Let’s Talk About The COVID Vaccine

Nurse gives senior adult healthcare worker the Covid-19 vaccine

We know there are a lot of things floating around about the COVID vaccine. Is it safe? Are there differences in the types of shots you can get? What are the side effects. Michael Elliott, Chief Transformation Office for Centra sits down to discuss these points and more with Kate. Take a minute to listen as you gather your own information and make your own vaccine plans.

Note: Due to extra social distancing and masks being worn during recording for the safety of all parties, some audio may sound more muffled than normal. Month 2021!

Announcer:

Thanks for joining us for this episode of Centra Scripts, where we talk health and wellness and practical tips for your everyday life. And now here’s your host, Kate Kolb.

Kate Kolb:

Well, thanks, guys, for tuning into another episode of Centra Scripts. I am Kate Kolb, and I am extremely privileged today to sit down with my friend, Michael Elliott, who is our chief transformation officer here at Centra. I’m sure you’ve probably heard his name or seen his face around because he is definitely a big part of this community. Michael, thank you so much for being here today.

Michael Elliott:

Thank you for having me.

Kate Kolb:

Absolutely. Well, we wanted to kind of take a quick few minutes here to sit down and do a mini-cast of sorts on this whole idea of this really large conversation that’s happening around this thing called the vaccine.

Michael Elliott:

Absolutely.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. And this is something that has been floating around obviously now for some months, and just trying to gather all this information from the CDC and different news sources, and it can be a little overwhelming. So what we wanted to do, you are our resident expert on all things vaccine here at Centra, and so I just wanted to sit down and have a conversation. We’re talking about this idea around the shot of “it’s worth a shot.” It is worth a shot to get your shot because of all the things, the positive things that are going to come with that.

Kate Kolb:

So let me just start, though, because we have not had an extensive opportunity to have you on the podcast before. So for those who may not know you, which I can’t imagine that that would be very many people at this point in time, but do you mind just giving a little bit of information about you, kind of your background, and how you came to Centra before we get started?

Michael Elliott:

Yes, and thank you for the opportunity to talk about this. There’s no such thing as too much education on this, and frankly, information changes over time with this new disease that we’ve been fighting. So first off, my name is Michael Elliott. I’ve had the privilege of working and serving here at Centra Health for a little over eight years now. It’s hard to believe.

Kate Kolb:

That’s amazing.

Michael Elliott:

And it’s been a labor of love, for sure. I’ve held several different roles in operations, and I’ve gotten the opportunity now to work more on strategy. And wouldn’t you know, I’m also a pharmacist. I received my doctor of pharmacy degree back in 2000 some time. I won’t give you the exact dates.

Kate Kolb:

You won’t give away the numbers. Yeah.

Michael Elliott:

But I got a doctor of pharmacy degree from the Medical College of Virginia. So who knew that that would come in very handy-

Kate Kolb:

For sure.

Michael Elliott:

… for the first pandemic in over a century? So I’ve been able to pull back on some of that pharmaceutical knowledge and history and also work through strategies for our organization in the community to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect everyone moving forward.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah, well, that’s amazing. And I think that that knowledge that you have from that educational base that you have just puts you in the perfect position to speak on these things. But also, just I love your personality for your hunger for knowledge and the fact that you just are always trying to gather the newest information and see what things are out there to help our community because I know that’s a big piece of your heart.

Kate Kolb:

So just want to kind of talk through… We have created an infographic of sorts that we will be sharing with the community that’s got some of these kind of fast and quick facts that you can talk about, about the vaccine so that you can learn information. I just wanted to kind of like talk through that with you today so that we can get some of that info out to our community, and we want to make sure that we are a place where people can get some of their questions answered. So COVID, in general, has been one of those things that has just… There is no normal when it comes to COVID.

Michael Elliott:

That’s exactly right.

Kate Kolb:

Nothing is… There is no pattern with anything. There is nothing that we saw coming with it. Much of what we’ve seen with some of this vaccine news that’s been coming out seems to be the same way. And I kind of just want to get, real quick, your impression on just how you feel the communications about the vaccine, in general from a national level, have been and how you see that kind of going forward from here.

Michael Elliott:

Yeah. So being a healthcare professional and somewhat of a scientist myself, I have to tell you it’s been confusing, and things have changed so quickly. Part of that is that this is a disease that we didn’t know anything about and we’re still learning about. So information would be updated literally on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times per day, as we learned more and scientists did more from a research perspective. There’s that, and then there’s the practical piece of actually getting information out to everyone.

Kate Kolb:

Right.

Michael Elliott:

So depending on where people get their information… This has been hard for healthcare professionals to keep up with. For the public, it’s almost impossible. You hear snippets each day, and at some point, I know many people in my own family have just said, “I’m not listening to this on the news anymore. As a matter of fact, all I’m going to do… When I have a question, I’m going to pick up the phone and call Michael if he hasn’t called me first.”

Kate Kolb:

Sure.

Michael Elliott:

So I understand the reality of the amount of information, plus the changes to that information over time. So I’m very happy that we have clinicians, others, and frankly like me who are dedicated and wanting to keep up with this because we feel like it’s part of our duty to be able to give people the latest and greatest information. And plus, we have decisions to make as an organization and also as a community, so we have to stay up with the latest and the greatest.

Kate Kolb:

And that brings up a good point. I think, I have also heard a lot of people that are just like, “Well, I’m just not even going to look at the news anymore about it because it changes all the time. It’s so overwhelming. I don’t want to know.” But why would that be detrimental? Because it’s really easy to just want to shut it all off. But from your standpoint, why do you think it’s important that we continue to take in the information that’s coming at us?

Michael Elliott:

It’s really because people have decisions to make.

Kate Kolb:

Right.

Michael Elliott:

So we have decisions to make about our children, if and how and when they go to school, if and how and when they engage with their friends. We have decisions of our own to make about what to engage in outside of our homes and if and when we can do that. We have decisions to make about visiting our parents and grandparents, if we’re blessed enough to still have them, and all of those items. So although it is tough to keep up with things, people do need to get to a point and get to trusted sources of information so that they can make the life decisions that they need to make that are coming to us every day. And the latest of those decisions is whether to get the vaccine or not.

Kate Kolb:

Right.

Michael Elliott:

So, yes, it is tedious, but I implore everyone to find a trusted source of information, check your local pharmacy, if you’ve got a relationship with the pharmacist, your primary care physician, or someone else that you feel comfortable engaging with because the information is, frankly, life-changing, and we need to make these decisions from an informed standpoint.

Kate Kolb:

Right. And I so appreciate the way that you phrased that. We’ve talked the last couple of podcasts, and you’ve seen it in our recent communications out to the community, how… This thing about our just cause that we talk about all the time here at Centra now, about partnering with you to live your best life. And I feel like what you just said in that conversation about we have decisions to make, we have important, life-changing decisions that are going on in our homes, in our workplaces, in our schools, and that falls in heavily to that idea of what does this best life look like for us moving forward. So I think that that partners really well with that, so thank you for bringing that point up.

Kate Kolb:

Let’s go ahead and start working our way through this information on this infographic here. Right at the very top of this form is the number-one question that I think that we hear from a lot of people who are considering the vaccine. Can I still get COVID or spread it after being vaccinated? What would you say to that?

Michael Elliott:

Yeah, it’s a great question. And the answer to many of the questions that are out there today, because the disease is so new, because the vaccines are still so new, the question is we think we know, but we really don’t know enough to give you a final answer. So to this question of being able to contract COVID after you’re vaccinated or can you pass it along falls into that category.

Kate Kolb:

Sure.

Michael Elliott:

So I like to give people the example: if you have COVID, and I’ve been vaccinated, if you sneeze directly in my face-

Kate Kolb:

Rude.

Michael Elliott:

Yes, very. However, it happens. The virus that was living in you is now living in me. So one could say I have COVID. It is in my body. It is in my bloodstream, but because I’ve been vaccinated, I have antibodies already built up that will immediately attack that virus and, therefore, not give it the opportunity to replicate. And so I may just have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

Michael Elliott:

What hasn’t been studied completely enough is if you’ve been vaccinated and you sneeze in my face and you’ve had a little exposure to the COVID at that point in time, we don’t know how much virus you would actually be carrying over to me from that sneeze. And that depends on so many different factors there. But I will tell you that that is being researched, and so we’ll have answers that better tell us about that.

Michael Elliott:

Part of this is looking backwards, so what we call retrospective studies. So now we have literally millions of people vaccinated across the world. We’re going to be able to trace whether they are contracting the disease and giving it to others over time. I will tell you, at this point, the data looks really, really good, but these are in the early stages. So the answer to that officially is we don’t know. However, it’s looking really, really good, if you’re vaccinated, that your chances of getting the disease and passing it on are extremely minuscule. But we’ll see when the final studies come out.

Kate Kolb:

Okay. Well, and that’s good information too, just to remember, in any of this, just to kind of take everything with that sort of grain of salt of this is progressing as just… I mean, a year ago, literally a year ago this week is when everything sort of went on lockdown and everything changed for a lot of people. So things change in a rapid-

Michael Elliott:

Absolutely.

Kate Kolb:

… rapid movement when you’re talking about stuff like this. But why would you not at least give yourself the opportunity to have that chance of that extra layer of protection?

Michael Elliott:

That’s right.

Kate Kolb:

From there then, we are seeing in the news almost daily now, I feel like, these stories that pop up about, okay, well, now there’s mutations of the COVID-19 virus, and there’s variants that are popping up when people are being tested. So what does that look like from a standpoint in all this vaccination research and implementation going forward? Is that something that we should be concerned about, these variants and mutations and that sort of thing? Will it negate getting the vaccine? That’s a question that we get a lot.

Michael Elliott:

Good question. I want to answer that one right up front. Get the vaccine.

Kate Kolb:

Yes.

Michael Elliott:

Because it is still the best protection against the original virus and all of the variants at this point. And thank the Lord for science and scientists who are keeping track of these variants as well. So I’d like to use an example of the flu for people to compare to.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah.

Michael Elliott:

So the flu gets variants and mutates really quickly, which is why you have to get a different flu shot each year. It appears the coronavirus does not mutate that quickly, but it is mutating. So all the studies thus far have still shown that the COVID vaccines that are available right now are still effective against the variants. It may range a little bit differently on how effective, but it’s still effective. And what I mean by that, some of these variants, as they mutate, they might cause a little more mild or severe disease. But what the studies have even shown with these variants is that the main outcomes, which are death and you being hospitalized, the vaccines work for the original coronavirus and the variants to decrease those to almost nothing.

Kate Kolb:

Which is huge-

Michael Elliott:

It’s huge.

Kate Kolb:

… when you think about the numbers that we’ve seen in this past year of just hospitalizations and death on a global level. And yeah, I mean, the fact that that is being reduced so drastically and in most cases down to almost nothing is such a huge thing. We just want to really continue to stress that, yes, while there are variants and while there are mutations, that it is still your best defense going forward to get that shot.

Michael Elliott:

That’s exactly right. And what also is being studied is, at some point, there needs to be booster shots. So the other thing we don’t know for sure is, Kate, if you have been fully vaccinated, how long is your immunity going to last? And once again, the studies will show us how long, but everybody’s different too.

Kate Kolb:

Sure.

Michael Elliott:

What the studies are showing, it’s at least 90 days, but we’re expecting these vaccines will probably last for over a year, maybe a couple of years. But once again, everybody is different, so there might be the need for booster shots. So because the scientists have said that that is a likelihood, you’ll actually hear things… For example, the current White House administration is purchasing more shots, and what they’re doing is actually having those shots ready in case there are large numbers of boosters that need to be given because people are losing immunity to the COVID virus.

Kate Kolb:

Right. And I think the big thing that we want to make sure that we remind people of in this conversation, and we’ve mentioned it a couple of times, this is ongoing. This is continued research. This is something that is brand new. So for those people that might be on the fence or are questioning, “Okay, well, why is it not more definitive?” well, you think back to things like scarlet fever and smallpox and even mumps and measles and rubella and things that we have had vaccines and things against for years and years, that took time.

Michael Elliott:

That’s right.

Kate Kolb:

And that took years of research and development for that sort of strong immunity that we now see against those types of diseases to make their way into our communities and to be a permanency factor in that state. So the fact that the response to the COVID pandemic and the vaccinations and development of that research going forward has happened in such an amazingly confined amount of time is a little mind-blowing, if you think about it, in a good way. The fact that our scientists have been able to attack this head-on and that it’s so effective, because efficacy levels on these vaccines sit right about where now?

Michael Elliott:

They’re through the roof. When we look at preventing hospitalizations and death, they’re in that mid-to-high 90s. Compare that to the flu vaccine too, which is usually in the 60% range. We’re happy if it’s in the 60% range. So I echo your comments. All of the research, all the researchers that continually do work that people never hear about, they were ready for this. And then to see private industry and government come together to make these vaccines happen so quickly, it’s really the best of what we can expect when we work together.

Kate Kolb:

Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that’s a huge nod to just the professional nature of the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and even the government cooperation with the way that we’ve been able to get those out. So moving on from that just a little bit then, about the mutations and the variants, let’s move on to one of the other major questions that we get all the time about the vaccine, and that would be side effects.

Michael Elliott:

That’s right.

Kate Kolb:

Everybody wants to know, when I get this shot, what is it going to look like for me? So can you speak to that for a few minutes?

Michael Elliott:

Yeah, absolutely. So if you look at the numbers, most people actually don’t have side effects, but there’s still… We’re talking about literally everyone in the community at some point hopefully getting the vaccine. So there’s going to be a lot of people who do have side effects, even if it’s small percentages. Now anyone who’s had a shot before, you know after you have that shot, there’s the potential for soreness, redness at the injection site. This is no different. So that’s the number-one effect, if you will, from the shot.

Michael Elliott:

What we are hearing, especially for the two-dose shots, is that the second dose, that’s caused a little bit more of an issue for people, and that makes scientific sense. Some of the issues people have are fatigue, headache, fever. And also, like I said, the injection site soreness can be a little bit worse with the second shot too, but that is a good sign.

Kate Kolb:

Right. Thank you. Emphasize that for me. That is a good sign.

Michael Elliott:

Let me tell you why. So the first shot, when it goes in, your body starts to produce antibodies. By the time you get the second shot, your body already has the antibodies, so it recognizes what’s going into your arm and says, “I’m ready this time.” And so it has pumped up. So we get sick. When we have a cold or something like that, when we might have cold chills or fever or anything, that is showing us that our body is actually reacting. That’s what happens when our immune system attacks viruses or bacteria in our body. It’s a sign of things working. So don’t be worried if you don’t have side effects, but if you do have side effects, just realize that that is your body saying, “My immune system is working. It’s working hard.” And that’s why you’re going to have fever. That’s why you’re going to have chills and perhaps some fatigue. But most people get over those symptoms in 12 to 24 hours and are as good as new.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. And that’s a small window of maybe some small uncomfort to last for a long, a much longer window of immunity.

Michael Elliott:

That’s right.

Kate Kolb:

I was laughing the other day with my kids. We were talking about the vaccine and just kind of everything going on with COVID. And my nine-year-old was like, “So it’s like little ninjas in your body that fight everything?” And I was like, “Yeah, basically.”

Michael Elliott:

That’s right.

Kate Kolb:

So when you were talking about the antibodies already being there and your body recognizing those, I always think of little ninjas now because of my son.

Michael Elliott:

I like that idea. That’s a good one.

Kate Kolb:

So yeah. All right, so another hot-button question that we have right now that I kind of want to… I wanted to wait and end on this one, because this is a large conversation that’s happening right now. Obviously, you have Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson and Johnson now that have developed these community-ready vaccinations. So the question that we are hearing and seeing in a lot of our social forums is, “Well, which one is best for me, and do I shop around? Is there a reason to get Pfizer over Johnson and Johnson? And it’s a two-shot versus a one-shot.” And there’s a lot of back-and-forth conversations happening about, “Do I wait it out and get one versus the other, or do I play them against each other, or that kind of thing?” What would your response be to those questions?

Michael Elliott:

So bottom line, get the first vaccine available to you, and I’ll tell you why I think that. The first thing is the ultimate outcome. The ultimate outcome that we’re looking for is to prevent you from dying, number one, and then before that, from you having to be hospitalized. All three of these vaccines are extremely, extremely good at doing that. So that’s the ultimate outcome.

Michael Elliott:

Where there’s a little bit of difference between the vaccines is if you actually do contract COVID after receiving the vaccines, it’s how sick do you get then? Is it mild disease? So mild disease would be perhaps a small fever and some sniffles, versus more severe disease that might cause you to be more fatigued, maybe a fever that gets a little bit higher. But either way, you’re not hospitalized, and you’re not at the risk of dying. All of the vaccines prevent those two end points. So the little bit of difference… And these are prospective studies as well. So the difference between the vaccines is essentially negligible. And what we’re finding now that lots of people are getting the Johnson and Johnson, lots are getting the Moderna, and lots are getting the Pfizer, researchers are already looking back to see how efficacious they are, and they’re all looking on an even keel effectiveness-wise. So good question.

Kate Kolb:

I mean, you’re talking very, very small, even fractions of percents of a difference-

Michael Elliott:

That’s right.

Kate Kolb:

… between efficacy between all three of them. I love that. Get the shot that is available to you. Get the first one that you can. And as things start opening up, put your name on a list. Get your name on a list. Get your reservation for your vaccination in. So if people are interested in learning more information about the vaccine, and this is where it kind of goes back to the beginning of our conversation where we were just like, “This is so overwhelming. This is super overwhelming,” what would your advice be to people who want good information, but are getting very overwhelmed by what resources to check and where to go? What would you tell them?

Michael Elliott:

There are two sites I recommend you go to. If you are someone who wants to do the research yourself, you want to have information that is vetted and research-based, go to either the CDC website or the Virginia Department of Health website. Those are monitored and updated on a regular basis. And once again, all of the information up there has been vetted. It’s research-based, and they won’t tell you something that they don’t know. The answer will be, “We don’t know yet.” And once again, that’s the answer to a lot of questions. So either the Centers for Disease Control or the Virginia Department of Health, and those are very trustworthy sites.

Michael Elliott:

Now, for those folks who don’t want to do their own research… And I understand that. Some people want to engage with someone who can break down some of this more medical information. Definitely reach out to your local pharmacist, reach out to your local primary care provider or anyone else in the medical field that you feel comfortable engaging with.

Kate Kolb:

Yeah. And we also continue to have updated resources on our website as well, centrahealth.com/covid, or just go to the front page on centrahealth.com. There’s multiple different ways to reach that page too, but we want to make sure that we are providing as much up-to-date information and timely information to people as we can. So if you are just at a loss, feel free to ping our site, and you can check some of our resources there too. But Michael, thank you so much for being willing to sit down and talk through some of these kind of high-level questions that people are having. And would there be anything else that you would want to say before we leave the table today that you just really want people to know about the vaccine or just kind of your heart for the community?

Michael Elliott:

Absolutely. The last thing I will say is have a plan. Don’t wait until the vaccine is available to you to try to start researching and get your questions answered. Get them answered now. There has been enough research at this point. There’s been enough experiences with these vaccines that I bet your questions can be answered, unless they’re about can you tell me what’s going to happen five or 10 years from now? Obviously, those cannot. But some of the more technical pieces are definitely already there. So have a plan. Now is the time to get your questions answered. And so with that, I want to thank you as well for providing this platform-

Kate Kolb:

Oh, absolutely.

Michael Elliott:

… to get the word out about this and many other topics over time as well. It’s so important for us to continue to communicate over and over again from different perspectives as well.

Kate Kolb:

Absolutely.

Michael Elliott:

So keep up the great work.

Kate Kolb:

Well, thank you, friend. Well, we so appreciate Michael being with us today. We hope that this has been beneficial to you as a listener. And once again, if you need more information, you can check out our website at centrahealth.com and then also at centrascripts.com. And we have additional podcasts and blog posts and things that will be there to help you gain more information on this and many other health topics. So thanks for tuning in, and we’ll talk to you next time.

2 Comments

  1. Richard Donnelly on March 31, 2021 at 7:59 pm

    Excellent broadcast. I’ve been following Mr. Elliot for quite some time — very impressive individual. Would like to see him as CEO.

    BUT: Your recording had some kind of background noise which detracted from the substance of the review. And the person doing the questioning was louder than the person answering — not want you want, for sure.

    • Mary Ann Racin on April 6, 2021 at 12:19 pm

      We appreciate the feedback and are working to ensure better audio in future podcasts. We agree that Michael is fantastic, though!

Leave a Comment