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Coronavirus Vaccine: 3 things you need to know

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Welcome back to Dementia Spring Q&A, where we answer your questions about dementia in about five minutes with as little medical jargon as possible.

I’m Dr. Marc. I’m an internist and a geriatrician here in Louisville, Kentucky.

This week’s question is so important. It’s been an incredibly difficult few months, and many people have been suffering with dementia and coronavirus. So, the question about the vaccine is relevant. Here are the three things I think you need to know today.

1. The vaccine that we’ll be receiving does not have live coronavirus in it. No one is being given small or tiny doses of the coronavirus. Instead, a very small piece of genetic material or protein from coronavirus will be included in the vaccine. Your body will recognize that piece of coronavirus so that when it sees an actual coronavirus in the future, it can react very quickly and get rid of it in a day or two. And you’d have symptoms of something like a common cold.

Some people still think that the actual virus itself in its entirety is being injected into the body; it is not the case.

2. The drug discovery and scientific approval process for the Covid vaccine has followed all the standard regulatory and drug development protocols just like any other medication that you would take, like a chemotherapy drug or a different vaccine perhaps or just your cholesterol medication that you took last night. Even though the timeframe was reduced and, obviously, we all feel a sense of urgency, there was no undue influence on the process by government, politicians, regulators, the media, or corporate interests.

It was accomplished very quickly, partly because the coronavirus resembles, to some degree, influenza virus, and we have a lot of experience spinning up a new influenza vaccine every year.

We also had an incredible amount of resources, money, and an entire industry focused on this problem, and that’s why it happened so fast.

3. When I recommend things for patients with or without dementia, any patient really, I’m always asking myself, what’s the relative risk and benefit of one thing versus another? In this situation, the relevant things are the vaccine and any side effects you might get from it, and having coronavirus and having full-blown Covid-19. One of them is one or two injections. There might be a little bit of a side effect afterward, either locally at the site on your arm, or you might feel a little run-down; if you’ve ever had a shingles vaccine, for example, it might feel like that. On the other side, you have Covid-19, which causes people to either die or need hospice or need to move into a nursing home or unable to do what they used to do and function the way they used to function. In my mind, relatively speaking, one versus the other, it’s a no-brainer. The relative risk of anything bad happening from the vaccine is tiny compared to the risk that we’ve already seen a lot of people getting full-blown Covid-19 and passing away.

Today, as a geriatrician, I think those are the three things you need to know about the upcoming Covid vaccines. We’re going to learn more in the coming weeks and months, and I know you’ll have more questions. So, please feel free to write to us at www.dementiaspring.org, and if you like the video, please subscribe to the video channel.

I look forward to seeing you again really soon here at Dementia Spring Q&A.


The contents and information on DementiaSpring.Org are for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Any opinions expressed about, or endorsements of persons, services or organizations are solely those of Dementia Spring and are not made on behalf of Signify Healthcare or any other entity.

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