The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received approval for use in four countries: the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada and now the United States. The FDA approved the Emergency Use Authorization on Dec. 11, 2020, which now enables us to receive and administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are some frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine series if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

The recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy have changed as it relates to health care workers. At this time, the vaccine is recommended for front line workers that are pregnant or lactating. Contact your Primary Care Provider if you have questions.

Are there any food allergies that would make me ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

There are no specific allergies identified at this time as contraindications. However, if you have had an anaphylactic reaction to anything (drugs, food, etc.), have a conversation with your Primary Care Provider before vaccination.

What information do we have about the allergic reactions experienced after the vaccine in the United Kingdom?

We know the two patients who experienced a mild allergic anaphylactic reaction after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine had significant underlying allergies. Both of these patients carried an epinephrine injection pen in case they began to experience a reaction. The U.K. and Pfizer are studying these reactions to determine why and working on next steps. At this time, the UK is recommending that patients with allergies severe enough to require an epinephrine pen not be vaccinated until more information can be uncovered. Also, we are waiting to see if the FDA has any additional recommendations for administration in the U.S.

Is this a one-and-done-forever series or an annual inoculation (i.e., flu shot)?

We will learn more as we go and as the vaccine continues to be studied, but it is possible a booster or annual vaccination may be necessary.

How did these vaccines become available so quickly? Usually, it takes years to develop a vaccine.

A number of reasons exist that have helped contribute to the fast-paced development of the COVID-19 vaccines such as:

— Global cooperation and sharing of information to help make these vaccines available as fast as possible, which does not typically contribute to vaccine development.

— Drug companies received money to develop these vaccines, usually drug companies would be paying entirely to develop a vaccine.

— Phase 2 and 3 trials were done simultaneously, usually they are completed separately one after the other.

— The vaccine was created as an mRNA vaccine. These vaccines are fast and easier to create; however, they are extremely sensitive to environmental factors like temperature.

— When can patients and community members get the vaccine?

The vaccination roll out is being managed by the Vermont Department of Health (VDH). Patients and community members should wait for further guidance and communication from VDH as it becomes available. Additionally, you may visit HealthVermont.gov where you can find additional information and sign up to receive the state’s weekly COVID-19 Update.

This Health Talk is brought to you by Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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