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History in the Making: COVID-19 Vaccine Update, Vaccine Q&A, and More

History is about to be made and we all have a front row seat at Sequoia Living!

I am sure you have heard the encouraging news that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been given emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is being distributed to states to be administered. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is also likely on track for FDA approval this week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given Long Term Care communities and healthcare staff top priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. This vaccine will be another powerful line of defense against the spread of COVID-19 in addition to our current Sequoia Standards for infection control.

Staff members at The Tamalpais, our continuing care retirement community in Marin County, are scheduled to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, December 17. We will be sure to update you as soon as we learn when the vaccine will be distributed at other Sequoia Living communities. We are working closely with local public health departments and state agencies, who determine who will receive the vaccine and when the vaccine will be given.

Some of you may have questions about the vaccine. This memo is the first in a series of communications that respond to some of the most frequently asked COVID-19 vaccine questions.

Q. How do we know that the vaccines are safe since they have been developed so quickly?
A: Safety is the most important requirement for the COVID-19 vaccines and is assessed in trials by independent experts. Although the COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly as part of the Emergency Use Authorization, no safety steps were skipped. COVID-19 vaccine development happened so quickly because it was a global effort of the world’s leading scientists with nearly unlimited resources, and a large pool of diverse adult trial participants.

The FDA advises a minimum of 3,000 participants in a trial of a vaccine to assess its safety. For the COVID-19 phase 3 trials there have been 30,000 to 50,000 participants rather than just 3,000. This gives scientists a robust amount of data to rely on when assessing the safety of potential COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA also requires 8 weeks of safety monitoring.

Q: Could the vaccine give me COVID-19?
A: No. The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you a COVID-19 infection. The vaccine is not made from a live virus. The vaccine works by helping your body create antibodies to fight off the virus. Feeling discomfort after getting the vaccine means that the vaccine is doing its job and your body is making antibodies.

Q: What side effects do the vaccines have?
A: Participants in clinical trials reported experiencing short-term side effects after being vaccinated, with more pronounced discomfort after the second dose. These possible side effects are normal and common, and include headache, muscle pains, fatigue, chills, fever, and pain at the injection site.

Q: How many doses of the vaccine will I need?
A: Most of the COVID-19 vaccines require two separate doses given about three or four weeks apart, depending on the vaccine. You must get the second dose to be protected.

Q. When and for how long will I be protected if I get the vaccine?
A. Protection occurs about two weeks after the second dose. Before that time, you could still contract the actual COVID-19 virus. We will most likely not know how long the vaccine will be protective once we receive it. We will know more as more time passes in the current research.

Q: Will I still need to wear a mask and social distance after I get the vaccine?
A: Yes. As with other vaccines, a very large number of people in the community will need to get vaccinated before transmission drops enough to stop the use of masks and social distancing.

Q: Where can I learn more about COVID-19 and the vaccine?
A: It’s important to get vaccine information from reputable sources, such as the CDC.gov website, local and state departments of public health, or your personal doctor. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of misinformation about COVID-19 being shared on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media.

Helpful links about the COVID-19 vaccine:

CDC: COVID Conversations: Answering Patients’ Questions 

CDC: Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccinations

It is an honor for Sequoia Living communities to be among the first to have access to this historic vaccine. Although much work remains to be done to fully halt the spread of the virus, this vaccine represents a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel. I am grateful to all Sequoia Superheroes—residents, customers, and staff—for doing a tremendous job keeping our communities safe and healthy during this time.

More information and updates are to come. Stay safe and stay Sequoia Strong!

Sara McVey

Sara McVey
President & CEO

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