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A virtual Covid-19 vaccine town hall

Plenty of vaccine questions for the experts


Through a virtual webinar hosted by State Sen. Kevin Thomas, residents were able to ask medical professionals and experts the questions they had about the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as learn how the vaccine works to protecting themselves, their loved ones and communities.

“This is an incredibly important topic,” Thomas said. “This past year has been extremely difficult for all of us. Every aspect of our lives has been impacted by Covid-19, but now we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.”

On March 11, 2020, over a year ago, the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Since then, there have been more than 120 million infections and 2.6 million deaths worldwide. Nassau County saw roughly 1.76 million infections and 48,624 deaths.

“The production of three safe and effective vaccines represent a huge step in our effort to beat this pandemic,” Thomas explained. “The more people who get vaccinated, the faster we are going to overcome this virus and get back to our loved ones, get our economy back on track and start to move back to normal.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that that two weeks after they received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after they receive the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, those who are vaccinated can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. They can also gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household, unless any of them are considered medically vulnerable.

Fully vaccinated people also do not have to stay away from others or get tested if they have been around someone with Covid-19 unless they have symptoms. However, fully vaccinated people who live in a group setting, like a correctional facility or group home, and are around someone with Covid-19 should quarantine for 14 days and get tested, even if they do not develop symptoms, according to the CDC.

As of the morning of March 16, 388,792 Long Islanders have received their first and second dose of the vaccine.

And, with the passage of the Federal Stimulus Package, $160 billion has been provided for vaccine development and distribution, with $20 billion in funding for community vaccination centers.

Three new mass-vaccination sites opened on March 19 at SUNY Old Westbury, the Suffolk County Community College Brentwood campus and Stony Brook University’s Southampton Campus. Current eligible New Yorkers include people over the age of 60, medical personnel, select essential and front line workers and people with underlying conditions.

Thomas encouraged anyone who has questions regarding vaccine eligibility to call him at  (516) 739-1700. Information about how to make an appointment and eligibility can also be found online at www.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov.

Questions answered by medical professionals

Q: “Once I have two doses of vaccine and two weeks have passed since the final dose, can I hug my grandchildren?”

A: “Where the vaccine is very effective at preventing hospitalizations and severe illness and death, we don’t know how effective they are at preventing mild illness or even moderate illness depending on the vaccine you got,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. She added that it’s important to pose the risk of where they have been and their chances of contracting the virus. “It’s also important to recognize if you have comorbidities and if even a small illness with you can trigger something worse.”

This is why it’s important to continue vaccinating as many people as possible, said Dr. Uzma Syed, chair of the Covid-19 task force at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, because the risk of transmitting the virus will decrease.

Q: What are the common side effects?

A: Dr. Andrew Clair, a pharmaceutical consultant shared that the most common side-effects based on the BioNTech, Pfizer vaccine clinical trials are pain, redness and swelling in the arm where the vaccine was injected, along with tiredness, headaches, muscle pains, chills, fever and nausea that impacts the rest of the body.

Q: “We don’t know if a recipient of a Covid-19 vaccine can still be contagious for Covid. If fully vaccinated people can still be contagious, how can we reach herd immunity since vaccine recipients can still spread the disease? What is the length of time after the second dose that we can reasonably be sure we’re protected from the virus?”

A: “No vaccine is 100 percent affective,” said Dr. Leonard Krilov, a professor of pediatric infectious disease at NYU Langone Hospital. “We are also seeing more and more data that if you’ve been vaccinated, the risk of getting infected, the risk of shedding the virus, is much lower. The more people get vaccinated, the lower amount of virus is around, the greater the protection, the lower the risk of transmission.”

To watch the full vaccine town hall, visit www.facebook.com/SenatorKevinThomas/.