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Learning more about the COVID-19 vaccine

Experts are learning more about the likelihood of developing symptoms and side effects from the new vaccines.

DANVILLE, Pa. — Health care workers were among the first to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and many of them in the Geisinger system have been receiving their second dose of the vaccine over the past several days.

Dr. Douglas Kupas got his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend. He's among the majority of health care workers who got some tenderness where the needle went into his arm.

As the medical director of EMS Services for Geisinger near Danville, he says he has seen a small percentage of others who experience other mild symptoms.

"Those symptoms are a good thing. It means your body is generating an antibody response, and generally, they have been things like a slight fever, slight chills, or a slight headache," said Dr. Kupas.

Now with millions of health care workers vaccinated, compared to 44,000 in the initial Pfizer study, experts are learning more about the likelihood of developing symptoms.

In the most dangerous scenarios, Dr. Kupas said about 1 in 100,000 people will have an allergic reaction to the vaccine, but in most cases, a patient won't be hospitalized and can be treated with medications like the Epi-pen.

To quell the fears of those who worry that vaccine manufacturers cut corners creating this product, Dr. Kupas broke down how they rolled out the vaccine in less than one year. He says over the past 15 years, there have been major developments in genetic code outlining, which makes developing these vaccines much easier, and because the pandemic was causing so much devastation in America, manufacturers were running different steps in the process simultaneously.

"While the vaccine was being tested, it was already being produced. Companies would never do that in the past because if the test turned out not to be effective, they would have to go throw out a lot of vaccine. Because the government paid for it to be produced while it was being tested, they ran a lot of things a lot more quickly."

With new strains of the coronavirus making their way to our area, the health care system is studying them closely.

"Thus far, because the vaccine is giving you protections against some of those spikes on the COVID virus, we have no reason to believe the virus won't continue to cover us since the virus has mutated."

Dr. Kupas recommends everyone get the vaccine when available to them but urges caution that even vaccinated people continue to wear masks and social distance until restrictions are lifted.