SHERIDAN — Even as the COVID-19 vaccine circulates through the community — with more than 14,000 doses distributed to Sheridan County residents as of April 1 — you may still have some questions.

Dr. John Addlesperger, chief medical officer for Sheridan Memorial Hospital, responded to several questions about the vaccine.

Q: There are three different vaccines. What is the difference?

A: The vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include products created by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Residents must be older than 18 to receive the Moderna vaccine and older than 16 to receive the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require multiple doses to be effective. A second dose of the Moderna vaccine is required 28 days after the first dose, while a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is required 21 days after the first. The Johnson & Johnson product is a single dose vaccine.

Q: How do the vaccines work?

A: Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines operate under the same basic principles: They use synthetic ribonucleic acid messengers that use genetic code from the coronavirus to prompt human cells to generate a so-called “spike” protein found on the outside of the virus. The process sets off an immune response from the body, which eventually blocks the actual coronavirus from latching onto cells.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is based on older vaccine technology and uses a harmless cold virus to deliver instructions to cells to create the spike protein. The immune system then responds to the protein, recognizes it as foreign and triggers the development of antibodies.

Q: What are the most common side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Common side effects are pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you received the shot, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q: Can I receive the vaccine if I’ve had COVID recently?

A: It depends how recently you’ve had the virus.

People with COVID-19 who currently have symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and have discontinued isolation. But if you are fully recovered from the virus, you can receive the vaccine.

CDC recommends vaccination regardless of whether you have had COVID-19 or not. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible — although rare — to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again.

There have been reports that vaccine side effects are more pronounced if you have had COVID-19 recently. Because of that, some people are choosing to wait three months after recovery before being vaccinated. The side effects represent the immune system ramping up, so if you already have an immune response built up, you could see a more pronounced response to the vaccination. So there’s a reason to wait a few months, but it is not necessary.

Q: Can I receive the vaccine if I have a cold or flu, but not COVID?

A: You could, but it would be best to wait until you recover from those illnesses.You may feel worse when you add the reaction to the COVID vaccine to symptoms you already have. You also don’t want to expose vaccine workers to what you already have. So it’s best to stay at home until you’re recovered.

Q: If I am pregnant, can I get the COVID vaccine?

A: Experts think the vaccines are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant, according to the CDC. However, there is currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. Talk with your doctor before deciding whether to receive the vaccine.

Q: How long is the vaccine effective? And will a booster shot be needed in the future?

A: It is currently unclear how long the effects of the vaccine last, although clinical trials have shown they last for at least three months.

It is really likely that (a booster shot) will be necessary at some point in time, but it’s hard to say for sure until doctors learn more about the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Q: The elderly are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Have they received the vaccine?

A: As of the March 31,1,429 Sheridan County residents older than 65 had received the vaccine. While the hospital doesn’t have good data on how many in that age group haven’t been vaccinated, I expect there are some seniors who have not received the vaccine yet.

Most people in that age group understand their risk of serious illness from COVID-19. But we know there are some who have chosen not to receive the vaccine. Since they are certainly at higher risk than the rest, we hope they seriously consider the benefits of being vaccinated.

Q: If I’m traveling, do I have to get my second dose of the vaccine in the same place I got my first dose?

A: Not necessarily, but you should be aware different areas have different policies regarding vaccine distribution.

It can really range from locale to locale how much they have and what their policy is as far as distribution. So it might make the most sense to wait until you return home.”

Q: Where can I find statistics regarding vaccine distribution?

A: Currently, the best source of information regarding vaccine distribution in Wyoming is the Wyoming Department of Health’s COVID vaccination page, bit.ly/39Ae0Lr. The page is updated regularly with information on how many doses the county has received and how many have been distributed to county residents.

Q: Does Sheridan Memorial Hospital need volunteers to help give out vaccines?

A: Currently, the hospital is well-staffed and not in need of volunteers.

Q: What’s the most efficient way to book a vaccine?

A: Go to.clockwisemd.com/hospitals/339/appointments/new to schedule your vaccination. Vaccines can also be scheduled by calling 307-675-4471 and leaving your name, date of birth and phone number.

Q: Is there a cost for the vaccine?

A:While there is no charge for the vaccine, the hospital charges an administration fee of $40 for each shot.

The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available to all county residents. If you have questions about the vaccine you would like answered in a future article in The Sheridan Press, email your questions to stephen.dow@thesheridanpress.com.

Editor's Note: The story has been edited to include a recent change in the administration fee for the vaccine.

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