RALEIGH, N.C. — An N.C. State University expert says the COVID-19 vaccines have gone through extensive testing before rolling out to the public, but it might take some time before everyone is vaccinated.
Dr. Julie Swann, the department head, was on loan to the CDC during the H1N1 Pandemic in 2009 and 2010 and has been studying pandemics for years.
She is also leading a team that’s working with the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologist and the CDC, forecasting and modeling the dissemination of results out to the public.
According to Swann, the side effects you might experience from the COVID-19 vaccine include fatigue, a headache, and some minor pain near the injection site.
"That is a sign that the vaccine is working and that your body is generating an immune response," says Swann.
We have already seen front-line workers getting the first dose of the vaccine, including nurse Jonathan McGee at Duke-Raleigh hospital.
"To have made it to the vaccine and I have not gotten it working where I work...I feel really blessed, I feel really fortunate,” says McGee.
One common misconception people have about the vaccine, is that can you get coronavirus from it. Swann says that is not true.
"This does not have even a weakened or dead version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within," she says.
Swann says, optimistically, the vaccine could be available to everyone by early summer 2021. But, just because the vaccine is here now, Swann says that does not mean we can go back to “normal” life.
"We have to wait a little bit longer to get enough people vaccinated. If we don’t, then as soon as we remove those masks and face coverings, we will see diseases go right back up again," she says.
And once we all get the vaccine, does that mean COVID-19 is gone for good?
Swann says not necessarily because all viruses mutate, including COVID-19. Swann says scientists have concluded there is some level of immunity with the vaccine, but it is unclear how long it will last.
"This (immunity) might be a year, two years, five years, we don’t really know yet," she says. "If that immunity doesn’t last forever, then it could be that this vaccine comes into our regular rotation like some other vaccines, say the seasonal flu vaccine. But, if the immunity does last longer, then we wouldn’t necessarily need a booster shot next year."
Although the testing for the COVID-19 vaccine has been extensive, researchers have not tested the vaccine on certain groups.
For example, the vaccine was not tested on those with cancer, young children, people with severe allergic reactions, or pregnant women.
If you are in one of those groups, it is especially important that you talk with your physician about whether the vaccine is right for you.