The COVID-19 vaccines are here, but can we trust them? Dr. Ernest Grant, who has participated in a COVID-19 vaccine phase III clinical trial, answers our top questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and their risks.
Should we be concerned that the COVID-19 vaccine development was rushed?
No. We had the DNA sequence of the virus by January 2020, which put us far ahead in terms of being able to understand what kind of virus we were dealing with.
Does the vaccine make you immune to the virus? If so, for how long?
The vaccine provides immunity in that it does block the virus’ ability to come into the body and start wreaking havoc. How long immunity lasts is something we are currently studying. Perhaps in the future, the vaccines may have to be tweaked to accommodate any new mutations that may happen.
Should I take any one of the approved vaccines as soon as it’s available to me? Yes. The longer you wait, the more you risk exposing yourself to infection and potentially becoming a vessel to transmit the virus.
Do the vaccines pose any risks to people with underlying conditions, like heart disease, diabetes or hypertension?
Based on what I have read so far, there are no detrimental side effects. People have reported symptoms of fever, chills and fatigue, but that’s letting us know that the vaccine is working and the body is building up immunity.
Who, if anyone, should be hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Perhaps people with pre-existing conditions that might cause the side effects to be very taxing on their immune system, such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. People in these groups should consult with their health care provider as to whether or not they are a prime candidate to take the vaccine at this time.
Will I still need to wear a mask after I’ve been vaccinated? You still will need to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands as frequently as possible. There may be people around you who have not been vaccinated, and you don’t want to put them at risk. We would need 80 to 90 percent of the country vaccinated before we can go without wearing masks.
Am I still at risk of spreading COVID-19 to my friends and family even after I’ve been vaccinated?
The COVID-19 virus is in the air, and it can be on our clothes. So if they have not also been vaccinated, then yes, you can still spread the virus to them.
This article originally appears in the March/April 2021 issue of ESSENCE, on stands now.