Image: Coronavirus Stock 1

The big question making the rounds today is, “Are you going to get the vaccine?” That would be the COVID-19 vaccine, of course.

Most people give an affirmative response but some hesitation is not uncommon. Those who hesitate often list the reasons why getting ‘the vaccine’ makes them nervous.  A COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA. The government is trying to mark people. The vaccine delivers an insidious secret chip that marks you for life. And so on. Not all the objections are this absurd sounding but many of them are. 

  

For those who have never been affected by COVID—“I think I may have had it last April when I had a bad cold for two weeks, but I’ve felt nothing since”-- there can be an almost cavalier attitude about the disease. For those who have had relatives, friends and loved ones die, the prospect of a vaccine is a sign or hope and a life changer.

   

6 ABC News confirmed that as of January 22, 2021,  413,450 people in Pennsylvania have had one dose of the vaccine, with 106,541 people having received the second dose. The United States Center for Disease Control reported that 1.5 million doses of the vaccine have been allotted to Pennsylvania. Roughly 4% of Pennsylvanians have received the vaccine. A children’s vaccine has not been developed, however.

  

The City of Philadelphia reports that as of January 22nd, 82,693 people have been given the first dose of the vaccine while 20,888 people have received both doses.

   

To date, there is only one vaccination site in the city, and that is the Pennsylvania Convention Center. People who want to sign up for the vaccine are encouraged to go to Philly Fights COVID website and click the bar that reads Get Vaccinated. From there the user will see a series of simple questions and a square block at the end of the Q and A where one is supposed to type in their name. Curiously, actual typing doesn’t work in the block reserved for signatures, so one is left to guess how to complete the process. Guessing always involves trial and error, and after a lot of error users may discover that the signature block accepts fingertip signatures,ie., sign your name directly inside the block on your computer screen, and presto! you can now submit your application. 

   

Experts talk about COVID-19 as a shape-shifting virus (referring, of course, to COVID-19 variants now in the United Kingdom and South Africa) but a similar thing could also be said about vaccination sites throughout the city. At press time, a late breaking news item stated that the city was no longer partnering with Philly Fighting COVID (PFC) but would be opening more mass vaccination sites throughout the region. These sites will include high schools, public libraries, places of worship, according to Philadelphia Health Department spokesperson, James Garrow. Mobile vaccination sites are also under consideration.

The change occurred when PFC changed its status from non-profit to for profit, an abrupt switch that then caused the Philadelphia Health Department to no longer provide PFC with vaccines. Those who wish to be vaccinated are encouraged to sign up at the city’s portal at https://www.phila.gov/vaccineinterest.

Previously, at the PFC Convention Center site, after your submission was processed, you would receive an email listing your line category: 1a for health care workers and elderly residents in long term care facilities, as well as people at high risk for exposure and transmission to vulnerable populations. 1b covered essential workers at high risk exposure, persons 75 and older and for those residing in congregate settings. Category 1c covered other essential workers and those 65-74 years old. 

  

While ordinary Flu shots are available everywhere—walk the streets of Kensington and you’ll notice sandwich board signs on the sidewalks urging passersby to walk-in into an approved storefront clinic for a fast flu vaccine—getting the highly vetted COVID-19 vaccine, until the city opted to expand distribution of the vaccine, was tantamount to getting a Passport. The PFC system had applicants coming in for their shots on their appointed day and time. They then headed to the ‘Inoculation Pod’ (no relation to the more festive Stephen Starr Pod at 3636 Sansom Street) inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The pod was a curtained off area, intensely private, where a registered nurse delivered the vaccine while a med student or volunteer stood by.  You then transitioned to a waiting room where you hung out in case you had an adverse reaction.

  

Adverse reactions, if any, tend to be minor in scope.

WHYY published the stories of people in the city to find out how they felt after getting the vaccine.

    

One woman stated that after the first shot she felt chills in the evening and then had arm pain for more than a day. After the second shot she didn’t experience chills but she came down with a short-term migraine and general body weakness. These disappeared after 5 hours. Another person said they had no adverse reactions, just a feeling of tenderness at the injection site. A third person reported chills six hours after getting the shot with headaches, fatigue and muscle aches the following day. A fourth person, a male physician, experienced aching for 12 hours but added that all his symptoms went away when he took a Tylenol. The physician told WHYY that he felt “reassured by the pain” because “it was a sign that my immune system was working.” It was also reported that all of his medical colleagues had pain like him but that they all felt good about it. It is not known whether the physician’s colleagues took Tylenol.

   

The current vaccines in use, Pfizer and Moderna, will at some point be joined by several other vaccine candidates that are currently in development.

  

Reuters reported that information on the eagerly-awaited “one shot” Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine would be available early next week, or the beginning of February.

The New York Times reported that of the 9 million people in the U.S. who have received one shot of either Pfizer or Moderna, no deaths have been reported although 29 cases of severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis (90 % of them female) have been documented. “Seventeen of those who experienced anaphylaxis had a history of allergic reactions to drugs, medical products, food or insect stings. Seven had a history of anaphylaxis,” The Times stated.

    

In one case that made international news, a 56-year old obstetrician/gynecologist from Miami Beach, Florida, Dr. Gregory Michael, died 16 days after he received the COVID-19 vaccination on December 18, 2020. 

The Times reported that “shortly after receiving the vaccine, Dr. Michael developed an extremely serious form of a condition known as acute immune thrombocytopenia, which prevented his blood from clotting properly.”

Pfizer, the maker of the vaccine, stated that it was looking into the case but denied that Dr. Michael’s death was related to the vaccine. Pfizer’s contention has been challenged by a number of physicians and the CDC is still investigating the case.

PFC, or Philly Fighting COVID, was founded in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a pop-up test site in various places around the city. PFC went into high gear in January 2021 when, at the urging of the Department of Public Health, it created the first community vaccination clinic in the city at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. A privately funded program headed by CEO Andrei Doroshin, the clinic has vaccinated 15,000 home health workers in the city. Prior to the end of its partnership with the City, PFC vaccinated about 100 to 400 people an hour, or 1,000 to 4500 people daily, according to WHYY. When asked how Doroshin and some friends of his funded the mammoth operation, the CEO said that he hoped the clinic will soon be funded through a grant from the City Health Department and a federally funded relief package. Obviously, that did not happen. So how did Doroshin fund the operation? From his own funds and from the funds of friends, he said. How much did he spend?

Doroshin had told WHYY that the price to operate the vaccination site per day was equal to the price of a “really nice Mercedes.” 

As the shape-shifting virus reinvents itself, Moderna has announced that its vaccine was not very effective against new coronavirus variants popping up in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Of the two variants, the South African strain is the strongest but the company plans on developing an improved form of the vaccine in the form of a booster shot, according to The Times. Moderna’s chief medical officer said, “We’re doing it today to be ahead of the curve should we need to.”

“I'm very pro vaccine,” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. once said. “I get all six of my kids vaccinated. I believe vaccines save millions of lives, and people ought to be getting vaccinated.”

On the other hand, George Bernard Shaw once quipped, “As well consult a butcher on the value of vegetarianism as a doctor on the worth of vaccination.

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