Covid-19 happened upon us and completely upended our way of life.
I can’t even say that it “suddenly” or “unexpectedly” appeared as we had plenty of notice to prepare. Hindsight is always 20/20; there is no use crying over spilled milk or pondering on what we could have done or should have done differently.
The fact of the matter is; Covid-19 is here and though we have recently added several vaccines to our arsenal of weapons to combat it; it won’t soon be gone. Over the years, there have been many vaccines developed to fight against diseases such as Flu and Diptheria. There is an article on Protheses Mammaires which lists the four most important vaccines in history and there is every chance that the Covid-19 vaccine will soon make that list. But that doesn’t mean it’s then going to disappear.
Covid-19, more formally known as the Coronavirus 2019, is caused by Sars-Cov-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Virus). This virus belongs to a family of viruses, the Coronaviruses, and is associated with illnesses such as the common cold, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS), and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome(MERS).
In March 2020 the WHO (World Health Organization) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. And so, here we are; still dealing with the aftermath.
Symptoms commonly seen with Covid-19 include but are not limited to:
- Muscle aches
- Chest pain
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Loss of smell and taste can also be seen early on. Signs and symptoms typically appear from two to 14 days after exposure. The above list is but a sampling of the signs and symptoms that may or may not be seen with this virus.
How significantly one is affected varies from person to person. Some may be completely asymptomatic, while others may develop significant shortness of breath which may, in turn, develop into pneumonia requiring hospitalization and intubation.
High-risk Covid-19 medical conditions
Those considered to be in a high-risk group are at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Medical conditions that qualify as high risk include but are not limited to:
- Heart disease
- Any illness that compromises the immune system
Covid-19 is a respiratory borne illness; i.e., it is spread through respiratory droplets that are released into the air when someone laughs, coughs, sneezes, breathes, or sings.
If you are in close contact with someone who has covid-19 and any of the aforementioned occurs, you are at considerable risk of contracting the virus.
Virus particles can also land on inanimate objects and be spread that way, specifically if you touch an infected surface and subsequently touch your mouth, nose, eyes, etc.
Preventing the spread of the virus
Prevention seems so simple yet so difficult. Washing your hands with soap and water goes a long way toward preventing the spread of the virus. Wearing a mask not only protects you from getting the virus, but it also protects you from spreading the virus.
Other ways to prevent spread include:
- Social distancing; keeping about 6 feet between yourself and others
- Avoid crowded places/poorly ventilated spaces
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Either use a tissue or the inside of your elbow
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. If ever there were a time to be OCD, this is it. Make sure you clean light switches, doorknobs, table and countertops, phones, faucets, etc.
- Be mindful of your own health. If you aren’t feeling well, DO NOT go to work or school.
Vaccination for Covid-19
Let’s talk about vaccines. One of the more popular questions I get these days is about the Pfizer and Moderna covid-19 vaccines.
Whether it be patients calling the office and leaving messages, via email or direct messaging; women specifically are asking: are they safe during pregnancy? Will they affect my fertility? Can I breastfeed and get these vaccines? Should I get one of these vaccines?
I always say, “actions speak louder than words.” I initiate my response to the aforementioned queries by first informing the questioner that I had received the vaccination.
I received my first dose of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine on December 22, 2020, and the second dose on January 13, 2021; 3 weeks after the first dose. Other than slight arm tenderness, I did not experience any significant side effects. Even after the second vaccination; nothing.
I got the vaccination without reservation or hesitation. Why? Because I believe in science. I want to be safe not only for myself, and my family, but also for my colleagues and the women I care for on a daily basis.
I haven’t seen my parents, siblings, and dear friends for more than a year. Getting the vaccine brings me one step closer to seeing them.
Another important reason I got the vaccine is to make a statement to my community, the African-American community, which has disproportionately been on the short end when it comes to receiving comparable health care in comparison to other communities.
For good reason, the African-American community has had a lack of trust in the medical establishment. Covid-19 has significantly affected Black/Brown communities much more than others. I want these people, my people, to know that it’s ok to get the vaccine and that it is a means to an end, not some experiment meant to harm us.
While there are other vaccines likely to get FDA approval in the coming months, the two that are currently on the market are Moderna, and the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine (this was the one I got).
The Pfizer vaccine can be given to individuals age 16 and older and is a two-dose regimen given 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine can be given to individuals age 18 and older and similarly, is a two-dose regimen given 28 days apart.
The technology utilized to develop these vaccines is cutting edge. They utilize an mRNA vector encapsulated in lipid (fat) which is then delivered into the host cell.
Of note, these vaccines DO NOT alter DNA or cause any genetic changes. These vaccines use the body’s cells to generate covid-spike proteins, which in turn stimulate an immune response to develop antibodies against Covid-19. Of significance, THESE ARE NOT LIVE VIRUSES!
Does the vaccine affect pregnant women, lactating mothers, and fertility?
ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) does NOT recommend withholding the vaccines from women solely because of pregnancy, specifically if they meet criteria for vaccination based on the ACIP (Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices) priority groups.
You can get the vaccine during pregnancy. If you happen to work or live in an environment with an increased risk of exposure. Serious consideration should be given and a conversation should be had with your healthcare provider.
Remember, whatever you decide, is the right decision for you. If you do decide to get vaccinated, the recommendation is to wait until you have completed the first trimester of your pregnancy.
The same applies to lactating women. They should be offered the vaccine just as non-lactating women if/when they meet the criteria for receipt of the vaccine based on the ACIP guidelines.
Because the virus is composed of nanoparticles that are injected into the muscle and tend to stay in the muscle, they are unlikely to enter the breast milk. Hence, I say again, it is safe to get vaccinated if you are breastfeeding.
Last but not least, fertility. The vaccine DOES NOT affect fertility. Again, YOU decide if getting the vaccine is right for you. Your obstetrician/gynecologist, midwife, or nurse practitioner will be able to address any questions you may have about the vaccine and whether or not it is right for you.