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04.15.21 | Health & Wellness

Chicago Commons COVID-19 Live Q&A, Part 2

Sage Collective is thrilled to have recently partnered with Chicago Commons to bring a live, virtual Q&A event to their community of older adults. The purpose of the event was to address both facts and myths regarding the COVID-19 virus and vaccination. 

The live Q&A session, which was part of Chicago Commons’ Adult Day Service (ADS) Program, featured questions from the audience, answered by Rear Admiral (Ret.) James M. Galloway, MD, FACP, FACC, with Monique Caradine serving as moderator.

You can read Part 1 of the Event Roundup here. In Part 2, Dr. Galloway tackles skepticism about the vaccine head on. With respect to the history of medical inequity in Black and Brown communities, and the distrust it has sowed, Dr. Galloway explains the safety of the vaccine and why it remains a critical solution to the ongoing pandemic.


MC: What would you say to those that are nervous about how quickly this vaccine was able to be developed? Usually, vaccine development takes several years, and this occurred over the course of just one year.

JG: Both Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA protein vaccines, and we’ve been working with this type of vaccine structure for decades. We already had a foundation in place before the need for this vaccination, so those developing the vaccine were able to rapidly ramp up the studies and production in a safe way with that knowledge already in place. 


MC: Another question that came in from an attendee: what if I decide not to get vaccinated? Some people are considering this option based on what they’ve heard about the potential severity of side effects from the vaccination. Can you speak to that?

JG: Yes, I can. We’ve heard rumors about side effects of the vaccination. To be clear: the side effects of this vaccine are quite mild. You may experience soreness, swelling or redness in/on your arm where the vaccine was injected. Other mild side effects include headache, fever, muscle pain or nausea. But, it’s important to note that these side effects only last a few hours, if they even occur at all. 

And despite the hype, serious side effects are very rare. The number of people who do have severe side effects is infinitesimally small, and those effects have been treated when they occur. Meanwhile, if you decide not to get vaccinated because of these concerns, let’s compare the risk of severe side effects to the risk of a severe COVID-19 infection: COVID-19 is causing severe infections and hospitalizations, and in the US alone, one death every 28 seconds! 

The side effects of the vaccine are uncommon — and mild if they occur — compared to the severity of the impact of COVID-19 infection. Personally, I think that makes the value of the vaccine abundantly clear.


MC: There are many in the community that think, I’m young and I maintain a healthy lifestyle. Do I really need the vaccine?

DG: The lack of the vaccine, no matter how healthy you are, makes you much more susceptible to the virus. We’ve also seen that the virus can cause long term complications, even in young people, and we’ve seen the death toll. We also know that if you get it, you endanger all those around you — your family members, the folks who live in the home with you and any folks you come into contact with regularly. So there is, in both my mind and from the CDC’s perspective, no alternative that comes close to the protection of a vaccine.


MC: Another question from an audience member — a controversial one, which speaks to the distrust in the African American community around vaccines: How can I be sure that they are giving people in Black and Brown communities the actual COVID-19 vaccination? 

JG: It’s a reasonable question, and one that underscores the longstanding issues of trust bred by historically racist and dangerous health policies, and clinical experiments in vulnerable Black and Brown communities. That history, combined with the current political perspectives swirling around, and some of the more chaotic messaging from multiple social media platforms and media outlets about the vaccine — of course there is distrust. It’s clear there is not a lot of trust in the medical profession or in healthcare in general.

I’d like to give you my perspective of the development and distribution of this vaccine. First and foremost, the vaccine is produced in large quantities and these manufacturing plants are under close supervision and control, without knowledge of where in which communities the vaccine is going to be distributed. So large lots of the vaccine are developed, and the vaccine is placed in small bottles which are sealed and shipped in bulk to states and cities, and these bottles are only opened when ready for use at the local level.

I myself have worked at a vaccine delivery site. When shipments are received, there are multiple individuals in a group overseeing the administration of the vaccine — from the pharmacist who oversees the opening of the containers, the calculation and measuring the dosages, the filling of the syringes and the actual administration of the vaccine. Many, many parties are in the area for safety concerns and traffic concerns.

I say this all to reassure you that it would be difficult for anyone to infiltrate the system and preferentially administer an ineffective or incorrect vaccine to any particular community or persons. 

However, I will say, ensuring that the vaccine is distributed equitably between communities of color and white communities is a serious and real issue. With the data in place to backup these inequities, it is more important than ever for us to be outspoken and to work diligently with our local leaders in the arena of social justice and health equity in order to improve the fairness of distribution and ensure there is transparency around the process. 


MC: In closing, where can people turn to for credible information and facts about the vaccine?

JG: CDC.gov is my number one, go-to place. Many public health directors at the state and local level go to the CDC for guidance and redistribute that information on their own websites as well. Certainly, your doctor or healthcare professional is also a good resource. Those would be my top three: the CDC, local governments and medical professionals.


And if you’re eager for more Q&A sessions on COVID-19 fact and fiction, Sage Collective is planning another event with Dr. Galloway, this time in conversation with Joseph West, PhD. Click here for more details and to RSVP. 

Text on graphic reads: Talking COVID-19. Dr. James M. Galloway talks COVID-19 Facts & Fiction Part 2. Graphic includes the Sage Collective logo, the Chicago Commons logo, and a headshot of James Galloway
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04.01.21 | Health & Wellness

Chicago Commons COVID-19 Live Q&A, Part 1

Sage Collective is thrilled to have recently partnered with Chicago Commons to bring a live, virtual Q&A event to their community of older adults. The purpose of the event was to address both facts and myths regarding the COVID-19 virus and vaccination. 

The live Q&A session, which was part of Chicago Commons’ Adult Day Service (ADS) Program, featured questions from the audience, answered by Rear Admiral (Ret) James M. Galloway, MD, FACP, FACC, with Monique Caradine serving as moderator.

Rear Admiral (Ret) James M. Galloway, MD, FACP, FACC is a former Assistant Surgeon General for the United States and a public health physician, as well as a member of the Sage Collective Leadership Team. You can find his full bio here. Monique Carradine is a professional broadcaster, author, podcastor, and certified money coach for women leaders and entrepreneurs with over two decades of experience.

In Part 1 of the Event Roundup, we review questions (and answers) related to deciding to receive the vaccine, and how the process works. For the sake of this recap, questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity. 


MC: Let’s start with this question from an audience member — should I consult with my doctor first, before I get the vaccine?

JG: Generally, it’s not necessary to check with your physician unless you have a severe allergy to the vaccine or its components. However, if you’re hesitant or worried about getting the vaccine, and the vaccine’s relationship to your health and safety, it’s a great idea to talk to a trusted physician. 

Groups who should absolutely consult with a physician to determine if vaccination is right for them include those with multiple sclerosis, those who are immunocompromised, those who are on blood thinners or who have a bleeding disorder, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women.


MC: Another question we received — which of the vaccinations is “the best”? We know there are two pharmaceutical companies manufacturing vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer). Is there one that’s better than the other?

JG: Pfizer has been shown to be 95% effective in blocking symptomatic COVID-19. Moderna on the other hand has been proven to be 94% effective in the same area. So within the range of error described there, they’re equal, and no, one isn’t better than the other.

But I’d like to explain a little bit more about what that effectiveness means. You know, 95% effective — what does that mean? You can think about it as being that you are 95% protected from getting symptomatic COVID-19. But even more importantly, if you’re in the small 5% of vaccinated people who do get the disease, it’ll be mild, and present more like a cold or common flu. So essentially, this vaccine is 100% effective in preventing serious illness or death from COVID-19. 

So if you go to a vaccination location, and they offer you a choice between these two vaccine companies, you can receive either vaccine with confidence, knowing that you will have an appropriate level of protection from both.


MC: Here’s another good question, which is about the fact that there are two shots required. Can you talk about why that is? And what happens if a person gets the first shot and perhaps waits longer than recommended to get the second one? 

JG: Many of our immunizations, particularly childhood immunizations, require two or three shots. The reasoning behind that is when you get the first shot, it’s the first time the body is encountering or is exposed to what’s called an “antigen”, or that particular virus piece that we’re trying to immunize against. So there’s a mobilization, where the body’s immune system begins to work to develop a response to the newly introduced antigen. And the body will begin to develop a number of mechanisms to fight off that virus — however, because just one dose was administered, those mechanisms aren’t as strong as they could be. 

So when you receive a second dose of the vaccine, you want to land in the ideal follow-up window in order to re-stimulate the immune system and to have the  most effective, full-blown, full-body response. 

But if somebody were to get one shot and not the other, for whatever reason, there is still effectiveness in just that one shot. The first shot for the COVID-19 vaccine alone produces somewhere between 50-60% coverage against serious COVID-19 symptoms. This coverage is obviously better than not having any protection — and it does provide significant coverage, just not as much as having that second shot and reaching the 94-95% coverage level.

It’s also important to note that you should receive both shots from the same vaccine company, whether that’s Moderna or Pfizer. 


MC: The next question is: when are you fully vaccinated against COVID-19? The key word there is “fully” vaccinated — is there such a thing as being fully vaccinated?

JG: Right now, it’s too early to say. This is a new disease, and there’s a chance that it may become a routine seasonal infection, meaning that it will recur every year. That would mean that, much like the flu, we would need to get a shot every year. 


MC: Once someone is vaccinated, do they still have to wear a mask?

JG: I’ll refer you to current CDC guidelines here. Currently, the CDC recommends maintaining mask wearing for the foreseeable future, unless you are in a private space where everyone around you is also fully vaccinated. This is in part because of new, more contagious variants of COVID-19 becoming widespread globally, and also because while you’re immunized against the virus, there’s still a chance you can spread it to those around you who are not. So yes, it’s important to continue wearing a mask and washing your hands and following social distancing guidelines.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Q&A recap next week, where we’ll address the distrust of the COVID-19 in Black communities, and share more reasons why vaccination is of the utmost importance to your health and safety.

Image reads "Talking COVID-19. Dr James. M. Galloway talks COVID-19 facts and fiction, part 1." Graphic includes a headshot of Dr. Galloway and the logos for both Chicago Commons and Sage Collective
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