By Rachell Sanchez-Smith
As cases continue to spike, Arkansas faces low vaccination rates and divisions over COVID-19. We reviewed reader comments and spoke to a leading medical expert to answer the questions about COVID-19 and the vaccine.
Here are the most common questions about the virus with answers from medical professionals:
What is the potential long term damage to someone who contracts COVID-19?
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Chief Medical Officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, said the common side effects involve muscle weakness, shortness of breath, “and then there are some cognitive problems.”
Patients can complain about cognitive issues such as “brain fog,” a symptom that often leaves people with difficulty thinking and making decisions to the degree that they can’t go back to work.
What are the chances of severe illness?
An unvaccinated person who contracts COVID-19 is three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and 3.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19, according to the ADH.
What is Ivermectin and is it a safe treatment for COVID-19?
Ivermectin is commonly used to treat parasites in animals. For humans, it is used for certain worm infections or used topically for inflammations released to head lice, according to the Food and Drug Administration. It is not approved to treat COVID-19.
“It’s important for the public to understand that the FDA has not reviewed data about the safety and efficacy of Ivermectin against COVID-19,” said Dillaha.
I’ve already had COVID-19, how long does my immunity from the virus last?
Unvaccinated people who had COVID-19 are two times as likely to get reinfected as those who were infected and later vaccinated, Dillaha said.
People who have been vaccinated have much higher levels of antibodies than those who have been previously indicted with COVID-19, she added.
How does the mRNA vaccine work?
The Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines are Messenger RNA vaccines, or mRNA, and they teach our cells how to make a protein to trigger an immune response, according to FDA.
The mRNA allows muscle cells to make a spike protein, which our immune system recognizes as a threat, prompting a protective immunity against COVID-19, according to Dillaha.
The COVID-19 vaccine was developed rapidly, how can I know this vaccine is safe?
Dillaha said mRNA “has been under development for a long time. When I did my training in infectious diseases in the 1990s I remember reading about them.” In addition to the work made in prior decades, more research over mRNA vaccine was conducted after the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, according to Dillaha.
How does the vaccine’s efficacy compare to new variants, such as the delta variant?
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines efficacy went down to about 79% when compared to the presence of the Delta variant, Dillaha said. “It was still very effective, greater than 90% [at] keeping people out of the hospital.”
How large was the sample size for the COVID-19 vaccine trials?
“They enrolled a much higher number of people in what is usually used in a vaccine trial. So instead of a few thousand people they had a few tens of thousands people” said Dillaha. “[There were] over 40,000 people in the phase three clinical trial for the Pfizer vaccine.”