Vaccines Offer Ray of Hope After Long Year

Photo of a senior woman getting a COVID vaccine shot
© Rido81, Bigstock.com.

Part 1 of a Series on the COVID-19 Vaccine

By DEBBIE BURKE

With changing recommendations and conflicting edicts from governmental entities, many seniors feel confused, overwhelmed, or fed up. Families that personally suffered from the disease have experienced intense trauma.

Vaccines provide a ray of hope, but how to obtain the shots may seem confusing.

The federal government is in charge of obtaining vaccines and providing them to the states. In turn, the states are responsible for setting the order in which residents receive vaccinations.

At the time this publication went to press at the end of March, 430,890 Montanans had at least one of two vaccinations, and 167,776 had two shots and had been fully vaccinated.

Montana was in phase 1B+, with phases 1A and 1B nearing completion. Phase 1B+ includes people ages 60 and above and individuals 16 to 59 with higher risk medical conditions.

On April 1, Phase 2 opened up, meaning vaccine appointments became available to all other Montanans aged 16 and up.

A number of county health department websites are updated regularly with new information. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services official site gives links to vaccine information by county.

Getting Your Vaccine

Appointments to receive vaccines can be made through county websites or by calling the local health department. Because current demand is greater than supply, you may wait several weeks to receive an email or phone call confirming your appointment.

Vaccinations may also be available by appointment through local CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, hospitals, and medical clinics. Mass immunization clinics may be held at county fairgrounds and universities.

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, but they are not interchangeable. Both doses must be from the same manufacturer, while the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine is only a single dose.

Info You’ll Need to Provide

You will need to provide certain information at your vaccine appointment—name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, pertinent medical history. You will also need proof of residency, such as a utility bill with your address on it. Bring a government-issued ID or driver’s license and a smartphone if available.

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

You should wear a short sleeve shirt, drink plenty of water, and get some proper nutrition by eating normally the day of the appointment, to ensure a smooth vaccination experience.

You will need to complete a basic questionnaire asking about medical conditions, allergies, any other recent vaccinations, and whether or not you have been infected with COVID19 within the last 90 days.

Plan to stay 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine in the unlikely event of an allergic reaction, so medical personnel can assist. After you get your shot, you’ll receive a card showing the date of your first dose. Save the card, and bring it to your second appointment. Refrain from posting photos to social media of a vaccine card, or any private medical information for that matter, to prevent identity theft.

The Second Dose

The appointment for the second dose is three weeks later for Pfizer, and four weeks for Moderna. The steps for the second appointment are generally the same as for the first.

Recipients should be aware the second vaccine dose may cause more undesirable side effects because your body is building up its immunity.

Side effects may include flu-like symptoms, fatigue, chills, mild fever, and aches, but those symptoms should resolve within one to three days.

Reasons to Delay or Decline a Vaccine

If prospective recipients are currently undergoing chemotherapy or similar medical treatment for other serious conditions or diseases, have had COVID19 within the last 90 days, or have a history of severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis, they should consult with their medical provider before moving forward with the process. MSN

Part 2 of this series will explore creative ways that seniors and senior communities have adapted to keep their lives full and rich, despite the pandemic. Click here for more COVID-19 vaccination information for Montana.