Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to the first winter edition of our monthly letters column. To those of you who have been sending us questions via the U.S. mail, we’re happy to report that those letters have finally been retrieved. We’ll begin answering soon. But first, we want to address some of the questions we’re getting regarding the coronavirus vaccine.
• A licensed registered nurse who is in line to get the vaccine soon had a good question: “Today is the first day of the COVID-19 vaccine being administered,” she wrote. “I am scheduled for my second SHINGRIX (against shingles) shot this coming Friday. Should there be a lapse between the two vaccines, or does anybody know?”
The answer to your question isn’t yet clear. But let’s take a look at the common side effects of the coronavirus vaccine, which are pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and mild fever. Some of these overlap with side effects of the SHINGRIX vaccine. In order to differentiate between the two vaccines, and to understand which is the one causing any side effects that you may experience, our recommendation is to separate the two injections by at least a few days.
• Several of you have written with questions about getting vaccinated when there are existing allergies. “Can a person who is allergic to penicillin and aspirin take the vaccine safely?” a reader asked. When it comes to an allergy to penicillin, or to aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), the data collected during the clinical trials for the vaccines doesn’t report either as a reason to avoid the vaccine. However, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who is allergic or hypersensitive to any of the components of the vaccine should not receive it. Your doctor, or the vaccine provider, can help you with that information.
Everyone who gets the vaccine should be monitored on-site for at least 15 minutes post-injection. Individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to any other vaccines, or to other injectable therapies, should consult with their doctors before getting the vaccine. CDC guidelines state that people with a history of severe allergic reactions that are not related to vaccines or injectable medications, such as to foods, pets, venom, or environmental or latex allergies, may still get vaccinated.
When getting the coronavirus vaccine, be sure to disclose any existing allergies; whether you have a fever, are immunocompromised or are on a medicine that affects your immune system; are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding; and whether you are on a blood thinner or have a bleeding disorder. And if you have already received another COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to disclose that as well.
• A reader who is worried about a possible adverse reaction to the vaccine wonders how she will be safe while getting her shot. The answer is that the CDC has asked all vaccination providers to have on hand the appropriate medications and equipment to deal with a possible allergic reaction. This includes epinephrine, antihistamines, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and timing devices to check your pulse.
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