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Schedule your COVID vaccination today!

We have limited quantities of vaccine available.

Adult Vaccines
(ages 12 and older)


Pediatric Vaccines
(ages 5-11)

Pfizer vaccines are AVAILABLE
for individuals 12 years and older.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are AVAILABLE for individuals
18 years and older.

Pfizer Pediatric vaccines is AVAILABLE for patients ages 5-11 years of age on

**Walk-ins are welcome, or appointments can be made by calling 815-632-5298.

To search by ZIP for other public locations for COVID-19 vaccines, visit

Adult and Pediatric Vaccine Clinic
Hours and

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 8:30 am-4:30pm

CGH Main Clinic - 1st floor Lobby

(*Note: Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for individuals 5 years of age and older. The Moderna and one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for individuals 18 years of age and older.)

Other Places to receive your COVID-19 Vaccine Locally

(Please check or call the specific location directly for the brand of COVID vaccine currently available at that location)

  • Walgreens (Sterling)
  • Walgreens (Rock Falls)
  • CVS (Sterling):
    (Must bring vaccination card if getting second dose, no new cards issued)
  • Wal-Mart (Sterling)
  • Whiteside County Health department hours vary (check their FB page or website)
  • For other locations currently giving the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit and search by ZIP code

You can also sign up for information from the Whiteside County Health Department regarding additional community vaccine clinics they may be holding:

** For COVID-19 Testing Information, click here **

(To download and print the following information regarding Second COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters, click here)

Who should receive a 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine?

Currently, CDC is recommending that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional (third) dose. This includes people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

People should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.

COVID-19 Booster Shot Guidelines

For some viruses, the protection we get from a vaccine starts to wear off over time. An additional dose of the vaccine may be needed to boost your immune response and make sure you are protected from the virus. Boosters are common for many vaccines, like the Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). CGH Medical Center follows the guidance of IDPH and CDC recommendations as to who should receive a booster dose.


Below is a list of common, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that we have received about the vaccine.

What are the side effects to the vaccine?

Mild side effects are common and may include: soreness in the arm receiving the injection, muscle aches, fevers, chills, headaches and fatigue. These usually are an indication that your immune response is working. SEVERE side effects, thankfully, are NOT COMMON.

The growing experience with the vaccine is showing that the older you are, the less side effects you tend to have (one of the few advantages to being older!). Concerns about side effects are valid but please balance that with the risk of COVID itself.

Should I take Ibuprofen or Tylenol before or after I get the vaccine?

We do not recommend taking ibuprofen or Tylenol before getting the vaccine. However, for mild symptoms, if needed, you may take them afterward.

How much will the vaccine cost?

Your insurance will be billed for the administration, but not for the vaccine itself. The vaccine is free of charge. You may receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) stating you have an out-of-pocket expense, but you should not be billed for this. If for some reason you do receive a bill, please contact the business office and we will take care of it.

If I had COVID in the past or tested positive previously, can I still get the vaccine?

Yes, if you have recovered and have been released from quarantine (at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms).

If I’m allergic to the flu vaccine, can I still get the COVID vaccine?

Yes. But you will need to be observed for 30 minutes following.

If I have a history of anaphylaxis or other severe allergies and carry an Epi-Pen with me, can I still get the vaccine?

Yes, but you will need to be observed for 30 minutes following. Please bring your Epi-Pen with you.

If I have an allergy to antibiotics, can I still get the vaccine?

Yes. If it was a severe reaction in the past, you will need to be observed for 30 minutes afterward.

If I am currently taking antibiotics, can I still get the vaccine?

Yes, as long as you do not have symptoms of COVID. Please speak with your physician or health care provider first if you have any questions.

I recently got my shingles or pneumonia vaccine. Can I get the COVID vaccine now?

Yes, as long as it has been 14 days since you received any other vaccine.

We strive to do our best for you every day. This whole pandemic has been difficult for everyone and we appreciate your patience and support. Keeping you healthy is our primary concern. Please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns. With the COVID vaccine, we hope to see an end to this historic pandemic. Thank you for your help!

Click below to view frequently asked questions from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
For a printable copy of the following IDPH FAQ's, click here.

Vaccine Safety

Is a COVID-19 vaccine safe?

The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is a top priority. Currently, clinical trials are evaluating investigational COVID-19 vaccines with many thousands of study participants to generate scientific data and other information for the FDA to determine their safety and effectiveness.

If the FDA determines a vaccine meets its safety and effectiveness standards, it can make these vaccines available for use in the U.S. by approval or Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). After the FDA makes its determination, ACIP will review the available data in order to make vaccine recommendations to the CDC. ACIP will then recommend vaccine use. After a vaccine is authorized or approved for use, vaccine safety monitoring systems will watch for adverse events (possible side effects). CDC is working to expand safety surveillance through new systems and additional information sources, as well as enhancing existing safety monitoring systems.

Clinical Trials:

Phase 1 clinical trials assess the safety and dosage of a vaccine in a small number of people, typically a dozen to several dozen healthy volunteers. Whether a vaccine stimulates immune responses is often assessed in a phase 1 study but this is better assessed in phase 2 studies, which typically involve hundreds of people including some special groups such as children, people with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, and older adults. Vaccine safety is also assessed in phase 2 studies, in which adverse events not detected in phase 1 trials may be identified because a larger and more diverse group of people receive the vaccine. However, only in much larger phase 3 clinical trials can it be demonstrated whether a vaccine is actually protective against disease and safety is more fully assessed.

Phase 3 clinical trials often include thousands of volunteers, and for Covid-19 vaccines will involve tens of thousands (30,000 to 45,000 people in some of the ongoing phase 3 trials). In phase 3 trials, participants are randomized to receive either the viral vaccine or a placebo vaccine (sometimes a vaccine against another disease or a harmless substance like saline). Randomization is a process to determine who receives the vaccine and who receives the placebo without any bias, like flipping a coin. To further prevent any bias in interpreting the study data, participants and most of the investigators will not know if an individual received the vaccine or placebo. The participants are then followed to see how many in each group get the disease. If the vaccine is efficacious, many fewer people who received the viral vaccine will get the disease compared to those who received the placebo vaccine. It takes time for cases of disease to accumulate so that we can be confident there is a true difference between the two groups, and this is why these phase 3 trials often take a long time. Assessing safety is also a major goal of phase 3 trials, both short-term safety (e.g. fever, tenderness, muscle aches) and long-term safety (e.g. autoimmune conditions or enhanced disease following infection).

After a vaccine is approved and in more widespread use, it is critically important to continue to monitor for both safety and effectiveness. Some very rare side effects may only be detectable when large numbers of people have been vaccinated. Safety concerns that are discovered at this late stage could lead a licensed vaccine to be withdrawn from use, although this is very rare.

Are the vaccines safe and if so, why have the pharmaceutical companies been indemnified? Are vaccine makers usually indemnified?

The FDA will make the determination on safety when they are deciding whether or not to approve the EUA.

What have the trials revealed?

Through their respective clinical trials, Pfizer and Moderna have indicated their vaccines are approximately 95% effective.

Information gathered through clinical trials becomes public in the course of the EUA submission. Once the EUA is submitted, these documents become accessible by the public through the FDA.

What is an emergency use authorization?

Drugs and vaccines have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that only safe and effective products are available to the American public. In situations when there is good scientific reason to believe that a drug is safe and is likely to treat or prevent disease, the FDA may authorize its use even if definitive proof of the efficacy of the drug is not known, especially for diseases that cause high mortality.

Emergency use authorizations were granted by the FDA Commissioner for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (later revoked) and for the use of convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized patients with Covid-19. Many are concerned that Emergency Use Authorization for a vaccine could be issued prematurely, before sufficient safety and efficacy data have been generated through phase 3 clinical trials.

It is important to emphasize that the bar for ensuring safety of a vaccine is higher than for a therapeutic to treat an ill person. Vaccines are given to potentially millions of healthy people, unlike drugs for sick people, and loss of trust in a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 could spill over into loss of trust in other vaccines, seriously jeopardizing public health.

Can someone get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, it is not possible to get Covid-19 from vaccines. Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 use inactivated virus, parts of the virus (e.g. the spike protein), or a gene from the virus. None of these can cause Covid-19.

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?

After the FDA’s decision on an EUA, ACIP will make recommendations for who should be vaccinated. ACIP will review data from clinical trials and determine if it is safe for pregnant women or other population groups to receive the vaccine.

Can children get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Pfizer is currently the only vaccine approved for children 5 years of age and older.

When injected with the vaccine, are you injecting me with COVID-19?

No, you are not being injected with the virus that causes COVID-19. None of the early COVID-19 vaccines tested in the U.S. use a live virus that causes COVID-19. The goal for each vaccine is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and to fight the virus that causes COVID-19. At this time, the vaccines closest to receiving approval are mRNA - messenger ribonucleic acid - vaccines. Like other vaccines, mRNA vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize a virus threat and begin producing antibodies to protect itself.

After getting a flu shot, I always get the flu. Will this cause me to get COVID-19?

Some people develop flu-like symptoms, such as mild fever and muscle aches, after getting a flu vaccination. These symptoms are not the same as having influenza. Similar to the flu vaccine, you may experience a sore arm, mild fever, and muscle aches, but you will not get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

I have allergies. Is this vaccine safe for me?

Individuals that have a severe allergy to polyethylene glycol (a component of laxatives and bowel prep) should not receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

What are the side effects of this vaccine?

When the vaccine manufacturers submit a request for an EUA, data from their clinical trials will be shared and we will know more about any potential side effects. At this time, studies have shown few people have side effects and those who do have very mild ones that include a sore arm, mild fever, and muscle aches.

After a vaccine is authorized or approved for use, many vaccine safety monitoring systems are in place to watch for adverse events (possible side effects). This continued monitoring can identify adverse events that may not have been seen during clinical trials. If an unexpected adverse event is observed, experts quickly study it further to assess whether it is a true safety concern.

It took four years to develop the mumps vaccine, how can the COVID-19 vaccine be safe and thoroughly tested so quickly?

The world’s attention has been on COVID-19 this year. Because financial and time resources have been dedicated to finding a COVID-19 vaccine, it was able to be developed quicker than vaccines in the past. These current COVID-19 vaccines under consideration were required to go through the same clinical trials and safety reviews as previously developed vaccines. The FDA issued guidance on the steps required for developing and ultimately licensing vaccines to prevent COVID-19 – the same rigorous safety standards required for all vaccines and all of the required steps were met.

Traditionally, it has taken many years to develop a vaccine, confirm its safety and efficacy, and manufacture the vaccine in sufficient quantities for public use. This timeline is substantially shortened for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in development. There are several ways this has been made possible. First, some clinical trials have combined phases 1 and 2 to assess safety and the immune responses. Second, because of the high number of new cases of Covid-19 in many places, differences in disease risk between those who received the viral vaccine and those who received the placebo or comparison vaccine can be measured more quickly than in the absence of a pandemic. Third, the United States government and others have heavily invested in building the manufacturing capacity to produce large numbers of vaccine doses before the findings of the phase 3 trials are available. Typically, vaccine manufacturers wait until the phase 3 trial is completed and shows safety and efficacy before making such a large investment in manufacturing capacity. None of these factors that contribute to the accelerated development of a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 imply that safety, scientific or ethical integrity are compromised, or that short-cuts have been made.

Can I get COVID-19 after the first dose of the vaccine?

Although the first dose of vaccine offers some immunity, you will still be considered susceptible to COVID-19. The first dose of the vaccine will provide some protection, but the recommendation is to receive two doses to be protected as intended. Pfizer and Moderna have indicated their vaccines are approximately 95% effective.

Is this vaccine preservative free?

Yes. The vaccine candidates that are likely to be the first offered are preservative free.


How many people need to get vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?

The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. Some experts feel that 60-70% of the general population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

If I get the vaccine, can I quit wearing a mask and social distancing?

At this time, we are asking the public to continue wearing masks and practice physical distancing even if they have received the vaccine until a large proportion of the population is vaccinated and we are sure the vaccine provides long-term protection.

What entity will be paying for the vaccines?

The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) will absorb the cost of the vaccines.

Can the State purchase more?

There is no cost to the State for the vaccine. The federal government, through HHS and the CDC, oversees the allocation of vaccine to states.

How much will this vaccine cost me? Is it covered by my insurance?

There is no cost for the vaccine. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Will the administrative fees be passed on to the patient in the form of a co-pay or deductible?


How do vaccines work?

Vaccines stimulate the human body’s own protective immune responses so that, if a person is infected with a pathogen, the immune system can quickly prevent the infection from spreading within the body and causing disease. In this way, vaccines mimic natural infection but without actually causing the person to become sick.

For SARS-CoV-2, antibodies that bind to and block the spike protein on the virus’s surface are thought to be most important for protection from disease because the spike protein is what attaches to human cells, allowing the virus to enter our cells. Blocking this entrance prevents infection.

Not all people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop disease (Covid-19 is the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2). These people have asymptomatic infection but can still transmit the virus to others. Most vaccines do not completely prevent infection but do prevent the infection from spreading within the body and from causing disease. Many vaccines can also prevent transmission, potentially leading to herd protection whereby unvaccinated people are protected from infection by the vaccinated people around them because they have less chance of exposure to the virus.

What are the different types of vaccines in development and why are there so many?

Several different types of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease Covid-19, are in development. Some are based on traditional methods for producing vaccines and others on newer methods. One of the more traditional ways of making a viral vaccine is to inactivate (kill) the virus with chemicals, such as is done with the flu vaccine, inactivated polio or hepatitis A vaccines, so that the virus can no longer multiply. Several inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are in development. Other vaccines are based on just a part of the bacteria or virus, typically one or more proteins, such as the vaccines for whooping cough (pertussis) and hepatitis B virus. For SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that focus on a part of the virus, this often means the spike protein on the surface of the virus.

Newer vaccine types include what are called viral vector vaccines, in which the SARS-CoV-2 gene for the spike protein is inserted into another harmless virus to deliver the gene to human cells where the spike protein is produced. The spike protein then stimulates immune responses. The most common viral vectors are adenoviruses, which typically cause common cold-like symptoms in people but are further weakened for vaccines so they cannot cause any disease at all. Several adenovirus vector vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 are in advanced clinical testing (phase 3 clinical trials).

Finally, instead of using a viral vector, the gene for the spike protein can be used directly as a vaccine in the form of DNA or messenger RNA (mRNA). These are the most novel SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Several mRNA vaccines are in advanced clinical testing.

Many manufacturers around the world are working on this global problem. This means that there will likely be multiple different types of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and they may work differently in different people. Hopefully, some will work well in older adults and in people with underlying conditions that impair their immune system, as these groups are more likely to get sick and die from Covid-19.

Vaccine Myths and Facts

As you consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19, you may have questions. You might even feel nervous. That’s OK.

Learning the facts about COVID-19 vaccines can help you make a good choice for you, your family and your community. After all, getting the vaccine is our SHOT at getting back to NORMAL!

Here’s a look at some common COVID-19 vaccine myths and facts.

MYTH: Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can make me sick with COVID-19.

FACT: None of the current U.S. vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. Instead, the vaccines teach your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus. This keeps you from getting sick with COVID-19.

MYTH: The vaccines are not very effective at stopping COVID-19.

FACT: Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be about 95% effective in preventing COVID-19. Each of these vaccines requires two doses to deliver that level of protection. The vaccine from Janssen Biotech, Inc. (a Johnson & Johnson company) is given in a single dose and was about 72% effective overall in its U.S. trial and 85% effective against severe disease.

MYTH: I've had COVID-19, so I don't need a vaccination.

FACT: Having COVID-19 gives you natural immunity from the disease, but it’s only temporary. Health experts don’t know how long natural immunity lasts. There is evidence it may not last very long. So even if you’ve had COVID-19, you should still get vaccinated.

MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines will alter my DNA.

FACT: The vaccines will not have any effect on your DNA at all. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA teaches your cells how to make a protein that fights the virus that causes COVID-19. But the mRNA never enters the nucleus of your cells, which is where DNA is found. It never interacts with your DNA in any way. Janssen's is a viral vector vaccine and can't affect or interact with your DNA.

MYTH: The vaccines affect a woman's ability to have a baby.

FACT: There is currently no evidence that the antibodies formed after COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy. In fact, there is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine.

MYTH: I have to pay to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

FACT: The U.S. government has paid for vaccine doses with taxpayer money, so vaccines are being given to Americans at no cost. It’s possible that vaccine providers may charge an administration fee for giving the vaccines, but this will be covered by insurance or by a special government fund if the patient is uninsured. No one will be denied a vaccine because of an inability to pay the administration fee.

MYTH: The vaccines were developed too fast to know if they're really safe or not.

FACT: The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology to produce antibodies to the COVID-19 virus. This technology had been in development for years before COVID-19 came into existence, so the researchers weren’t working from scratch. The Janssen vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. Viral vectors have been studied since the 1970s.

In addition:

  • China shared genetic information about the virus early on.
  • Researchers conducted all the usual testing steps. They just conducted them on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
  • Social media was used to find volunteers for vaccine tests.
  • Companies began making vaccines early on, so supplies were ready by the time vaccines were approved.
  • The vaccines have gone through rigorous studies to be sure they are as safe as possible.

MYTH: I will have major side effects after having the vaccine.

FACT: Some, but not all, people have minor, temporary side effects after being vaccinated. Side effects people have reported include:

  • Pain at the injection site.
  • Body aches.
  • Headaches.
  • Fever.

These side effects only last for a day or two. They are signs that your body is building immunity against the virus. You should call your doctor if symptoms last more than two days.

MYTH: I can stop wearing a mask after I get the vaccine.

FACT: It takes a few weeks for the body to develop immunity after a vaccine. In addition, we don’t know yet if vaccines stop people from transmitting the virus. But we know that masks can. We may not be able to stop wearing masks or social distancing until most people have had the vaccine.

MYTH: I’ve heard O negative blood is protective, so I don’t need a vaccine, right?

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

No “free pass” from vaccination here...I’ve had patients coming in wanting to know their blood type for this reason. Besides my own case anecdotally giving lie to this supposition (I have O negative blood, and still came down with Covid), the statistics of this make O negative blood far from a “Covid force field”. While it does appear that there are some differences in susceptibility in blood type, and some plausible mechanisms behind them, the effect is small - around a 10% difference in outcomes. Other risk factors - being overweight, older, or even male - account for an equal or greater effect. The effect from blood type is just not enough to change any decisions on risk taking. Basing a decision not to get a vaccine that can be 95% effective in preventing symptomatic disease (and nearly 100% in preventing hospitalization and death), because you have a blood type that reduces your risk by 10%, is not rational!

MYTH: I will “shed” COVID after taking the vaccine.

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

None of the vaccines contain COVID, and none of them can reproduce in the body, so no you will not “shed” COVID after vaccination.

MYTH: I shouldn't take the vaccine because I can still infect others, have to wear a mask and nothing changes.

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

The first phase III trials mostly focused on symptomatic disease, as it is clear and easy to measure. So we didn’t have “proof” that it reduced asymptomatic disease, and some caution was advised. It was always *likely* that it would, as most other vaccines do and the Moderna trial did test people for asymptomatic disease right before the second shot (but not after the full series). So all we had was Moderna’s 60% reduction after one shot. What was meant to be a message of “be careful until we know for sure” came to be heard as “it only limits symptoms, not infection.”

We now know from following more than a million vaccinated people in Israel, matched to similar not-yet vaccinated controls, that transmission is reduced 89%, and that viral load in the few who break through, is only ¼ of those who test positive without the vaccine on board.

As far as masking, that is coming progressively with time and amount of vaccinations. For now, among those who are vaccinated, recently had COVID, or a small group of low risk people, masks are no longer needed - the risk decreases to be a similar risk to things we do every day, like driving, etc.

MYTH: I shouldn't take a vaccine that is 95% effective for a disease that has a 1% death rate...Won't I be worse off!?

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

Yes, you should still take the vaccine. I’ll answer this in car terms. Over a lifetime, a person has about a 1% risk of dying in a car accident. Seatbelts decrease this risk about 50%, airbags, stability control, and crumple zones each a bit more. Some people will avoid a major accident, but for those who do go on to have one, safety belts and the other systems come into play, and markedly decrease the risk of death. You never know when this is going to be, so you put your seatbelt on before you drive.

Also, accidents (and COVID) not only cause death, but injuries. COVID is pretty uniquely bad this way. With influenza, over 90% feel back to normal within two weeks. With COVID, that number is around 50%, and many have long term lingering effects, some of them debilitating - lung scarring, strokes, blood clots, and myocarditis (seen even on college-age athletes). Brain fog, loss of smell, and persistent severe fatigue are pretty common. So there is more at risk here than a 1% chance of death.

MYTH: I shouldn't bother with the vaccine. My friend got a vaccine, and still got COVID.

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

As more people are vaccinated, we will see a few of them still test positive. A 95% reduction is not 100% but remember the other tidbit from above - those who broke through had, on average, ¼ the viral load, and disease is typically much more mild. If I had to risk a car crash, I’d rather 15MPH, vs. 60MPH (¼ the “speed” in the vaccinated, so to speak). People with large exposures, and high risk are a bit more likely to break through, but with much less virus to break though and clear. With most people not vaccinated, there are still some people shedding very high viral loads, and make for more risk. Once most everyone is vaccinated, this will cease to be much of an issue - as few if any will develop high enough viral loads to be contagious enough to break through another’s vaccine. This is why, right now, masking is still advised if you're in a group of non-vaccinated people (with exceptions for a small group of low risk contacts such as grandkids). The more vaccination proceeds, the less risk gets for everyone.

MYTH: My risk is “low”, and the long term risks of the vaccine aren’t known, so I should just wait.

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

Please do not wait. Risk is relative and those who are young have much less risk of death, for sure. However, as I have seen in the hospital, some of that comes from the ability of younger people to suffer more, and not die. I’ve seen 30 year olds spend weeks on a ventilator, and quite a few with more mild disease have longer symptoms. If you are a “good driver”, in a safe car, our risk is certainly less, but wear your seatbelt anyway! As far as the “newness” of the vaccine, concern there is certainly understandable - most vaccines take a while to get large numbers in, and the diseases are rare enough that it takes a long time to see results. For HPV, it’s an average of a little over 20 years between infection, and the cancer it can cause, so it took many years to really see the reduction in cancer (though we could see the HPV rates drop).

The risk with vaccines is very front - loaded - almost always *starting* within 6 weeks of vaccination. Some of the COVID vaccines didn’t make it - Australia’s, Merk’s, etc. With how much COVID is out there, we were able to gather data quickly, and we now have many millions of “1st 6 weeks” in to look at, and the results are very good! Most medications, and other vaccines, take years to get this much information in. What’s left unknown are the 1 in a million type effects, which is much less than the risk of “doing nothing”, even for those at relatively “low risk.” For those who have had COVID in the last few months, the urgency is certainly less in the near future.

MYTH: The vaccine is dangerous. I have heard that many have died after the vaccine.

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

The vaccine can’t prevent all the other causes of death, and sometimes they overlap. The CDC says 867 people die in the US, per 100,000 people, per year. We have about 43 million people fully vaccinated now, over the last 3 months or so, and over 100 million doses in so far. Taking the lower number - 43 million, we’d expect 93,000 of those people to die over the course of 3 months. (This is probably an underestimate, because we are vaccinating the elderly first, but let's use it for illustration). Some of those 93,000 deaths are going to happen around the two weeks of one of the vaccines they received. It’s inevitable. Deaths that happen shortly after the vaccine are reported to VAERS, and are investigated by the CDC, as they should be, and assessed for causation, and trends such as "are we seeing deaths of a particular type? More deaths than expected?" VAERS is public data, and the CDC has released their review on this - nothing is hidden here, and there is now a lot of data that looks very reassuring.

MYTH: This is all “gene therapy” and not a vaccine.

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

No. While genetic material is involved, changing your genes is not. The mRNA vaccines don't even get into the nucleus of the cell, where your genetic material is. It’s an important point to remember, that it’s not the vaccine that is blocking/fighting off COVID - it’s long gone after a couple of days - it’s your own immune system that does it, just armed with good information about what this sucker looks like. It’s much safer, and closer to “natural” than any of the drugs we use to treat COVID. Antibiotics have a much higher allergy/anaphylaxis rate than the vaccines, for example.

MYTH: I’ve heard the new variants are up to 6x less susceptible to the antibodies from vaccines. Doesn’t this make the vaccines ineffective?

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

Yes to the first part (for the South African variant) and no to the second part, to all variants so far, for the vaccines we have here. There are multiple reasons for this. First, let's look at what they are testing with the “6x” less susceptible. The are looking at how far one can dilute out plasma with the antibodies in it, *and still neutralize the virus*. Before, it took many dilutions of plasma, before the effectiveness went down. Now it takes less, but the virus is still inactivated. The analogy here is you can drown in 60 feet of water, or 10 feet of water, but you are still dead. The same goes for "drowning" the virus with antibodies. The mRNA vaccines in particular, make a very large antibody response, but even the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remained 82% effective against severe and critical COVID in South Africa. For the British variant, which caused the last big surge in Israel, the Pfizer vaccine remained well over 90% effective - the same as in the trials with the original SARS-CoV2 virus.

MYTH: I’ve heard vaccinating during a pandemic will backfire and cause a global catastrophe by driving vaccine escape variants.

FACT: (From Dr. Eric Kuhns (CGH Family Medicine, CGH Department of Internal Medicine Chairman, and leader of our COVID Clinical Task Force/Guidance Team)

In brief, variants happen more when there is more viral replication, which vaccines markedly reduce. With a 95% effective vaccine, and one we *now* know clearly, markedly reduces even asymptomatic cases (i.e. it is not brewing/replicating without us knowing it), the current vaccines are effective enough to stop most replications, and the variants that arise from it. It’s also important to know that the vaccines produce antibodies to many parts of the spike protein, and it would take a lot of mutations to inactivate them all. Then there are the other facets of cellular immunity that are well stimulated by the current vaccines that would still help to a degree. SARS-CoV2 is not inherently very good at mutating (like influenza), it’s just that we are giving it millions of swings at the bat.