The COVID-19 vaccine is now being distributed throughout the Carolinas in a staggered system that provides for inoculation of those most at risk first. (Photo Credit: scaliger via Adobe Stock)

After Operation Warp Speed, the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine has happened much more slowly than originally hoped, and there has been no federal effort to standardize distribution amongst the states. There has also been no offer to the states to cover or offset the costs or to advise implementing best practices for logistics. In addition to this, each state is left to decide how to prioritize who is vaccinated first.

According to the North Carolina COVID-19 Planning Team, the state has developed a multi-stage approach. As of Oct. 16, 2020, the Planning Phase was already in place, wherein a command structure created with input from a third party, External Vaccine Advisory Committee, developed the strategy for prioritizing populations, storing and transporting vaccines and administering them. Subsequent phases are called the Implementation Phase (focusing on adapting to logistics in real time and inoculating first priority populations), the Adjustment Phase (broadening operations as larger quantities of vaccine become available) and the Transition Phase (putting vaccines in the hands of established delivery channels where anyone can get their shots with the same ease as flu shots).

Who gets the vaccine first? According to the official North Carolina Interim COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, “Health care providers at high risk for exposure and who are vital to the initial COVID vaccine administration efforts and staff in long term care will be prioritized first. People at high risk for clinical severity and high risk of exposure will be prioritized next. This will include residents in Long-Term Care settings, people over 65 and staff of congregate living settings (migrant farm camps, jails and prisons, and homeless shelters) and anyone with two or more chronic conditions identified by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC to be high risk for COVID complications.

“Historically marginalized populations are represented in the early phase prioritization groups. Subsequent phases will target lower-risk populations and have more of a focus on decreasing transmission through the populations.”

With this in mind, what are some of the practical concerns and questions people have while they wait for their turn to be immunized? There are some misconceptions circulating that should be addressed, so that as many people as possible will be at ease getting the shots.

How many doses will I need?

The inoculation often consists of two shots, and the second should be administered three or four weeks after the first (depending on the vaccine). There are two vaccines being used in the United States. Pfizer developed one, and Moderna created the other. They have an efficacy rate of 95 percent. At this time, patients will not be given the option for which they prefer.

Are they safe, if they have been produced so quickly?

It is impossible to know yet if there are any long-term complications; however, the testing done on unpaid volunteers has been thorough, and the treatments have been approved for use. There will always be people who respond negatively to some medications, but there is no indication that the overwhelming majority of people will experience adverse reactions. You can learn more at the CDC website.

Will a COVID-19 vaccination alter my DNA?

No. The RNA used in the vaccine cannot enter your cells. Since it cannot enter your cells, it cannot enter the nuclei within any cells. Your DNA is inside the nuclei of your cells. There is no chance that the vaccine will ever interact with your DNA.

Will the vaccine include a personal tracking implant?

No. There is no such device within the shots. Such a device would not fit through the end of a needle. If that is a concern, consider whether or not to keep a smartphone in your possession.

Here are some COVID-19 testing centers located in Charlotte, N.C. that (as of Jan. 8) do not require an appointment or a referral. They offer testing to all patients, and those locations with asterisks also have drive-through options:

• Family First Medical Center, PLLC: 4913 Albermarle Rd., 980-299-5019

• *StarMed Healthcare – Eastland: 5344 Central Ave. Ste. B, 704-225-6288

• *Doc’s Pharmacy: 2860 Freedom Dr.,704-900-6001

• *C.W. Williams Community Health Center: 3333 Wilkinson Blvd., 866-299-4968

• *StarMed: 4001 Tuckaseegee Rd., 704- 941-6000

Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and INTEGRE8Twellness.com.

qnotes is part of six major media companies and other local institutions reporting on and engaging the community around the problems and solutions as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.

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