After a long road and much sacrifice, it seems that the COVID-19 vaccine is finally here! While we still need to be very cautious, there is a good reason for hope and celebration. Furthermore, even with this happy news, there is still much work to be done. To make sure we are all on the same page and well informed, I would like to walk you through the vaccine’s details and how the vaccination process will work at Arbor Springs.

Thanks to our wonderful Dr. Angel, who is an irreplaceable and always reliable source for all things health, I am able to provide you with an informative overview of the two vaccines and the upcoming vaccine distribution process. While Dr. Angel has provided everything he knows on this subject matter, things are always changing. Sharing information is critical in times like these, but so many answers about the vaccine, the process, and how “immunity” will work are still unknown. Therefore, all of the information here is to the best of our knowledge at the current moment. This information is also not meant to encourage disregard or supersede any medical or governmental guidelines and requirements.

As always, the team and I will keep you and your loved ones informed and up-to-date with what we know. There is also a great deal of misinformation out there, so hopefully, this can arm you with the truth about staying healthy and getting vaccinated.

The bottom line is that in order to keep everyone safe, we need to get everyone vaccinated. It’s not just for you; it’s for our community and everyone we love.

There are multiple vaccines, right?

To get started, let’s go over the actual vaccines. There are currently two vaccines developed for use in the United States, but odds are more will be developed in the near future. For now, let’s focus on the two that are either being distributed or pending final authorization at the time of posting—

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
    • It is 95% effective after the second dosage
    • It is an mRNA vaccine
    • You must receive a second shot 3–4 weeks after the initial dose
    • The vaccine must be stored at an extremely low temperature
  • Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
    • It is 94% effective after the second dosage
    • It is an mRNA vaccine
    • It must be stored at low temperatures but has a bit more flexibility than the Pfizer vaccine in this regard

Hold up…what’s an mRNA vaccine?

mRNA vaccines are a relatively new type of vaccination and are, at their core, different from how we commonly understand vaccines. They do not contain a weakened form of the germ, unlike live vaccines. They actually instruct your cells to make something called a “spike protein.” While this spike protein resembles COVID-19, it is not COVID-19. This protein is then set to “self-destruct,” telling the body to eliminate it and anything else that looks like it in the body, mainly the real COVID-19. Pretty nifty. And, learning about this has even made me feel significantly better about the whole process.

So, how is it working at Arbor Springs?

Okay, now that we know a little bit more about the actual vaccines, let’s look at how the vaccination process will work. While we are not sure how it will exactly run and when exactly Arbor Springs’ vaccinations will begin, we know the general plan for long-term care and senior communities in the state.

The most important thing to remember is that in order to get the vaccine, you will need to sign the paper triplicate form stating you consent to receive the vaccine. This may change to an electronic or another type of form, but for now, it must be the paper form. We will distribute this, as well as any updates, and facilitate this process, but please remember – YOU MUST SIGN A TRIPLICATE CONSENT FORM TO GET VACCINATED UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTIFIED BY ARBOR STAFF.

Also, we are thrilled to say that the vaccine will be covered by your health insurance or through a government-funded program designed to pay for COVID-19 vaccinations. So it will be easy to get the vaccine—but which vaccine will you get?

The answer is that each state will decide which vaccine their population will receive, either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. So we’ll get whichever vaccine Governor Reynolds and the State of Iowa settle on. Although both vaccines have relatively similar effectiveness, they have slightly different storage methods that will affect the vaccination timetable and process. Whichever vaccine is selected, there is currently a plan to administer it effectively to those who most need it.

The good news is… that’s us! Residents of senior care and nursing communities, along with staff, are at the top of the list. So we will be first in line for this life-changing vaccine. Unfortunately, family members are not part of this priority group. We still do not know when you will be getting your vaccine; it depends on several factors.

It will be done in three phases…

You must receive two doses of either vaccine, given at least 21 days apart. Therefore vaccinations in our community will be done in three phases:

  • Phase One – The first doses will be given to community members and staff who have completed their consent form and are available to receive the vaccine that day.
  • Phase Two – At least 21 days later, a second dose is given to those who received doses in Phase One. Those who were not able to be vaccinated in Phase One will receive their first dose today.
  • Phase Three – Those who received their first dose in Phase Two will receive their second dose today to complete their vaccination.

If you don’t get your vaccination in the three phases of this initial rollout, it is unclear when your next opportunity will be. So it is vital that you work with us and communicate any issues you might have to ensure you get vaccinated in this first round!

This process will begin between December 28th and January 18th. Our Phase One will be sometime during that date range. We, of course, will keep you updated as we learn more.

After these phases, it still takes 14 days before the community can be considered “immune”. So if we complete our vaccination process on February 8th, the community will not be considered immune until February 23rd. Also, 75%–80% of our community and staff must have been vaccinated for the building to be considered immune. If that is not the case, the community will not be able to achieve this important milestone.

Remember – be sure to get your triplicate consent form signed unless a digital or other type of form is implemented. We will be communicating and coordinating around this by sending out weekly emails, so keep your eyes and ears open. These emails are the best source to stay informed, know what you need to do, and be prepared for what’s next.

There may be some side effects, and that’s okay.

You may experience some side effects when taking the vaccine. These are not dangerous and do not mean that you have contracted COVID-19. It simply means the vaccine is working. Some side effects can include:

  • Local reaction (including bump, burn, and irritation) similar to reactions to vaccines for tetanus.
  • Fatigue, headache, and slight fever may occur as well after the second dosage.
  • A note on allergic reactions: As you may have heard, there were a few allergic reactions to the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, this vaccine is different from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that will be distributed in the United States. As we covered above, these vaccines are mRNA vaccines and have a much rarer chance of inciting an allergic reaction. Also, unlike many common flu shots, this vaccine is not made with eggs. Overall, mRNA vaccines are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction, especially among other COVID-19 vaccines.

At Arbor Springs, we would never administer any treatment type without fully informing you of the possible side effects and monitoring you to provide the care and support you need. We will be at our community members’ side, watching specifically for any vaccine side effects. We know this can be stressful, but you should know that we are here for you.

Unfortunately, current research suggests that you will need the vaccine every six months. This may change, but for now, be aware that you may need multiple vaccine courses required in a single year. Also, if you had COVID-19, it is still essential to get vaccinated. We are still unsure how reinfection works, but there have been proven cases where people have caught COVID-19 twice. Although it is rare, it is still possible, which means you should get the vaccine no matter what. It is also still unknown if being vaccinated means you can no longer spread the virus. So even with full vaccination, please continue to follow guidelines and medical advice and remain vigilant.

It’s on you now.

All of us here at Arbor Springs put the safety and security of our community first. We see getting vaccinated as our moral responsibility to you and your loved ones. This is our responsibility as caregivers and as a community. Even if you are not a healthcare professional, consider it as your responsibility to your community and the ones you love. They rely on us. Let’s not let them down.

For more information about vaccinations at Arbor Springs, please reach out to us today.