Q&A: Answering Michigan COVID-19 vaccination questions

Answering questions on COVID vaccines, vaccination process

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is seen on a tray in this undated file image. (KPRC)

On Wednesday afternoon we held a special discussion with Dr. Frank McGeorge about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. McGeorge was joined by Sarah Mayberry, Local 4′s senior medical producer who has a master’s degree in public health.

More: Michigan COVID-19 vaccinations: How to find appointments, info on phases

Here’s a recap of the Q&A:

Where is Michigan in the COVID-19 vaccination process?

Michigan has gone somewhat through phase 1A, which is essentially -- essential workers, frontline workers, healthcare employees and those in long-term care facilities. The vaccine has been open to some 1B individuals:

Adults over 65 years old, and other young people 18-65 with comorbidities. Michigan’s capacity to vaccinate people is severely limited because we don’t have enough vaccine doses. The major issue right now is that we need more vaccine doses in Michigan.

The entire vaccination process is slow right now, but expected to ramp up as things progress. Each group is larger and larger. 1B is much larger than 1A -- and 1C will be much larger than the others. The number of people who need to get vaccinated will continue to grow. Wait times and lines will depend on vaccine ability, logistics, etc...

READ: Here are the new COVID-19 vaccine priority phases for distribution in Michigan

How can you get a vaccine if you’re older than 65?

This is going to take patience and persistence. If you are older than 65, you have two paths to get the vaccine. One is through your local county health department. You can visit your county health department’s website. Health departments are having a tough time right now.

READ: Michigan COVID-19 vaccinations: How to find appointments, info on phases

The second path is through the major medical facility that your doctor is affiliated with. If you have a Beaumont doctor, you go to Beaumont’s website. You need to have an online patient portal in order to get an invitation from them to get vaccinated. If you don’t have one, find out how to make one through your provider’s website. You might have to find a trusted family member or friend to help you.

Wayne county does not have any COVID-19 vaccine for seniors right now, so you need to look to major medical centers. Beaumont has verified that you don’t need to be a Beaumont patient to make a patient portal to get into the pool to get vaccinated.

People are wondering if they should get their first dose in Michigan before they go to Florida? Do they need to get both doses in Michigan? Are you able to get vaccinated in states you don’t live in?

You need to be eligible in the other state and some states have other eligibility requirements. In theory, yes you can get vaccinated in Michigan to start and the follow-up in Florida -- but how well, or smoothly that’s going to work is hard to say.

Florida has said snowbirds can get vaccines there -- but keep in mind that you are competing with everyone else in Florida for a vaccine. Before you leave Michigan, check out the situation in Florida -- ask friends, family, research online.

None of the research, data, studies, gives us any indication of how much later after the due date for the second dose you can wait and have the vaccine remains effective. However, getting the second dose after a delay is better than not getting it at all. Do not put it off past the due date if you can avoid it.

The second dose is critical. It’s just a matter of making sure we have enough supply as we continue vaccinating more people.

Should people who had really bad side effects with the first dose still get the second dose and how are they expected to respond to the second dose?

When Dr. Frank McGeorge had his first dose he experienced arm pain. When he got his second dose he experienced more significant side effects including a fever and body aches. It was unpleasant. However, there is no clear linear progression. We don’t have enough experience yet to know for sure

If you had significant side effects with the first dose you’ll likely have a fever with the second dose. That’s not a reason to skip the second dose. You need the second dose. You went through the first dose and put yourself out there, so you might as well finish it correctly and get properly immunized. The side effect profile is pretty accurate.

In the studies, side effects were worse in younger people. Older people reported fewer side effects.

Should I take Benadryl before getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. Absolutely not. Some of the antihistamines could blunt your overall immune response. Taking an antihistamine would be a bad idea. We don’t really know what it would do, but blunting an allergic response that doctors would need to know about would be a bad idea.

Should I take Tylenol or Motrin before getting vaccinated?

It won’t help. Dr. McGeorge does not recommend it.

Should I take ibuprofen before getting vaccinated?

Do not take it before getting vaccinated. It might blunt your immune response to the vaccine, which defeats the whole purpose of getting the vaccine. Only take it if you’ve experienced significant discomfort several hours after the shots. Dr. McGeorge waited at least 14 hours before taking it after getting his second dose.

Generally speaking, do not take anything to try to stop a side effect before it happens.

What if I’m scheduled to get the shingles vaccine?

Based on best estimates the shingles vaccine can cause systemic side effects and it does alter the immune response. Because of that the CDC has recommended that you don’t get any vaccine within 14 days of the COVID-19 vaccine. Finish out your COVID-19 run before getting the shingles vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is more important. You should get that first and put the shingles vaccine off as long as necessary.

I have had COVID-19 and recovered do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes. If you’ve had recent COVID-19 it’s estimated that the immunity lasts at least three months. So you can put off the vaccine around 90 days when your immunity is expected to wane a little bit. If you’re unsure, just get vaccinated.

If you are asymptomatic and have COVID-19 and got the vaccine you are expected to be okay. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms you should get tested. If you test positive, you should stay home.

Can someone test positive after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine will not give you the virus.

If someone gets their first dose at Beaumont do they have to go back to Beaumont? Can they go to a different county than the one where they got their first dose?

It doesn’t matter where you get the vaccine. But it needs to be the same vaccine. If you get Moderna the first time you must get a second dose of Moderna. The same goes for Pfizer. You will get a card when you get vaccinated -- take a picture of your card and keep it on your cellphone if you can. Do not lose that card.

It will likely be easier to get the second dose where you get your first dose. But you can go somewhere else.

Should I still wear a mask after being vaccinated? When can I hug my grandchildren?

The medical answer is to wear a mask and no it’s not safe. Don’t hug your grandchildren.

The practical answer is to assess your own risk. If you have been successfully vaccinated -- that’s 2 shots and waiting for another 7 to 14 days after the second dose -- you would be reasonably expected to be fully vaccinated. There’s a 1 in 20 chance that you’re not adequately protected.

Is there a preference between vaccine?

The best COVID-19 vaccine is the one you’re able to get. Down the road, research may reveal that certain vaccines may be better for certain people but that could take some time to discover. Right now we have two mRNA vaccines and they are equally effective.

When will children be able to get vaccinated?

We just don’t know at this point. We won’t know until more data emerges. More studies need to be done and it’s going to take some time. Children don’t bear the brunt of the serious disease so we’re going to want a lot more research before children start getting vaccinated.

Q&A on COVID-19 vaccines

LIVE: Q&A on COVID-19 vaccinations in Michigan

Posted by WDIV Local 4 / ClickOnDetroit on Wednesday, January 13, 2021

About the Authors:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.