Many people remain wary of the COVID-19 vaccination’s effectiveness, either rejecting the idea or taking a wait-and-see attitude. But, medical research proves that the COVID-19 vaccination is safe and effective. This week’s debut of the vaccine is a major step toward solving the pandemic.

“Once you start to understand how the vaccine works, you realize that it is incredibly safe and incredibly exciting,” said Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer. “For those of us in health care, it is a real game changer.”

Priest (see top photo) got his first dose of the vaccine Dec. 17.

The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer had an efficacy rate of 95% in clinical trials, and was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna had similar results, with a 94% efficacy.

Yet, some doubters remain.

“I understand skepticism,” Priest said. “These have been unprecedented, historic times. We haven't lived through this before. When there is uncertainty, it breeds fear. I think there has also been a lot of misinformation about vaccines in general over the last few years, about this particular vaccine and about COVID-19 in general.” (See this story, which debunks five of some of the most prevalent myths around vaccine safety).

“We hope people will read about the vaccine, understand how it works, ask the appropriate questions, and be willing to get the vaccine when they have the opportunity.”

Priest answered several questions about the COVID-19 and flu vaccinations:

What are the expected effects when I get the COVID-19 vaccination, and will it be more noticeable after the first or second dose?

The clinical trials performed by Pfizer and Moderna did not have any significant safety events. There will be some expected effects. We are not using the term “side effects” because we know these things are going to happen when your immune system responds to vaccines. The expected effects can include a sore arm, malaise or fatigue, and perhaps a low-grade fever. Those expected effects will be more likely after the second dose and usually last less than a day. That means the immunization is working, and that your immune system is responding. That is exactly what we want to happen.

Is it too late to get a flu vaccination?

The COVID-19 vaccine is not the only vaccine that is important now. Flu season often heats up at the end of December, and as we move into January and February. We encourage our community to get your flu shot. We have not had a lot of influenza activity as of yet. But, that could change after the first of the year. We can't give a flu shot at the same time that we give a COVID-19 vaccine. Get your flu shot now, so there is plenty of time to get through that before the COVID-19 vaccination is available to you.

Does Novant Health offer drive-thru flu vaccinations?

Yes, at the Novant Health COVID-19 screening center in Winston-Salem, at the Sears Auto Center outside Hanes Mall. The address is 190 Hanes Mall Circle. In Charlotte, the flu vaccine is available at the Central Piedmont Community College Harris campus parking deck. The address is 3216 CPCC Harris Campus Drive. COVID-19 screenings will continue to be offered at these locations.

Flu vaccinations are available for anyone between the ages of 6 months and 65 years. If you're having flu symptoms or COVID-19 symptoms, don't get your flu shot. But if you're not having symptoms, it's worth getting.

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