the speed with which they were developed, there are a few important factors that played a pivotal role there, including already existing research, advanced technology that we didn’t have decades ago and unprecedented partnership and funding around the world to develop a vaccine and save lives. These vaccines went through extensive testing prior to authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so you can have peace of mind knowing they are safe.

MCH: How effective are the vaccines in protecting someone from COVID-19?
Dr. Box: These vaccines have been proven effective in reducing the risk of getting infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, decreasing the likelihood of having a severe case of COVID-19 and reducing hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.

MCH: Are there any side effects one might experience after being vaccinated?
Dr. Box: The good news is that any potential side effects are mostly mild to moderate, with 
the most common ones including pain or soreness at the injection site, headache and fatigue. I know even mild side effects can be a nuisance, but I will tell you from my experience caring for patients and families during this pandemic that these side effects are infinitely preferable to the complications that arise with a serious case of COVID-19. It’s also important to note that the vaccines do not contain the live COVID-19 virus, so it is NOT possible to contract COVID-19 from being vaccinated.

MCH: How many doses are required for a full vaccination?
Dr. Box: Your dose regimen will depend on the type of vaccine you receive. Some COVID-19 vaccines require a two-dose regimen, while another type may only require one dose.

MCH: What if I have already had COVID-19 and recovered? Do I still need to get vaccinated?
Dr. Box: Yes. The vaccine is recommended even if you have already had COVID-19 and recovered. While you may have antibodies to help fight off another infection after being infected initially, the length and effectiveness of that natural protection is unknown.

MCH:  Do I still need to wear a mask after being vaccinated?
Dr. Box: For now, the short answer is yes for several reasons. Firstly, vaccines take some time to get to work in your body. In fact, it can take a couple of weeks for antibodies to build up in your immune system. And since the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, that timeline gets extended a bit. So, you would be fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your second shot for a two-dose vaccine. We don’t yet know the full protection timeline for the single dose vaccine that we expect to come soon. Secondly, it will take some time to get vaccines distributed widely across our community and country and get the majority of our population vaccinated.

Until that day comes when vaccines are widely administered, it is so important that we continue to do everything we can to stop the spread of this virus. That includes wearing our masks in public places, continuing to practice social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene.

MCH: Frontline healthcare providers have been among the first to receive the vaccines. Why did you choose to get the vaccine, and why is it so important to get vaccinated?
Dr. Box: I chose to get vaccinated for peace of mind. I now feel confident that I will not spread the virus to my elderly mother, my coworkers or my friends. I no longer worry I could suddenly become ill, stuck in isolation, and unable to work. With these vaccines, we are on the right track to putting this pandemic behind us and getting back to a more normal way of life. Like so many things that are worthwhile, it will take all of our community joining together to make it happen. That means continuing to wash our hands, practice social distancing and wear our masks, and 
all of us choosing to get vaccinated when we can so that we can get back to spending time with friends and family, attending concerts, traveling or whatever it is that you enjoy and have been missing. I strongly encourage everyone in our community to be a vaccine hero when you have the opportunity to get your shot – do it for your family, for your friends, for yourself and for the overall well-being of our community.

To learn more and stay updated on COVID-19 vaccines, including when and where you will be able to get vaccinated, visit WatertownRegional.com/coronavirus-covid-19-preparedness-information.