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Healthwise Maui

Q: I’ve read that there can be side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine. What are they?

Michael Shea, MD, Intensivist & Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: The Food and Drug Administration has released the COVID-19 vaccines under an emergency use authorization, and the vaccines are being distributed across the country. Studies found that these vaccines are 94 to 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 after two doses.

Some people have reported minor, short-lived side effects from the vaccine. The most common reported side effect has been a reaction around the injection site, including pain, redness, warmth or mild swelling.

Other common side effects include short-term fatigue, headache and muscle pain. These symptoms are usually mild. A smaller number of people reported temporary chills or a low fever. Side effects tended to be worse after the second dose of the vaccine.

Remember that the vaccine works by stimulating your immune system to recognize and fight off the COVID-19 virus. Side effects are caused by your immune system kicking into gear. Unlike the symptoms caused by an actual COVID infection, they are mild and temporary. So, although the side effects might be unpleasant, they are a sign that the vaccine is working.

Because of the possible side effects, it’s a good idea to schedule your vaccinations for a time when you can rest or stay home to recover. Side effects can be treated with an over-the-counter medication like Tylenol or ibuprofen. Contact your health care provider if side effects become more serious.

While it is extremely rare, some people can have a severe allergic reaction to vaccines. If you had severe allergic reactions to any other vaccine or medication, discuss the vaccine and your options with your doctor first. If you received the vaccine and believe you may be having a severe allergic reaction, call 911 and seek emergency medical care immediately.

Q: How can we get back to normal in the workplace while protecting employees from COVID-19?

Kelly Catiel, RN, Infection Control Manager, Maui Health: While some people can work from home during the pandemic, other jobs require them to work on-site. Employers need to take precautions to protect employees as much as possible. While those precautions might differ depending on the nature of the workplace, there are basic steps every employer can take to stay COVID-safe.

First and foremost, the CDC recommends that businesses actively encourage sick employees to avoid coming to work. If an employee has symptoms, they should notify a supervisor, stay home and consult with a health care provider. If someone in their household tests positive for COVID-19, they should also quarantine at home.

Employers should also consider conducting daily health screenings, including symptom and temperature checks, either virtually or in person, at the facility’s entrance. These checks should be done with appropriate PPE and social distancing and should be kept as private as possible.

Conduct a hazard assessment of your workplace to identify points of contact where COVID-19 could be transmitted. Provide appropriate PPE and increase cleaning and disinfection with EPA-approved products as well as the spacing between people to reduce the risk in these areas.

If the hazard assessment has determined that employees do not need special PPE, such as a respirator or medical face mask, require workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings. Provide training and education about COVID safety to employees and have a plan to inform employees of any possible exposures that may occur at work.

If an employee gets sick or develops symptoms while at work, separate them and send them home.

Finally, stay up to date on federal, state and county requirements, and make sure you’re following the latest guidelines for COVID safety.

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.

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