Leaders address COVID vaccine safety

Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, and Maj. Taha Haque, chief of Primary Care at Kenner Army Health Clinic, discuss various topics about the COVID-19 vaccine during the recording session for a PSA that will be featured in three parts on the CASCOM Facebook page, www.facebook.com/USACASCOM.

FORT LEE, Va. – The COVID-19 vaccine being administered to service members and civilians here is safe and has gone through the same clinical trials as any other medication or medical device achieving approval through the Food and Drug Administration.

Team Lee members are going to hear that message often for the foreseeable future as post leaders and Kenner Army Health Clinic medical providers push for getting as many people in the community immunized as possible.

 “The United States really has achieved some monumental success with quickly going through the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, and they did that without compromising safety,” confirmed Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, during the recording of a public service announcement that appeared on the command’s Facebook page this week.

“However, it’s an optional thing,” he continued, “so many of you may need to know more about it” before making a decision about getting the shot.

The Kenner staff began administering the vaccinations Jan. 4 at Clark Fitness Center. They are using the Moderna version, a two-dose regimen separated by 28 days, with injections in the deltoid muscle area of the shoulder, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Kenner is following the same recommendations for shot prioritization as other military medical providers across the nation. The phased approach prioritizes essential frontline personnel such as healthcare workers and emergency services and public safety personnel, followed by critical and essential support personnel, those preparing to deploy, high-risk individuals, and finally, the remainder of healthy beneficiaries.

Many are asking if the vaccine is safe, noted Maj. Taha Haque, chief of Primary Care at KAHC, during the recent PSA recording session.

“The vaccine has gone through the same rigorous safety and evaluation processes any other medication … or medical device must go through in order to be legally marketed in the United States,” he said.

The vaccine passed through three, phased clinical trials, each with a larger number of participants, which took place over the course of about nine months last year, Haque explained. The results of the trials were examined and verified by the FDS, which gave its stamp of approval with an emergency use authorization as an active immunization to prevent infection in individuals 18 and older for the Moderna vaccine, according to the agency’s website.

 “I received the vaccine last week because I feel it’s the right thing to do as the senior leader to inspire confidence in the formation,” Fogg confirmed. “I feel fully confident it’s safe and that it was produced the right way.”

Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine was 94.1 percent effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses and had no evidence of being previously infected, according to information from the CDC. The vaccine appeared to have high effectiveness in clinical trials among people of diverse age, sex, race, and ethnicity categories and among persons with underlying medical conditions.

Some have asked if the Moderna vaccine includes a live virus. Haque said it does not. It contains material that gives cells instructions for how to make a protein unique to the virus, according to the CDC. After cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine.

Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if infected in the future, the CDC explained.

“It will not give you Coronavirus disease itself,” Haque pointedly said. “However, as the body starts to recognize that foreign protein and (begins building) that immune response,” some individuals can develop symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue and muscle aches.

“That is a sign your body is learning to fight against coronavirus,” he added.

Fogg said he has not experienced any side effects from his vaccination. Health experts also have confirmed that symptoms are more likely after the second dose is administered, but those are usually mild and short-term, typically lasting a day or two at the most.

Those who have received the vaccine can elect to take part in a post-vaccination program called V-safe. It is a smartphone-based health checker that invites input through text messaging and web surveys from the CDC to monitor post-vaccination experiences.

Through V-safe, recipients can notify the CDC if they have any side effects from the vaccine. Depending on their answers, someone from the agency may call to check on them and get more information. A reminder about that part of the program can be found on the vaccination record card provided by healthcare providers after a shot is administered.

V-safe also reminds recipients to get their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Other questions and answers are covered by Fogg and Haque in the interview videos that can be viewed at www.facebook.com/USACASCOM. Updates on the vaccine and how it’s being administered also can be found on Kenner Army Health Clinic’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/kenner.ftlee. For more information about the Moderna vaccine from the CDC, go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Moderna.html, or from the FDA at www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines.