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When can you get a COVID-19 vaccine? Minnesota health experts offer clarity and optimism

Local doctors redefine the public messaging around vaccine safety as the country readies for a surge in supply.
Credit: KARE 11

ST PAUL, Minn. — For a lot of people, the COVID-19 vaccination process can feel frustratingly slow and chaotic. Add in uncertainty and doctors admit the message about vaccines has gotten lost.

"It’s amazing how far we’ve come and how much of Minnesota has started to get vaccine and how much we’re curbing whatever the next phase of this pandemic will be," said M Health Fairview's Chief Medical Informatics Officer Dr. Bryan Jarabek. 

On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health said the federal government recently bought hundreds of millions of doses.

"It sounds like by June we might have enough doses that literally everyone in the United States could be vaccinated," said Dr. Jarabek.

If that's when doses will be produced, MDH's prediction for administering them could be mid-July. 

Dr. Jarabek says Fairview has administered more doses than any health system in the state. Of the 50,000 shots it's given, only 20 people had an allergic reaction and of them, no one was hospitalized. 

"I think if news media and us as health professionals could help people realize this is the way we're all going to get through the pandemic, and what it means to be six months from now when we do have herd immunity because we've delivered all these vaccines, and we start to go back to normal life-- I think telling those stories about what it's going to be would be really important," explained Dr. Jarabek. 

Besides the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are approved for emergency use, HealthPartners' Dr. Zeke McKinney says the AstraZeneca vaccine could be available in a month. McKinney is an investigator who is helping to lead the AstraZeneca trials at HealthPartners.

"For the time being people say, 'Well, which vaccine should I get?'" said Dr. McKinney. "I'd say, get the one you can get today."

The doctors say the vaccines prepare everyone's immune system for COVID-19. The percentage of effectiveness people often hear about is how well they lessen your symptoms or keep you from getting the virus at all. 

"What they do scientifically is they prepare your body for part of that virus so it can fight it off when the real virus comes," said Dr. Jarabek. "So if you’re in your 40s and if you might have had symptoms like mainly being sick with the flu, taking the vaccine might make it so you might not have any symptoms at all." 

Dr. McKinney hopes life returns to normal fully by Halloween and plans to continue educating people on the vaccines and recognizes they can make an enormous difference and that there are a lot of unanswered questions.

"I don't know that I like any one better than the other because they all work pretty good," said Dr. McKinney. "I still think we have a long way to go to understand the difference between pretty good and super great or whatever that is."