Questions arise about new COVID-19 vaccines

A certified nursing assistant speaks about COVID-19 vaccine concerns

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Abi Fleishman, former University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student and current certified nursing assistant, has questions and concerns about COVID-19 vaccines.

Over a year ago today the COVID-19 pandemic took over the United States. Everything we considered as normal life was suddenly halted with an overwhelming uncertainty of what was to come.

Today, there are three vaccines and counting that are becoming available to the public. Now questions are arising about whether or not you should be vaccinated for COVID-19.  

Questions and concerns about COVID-19 vaccines

Abi Fleishman is a former University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student. Fleishman now works as a certified nursing assistant in memory care. Fleishman does not intend to get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of the contradictions that she’s heard, and she previously tested positive for the virus, with mild symptoms. 

“I felt as though there was a lot of inconsistency in the media and what I’ve heard. I just wasn’t 100% comfortable right now,” Fleishman said. 

Fleishman explained that she would be open to getting the vaccine when she has more knowledge about it and the surrounding research. 

A University of California-Davis study found that more than one third of people nationwide are either unlikely or at least hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.  

Fleishman said that since the COVID-19 vaccines are so new, she worries there’s not enough research and information known about them. Fleishman also said that she has faith that her immune system could fight off the virus in the future if she caught it again. 

“I wasn’t willing to have the chemicals and the components from the unknown of the vaccine when I have my own immune system that I trust, especially when there is a chance you could still get COVID-19 after getting the vaccine,” Fleishman said. 

Another reason Fleishman is hesitant about getting a vaccine are the difference in doses. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson requires only one. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective, the Moderna is 94.1% effective and the Johnson is about 85% effective.  

“Even if you’ve gotten the vaccine, we’re still directed to wear a mask and still follow all the COVID-19 protocol,” she said, “If we’re protected now, then why are we still having to take all those same precautions?”  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website says that if you have been vaccinated and you catch COVID-19, the vaccine will prevent severe illness and death. However, the website also states that it’s still important to wear a mask around people who are not vaccinated because it’s still being studied how COVID-19 is spread by those who have received the vaccine. 

Fleishman pointed out that she has concerns about the mRNA, also known as messenger RNA, in the COVID-19 vaccines. She says that she has learned that this is something new within a vaccine and she has concerns about how the mRNAs affect the body.  

A medical perspective on concerns

The Medical Director of Student Health Service at UW-Eau Claire, Kim Frodl, said that people are concerned about the vaccines because distribution just began in late 2020. 

“The COVID-19 vaccines are new, and I think that makes people nervous,” Frodl said. “People question are they safe, what are they going to do, because they just haven’t been around that long.” 

Frodl said that although the vaccines are very effective, they are not 100%, so it’s still important to wear a mask and follow COVID-19 guidelines. 

“While mRNA vaccines are new, the technology is not,” Frodl said. 

Frodl explained that mRNA acts as a messenger to the body, telling it to make a viral protein. That viral protein is then recognized as something foreign, which then triggers an immune response. The mRNA and the protein is destroyed by the body, then if the body is exposed to the protein again, it will be recognized and trigger an immune response.

Frodl said that all three vaccines are almost identical on paper. The reason that they have different amounts of doses is because the more times your body is exposed to it, the more effective your body will be at responding to it.  

“The more that we learn about these vaccines as they’ve been around longer and we have more and more data, the more promising they seem to be,” Frodl said. “It’s actually good news we keep getting from these vaccines.” 

Frodl said that when a vaccine becomes available to you, you should get vaccinated because the quickest way to get through this and back to normal is to get a COVID-19 vaccine.  

However, Flieshman said vaccination should be more of a personal decision. 

“I’m never going to tell someone they should or shouldn’t get the vaccine,” Fleishman said. “I think people should do their own research and talk to your doctor before getting the vaccine.”