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Q&A: Ask a Doctor About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Jul 22 2021
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Do you still have questions or concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine? You’re not alone.

“I have found that there are many patients struggling with the decision of whether or not to get the vaccine and they appreciate the discussion,” says Mark Kahle, DO, a Mercy Health family medicine physician.

And there is no such thing as a bad question. If you’re asking it, then it’s a valid concern.

“No matter what the patient’s question is, I don’t consider it to be ‘out there,’” says Valerie Nemeth, DO, another Mercy Health family medicine physician. “With the overabundance of information about the vaccines, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what’s the truth and what isn’t.”

To help you find answers, we’ve rounded up some of the top questions our providers receive from patients like you. Read their answers in their own words.

Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Rebecca Koehl, MD, family medicine: Most people have concerns about how quickly the vaccine was produced. These vaccine technologies have been in development for many years, so the basic science/foundation for them was already done, allowing them to quickly get this vaccine ready to go.

Thomas Macabobby, MD, family medicine: Without hesitation, I say that the vaccine is a good idea. I have only not recommended it to a single patient who had a significant, but rare, underlying health issue. The vaccine has been evaluated and tested in a rigorous manner. As more time has elapsed, the vaccines are showing sustained safety and efficacy. If you have specific concerns, then you should discuss them with your primary care provider.

Is the vaccine safe for kids that are eligible?

James Kravec, MD, internal medicine: I follow the guidance of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other professional societies that are recommending this. I believe in the safety of this, and I believe in the efficacy of the vaccines. I want my kids to be safe and not be able to spread it to others. And, I want them to not have to be in quarantine if they’re exposed to someone. Getting vaccinated will eliminate that as well.

Do you think that I should get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Kahle: The decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal decision that everyone has to make. Having a large portion of our population get vaccinated is the easiest path for us to get back to ‘normal.’

I talk to patients about their own risk factors and the potential complications that they could have if they were to contract COVID-19. I talk about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, but also acknowledge that I understand any concerns that they may have about long-term safety.

When I chose to get the vaccine, I weighed the possible risks of the vaccine vs. the risks and possible complications of COVID-19. I feel that the vaccine has far lower potential risks associated with it than getting COVID-19.

Can the vaccine change my DNA?

Dr. Koehl: mRNA is like a blueprint that the cell uses to make a protein. There is no way for this to enter the DNA, as they are different molecules. It doesn’t enter the part of the cell where DNA is stored so it can’t change it.

Should I be worried about side effects from the vaccine?

Dr. Koehl: It can have some pretty significant side effects that aren’t fun, but they are short-lived. And given how effective the vaccines are, it’s totally worth it. Expect some side effects and plan ahead for them. If you don’t have any, good for you! But if you do, at least you expected it.

Stephen Wilson, MD, internal medicine pediatrics: I was fortunate to have minimal side effects with the Moderna vaccine. But I have colleagues who did struggle with fatigue, body aches and fever following the vaccine. Most stated their symptoms resolved in 24 to 36 hours.

I already had COVID-19. Why would I get the vaccine?

Dr. Macabobby: Although we feel that having the actual virus offers a degree of lasting protection, it does seem to last for a shorter period than the vaccine.  Also, we do not think [getting one specific type of COVID-19] protects you against the variants. However, the mRNA vaccine seems able to provide longer lasting immunity, and preliminary results show the vaccines provide immunity to more of the COVID-19 variants.

What if I would rather get COVID-19 than the vaccine?

Dr. Koehl: I have found that there are some people who say they would rather get COVID-19 than the vaccine. But recovery from COVID-19 doesn’t mean you are home free. Many people have long-term issues after. Vaccines are our best way of avoiding this.

How can I know what sources to trust for factual information?

Dr. Nemeth: My favorite source I recommend to patients is the CDC website. Their information is divided up into specific topics that are easy to read and are frequently updated as we get more information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dennis Delapp, MD, family medicine: There are always rumors, and I try to reassure patients that just because some ‘expert’ on the news said something that doesn’t mean it is factual. So, I tell my patients to go to CDC.gov/coronavirus to see what we know.

Why does the science keep changing? Can’t you make up your minds?

Dr. Macabobby: The nature of a scientific response is to review data at hand, make decisions based on that and revise the response as more results become available. This approach requires flexibility. Sometimes that means the recommendations or approaches must change. Data, when truly viewed objectively, will change conclusions and recommendations. We have to remember that this takes time and humility to admit when changes need to be made.

Did you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Nemeth: I find that sharing my own story about why I chose to get vaccinated helps decrease patients’ fears surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines. As health care workers, we were one of the first groups of people to have to decide whether to get vaccinated or not. In addition to this, I was also in my first trimester of pregnancy when I was offered the COVID-19 vaccine. For these reasons, I spent a long time looking at the CDC website as well as reading recommendations from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Everything I read made me feel more confident in my decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Not only was I protecting myself against getting a severe case of COVID-19 but also passing some of that protection to my baby.

I think patients can relate to my story. Being open and honest about my experience helps reduce their fears surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Macabobby: Yes, everyone in my family who is eligible (including my adolescent child) has been fully vaccinated.

Dr. Kahle: I got the vaccine and I encourage others to do so.

Dr. Koehl: I am part of the Moderna vaccine trial and I also enrolled my 15-year-old daughter in the trial. That’s how much I trust the science!

Have other questions that aren’t listed here? Read more on COVID-19 vaccine mythbusting, check out our COVID-19 vaccine FAQs page or talk to your primary care provider.


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