On Tuesday, UNC Health distributed 850 vaccines to residents at the Friday Center – the largest vaccination clinic in Orange County. The Friday Center has been hosting vaccination clinics six days a week since distribution began last Monday.
The Friday Center is just one of UNC Health’s 17 vaccination sites across the state – an increase from the 15 vaccination sites that initially opened last week. Just as week ago, the Friday Center was hoping to inoculate 600 patients per day. Now, as 850 patients are vaccinated daily, UNC Health officials have set their sights on distributing 1,700 doses per day.
While the vaccination clinic is predominantly administering the Pfizer vaccine, UNC Health officials said they are also inoculating residents with the Moderna vaccine as more supply becomes available.
The healthcare system receives information on Wednesday or Thursday about what vaccine supply they will have for the week. While Pfizer was the only vaccine distributed on Tuesday, UNC Health officials said they will administer whatever supply they have – whether it be Moderna or Pfizer.
Dr. Keely Godwin is family physician and the president of the Durham-Orange County Medical Society. Godwin said the two vaccines are essentially the same in terms of how they work and their efficacy rates – however there are a few key differences.
“The main difference is the storage and transportation of the vaccine,” Godwin said. “The Moderna doesn’t require quite the super-cold that the Pfizer vaccine requires. So, for some of those more rural areas and more rural health departments, they’re focusing on the Moderna vaccine because it’s a little bit easier to store and they don’t have to have the guaranteed freezer backups.”
Officials said UNC Health has been receiving more Pfizer vaccine as the healthcare system has the capacity to properly store the shots. While some people are concerned about Pfizer vaccines expiring due to improper storage, Godwin said that is unlikely.
“The other thing to keep in mind is that say you’re at a place where their freezer failed – the power went out over the weekend – it doesn’t mean that the vaccine is automatically destroyed or is going to cause a problem,” Godwin said. “Once you thaw the vaccine, you have two to three days to administer it.”
Godwin said there is a time limit on the Pfizer vaccines because they are preservative free – which is why cold temperatures are needed to maintain the stability of the vaccine.
In terms of efficacy, of the 70,000 people who participated in clinical trials for the two vaccines, to date, both vaccines prove to be nearly 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19. Godwin said people can expect to see an increase in antibodies two weeks after their first dose, with peak protection coming about two weeks after the second dose.
“If you got your first dose today, it would be about six to eight weeks from now before you would really be protected,” Godwin said. “So, don’t go get your shot and then run around without your mask on.”
While both vaccines require two doses, the time between doses is different. The Moderna vaccine doses are given four weeks apart while Pfizer vaccine doses are given three weeks apart.
Alan Wolf, a spokesperson for UNC Health, said while vaccinating with both Moderna and Pfizer will speed up the distribution process, it will complicate timing for when people receive their second doses.
“It’s one more complicating factor,” Wolf said. “They have to be that much more careful with scheduling, and ensuring they stagger the timing for second doses so not everyone is coming back on the same day. But our goal is to get shots into arms as quickly as possible, so we want to use whatever vaccines are available to us.”
Who is eligible for each vaccine also differs by age. The Moderna vaccine is authorized for adults aged 18 and older while the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for people aged 16 and older.
Temporary reactions for both vaccines may include a sore arm, headache, and feeling tired and achy for a day or two. More people who were in the Moderna clinical trial experienced these temporary reactions – more commonly after the second dose than the first dose.
At this time, residents do not have the ability to choose which vaccine they wish to be inoculated with.
For more information on who is currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
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