Finally, fully vaccinated! Now what?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

Summer is right around the corner. Time to get outside and enjoy opportunities to reconnect with families and friends; especially if you are fully vaccinated. But you may have questions! “What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?” “Do I still need to wear my mask?” “Can I hug my grandchildren?” These are a few of the questions I’ve been asked while welcoming and observing community members after receiving their first and second vaccinations at the Skagit County Fairgrounds. 

With each step of the COVID-19 road to recovery, our collective movement forward has relied on accurate, updated information. This can be challenging to keep up with! Reliable sources are vitally important and ensure that we keep informed, and also help us to make the best decisions for ourselves and families. Resources like www.coronavirus.wa.gov can answer the above questions and much more.

Still wondering? Here are a few common questions I’ve gotten at the site:

“What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?”

You are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks (14 days) after you have received your second vaccination if you had to get two doses (Pfizer or Moderna), or two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson).  

“Do I still have to wear my mask?”

If you are fully vaccinated, the answer to that question is yes and no, depending on the circumstance. 

The data shows you can visit with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or physically distancing. To protect others and yourself, it is important to continue to wear your mask in crowded settings like sporting/music events or public indoor settings like grocery stores. If you are traveling, please check with mask requirements for the state you’re traveling to, and continue to wear your mask when using all forms of public transportation. Airlines are still requiring you to wear your mask, even if you are fully vaccinated. The reason to continue wearing a mask is because we do not have enough information yet about whether the vaccine prevents the spread of COVID-19 from one to another. The best answer? Be responsible and respectful; use your best judgement and be safe. 

“Can I hug my grandchildren?”

I know for myself, I have been desperately missing hugs. If you are fully vaccinated, you can now hug other fully vaccinated people! This is a welcome relief and reward after the past year when we endured separation and isolation from family and friends. Please remember though that as we move forward, it is important to remain careful while engaging in group settings. We’re not out of the woods just yet. Enjoy those longed for hugs, and while you’re at it, give yourself one for getting fully vaccinated! 

While making post-fully vaccinated plans, keep up with the most updated accurate information. Be aware that not everyone in public will be vaccinated, and for that reason, it is recommended that people continue to wear their mask in public and when in large gatherings–especially indoors. We are certainly moving forward in a positive direction! But the coming months are critical in our road to recovery, and our day-to-day choices matter.

“Fully Vaccinated!” 
Photograph courtesy of Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

For me, personally, the top of my post-fully vaccinated bucket list was visiting my grown adult children. Last month, I was finally able to reunite with my daughter and her husband! As soon as I received word that they were fully vaccinated, I got on a plane and flew to California. It was wonderful to see the Seattle skyline for the first time in over a year! 

To ease my trepidation about traveling and getting on a plane, I made sure to prepare myself. I made sure to have masks on hand, as well as a face shield and gloves while entering the airport. I felt comfort in knowing that I know how to protect myself after over a year of working the COVID testing and vaccination sites! I kept my distance as best I could, and honestly…I wholeheartedly enjoyed the opportunity to be with people, traveling once again! I am grateful to be fully vaccinated and there was nothing better than finally getting that long-awaited reunion hug with my daughter. 

Enjoy your fully vaccinated life, stay healthy, make plans, get outside, hug your family and friends…Appreciate the moments as we reengage with new awareness and understanding of community!

For more information about post vaccination guidelines, visit: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/life-after-vaccine.


Needles? No Problem! Coping with your COVID-19 Vaccine

Reading Time: 3 minutes

People react to needles in all sorts of ways: some people are fascinated by them, other people have a mild dislike for them, and many people flat out cannot stand them. Whatever camp you fall into, you most likely already know how important vaccinations are.

And when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, its importance cannot be overstated. A COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting COVID-19—protecting you from severe illness and even death—and may also protect the people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best tools that we have against ending the pandemic and gradually returning to some type of “normal.”

Still, this may not make lifting your sleeve any easier. Deciding to make an appointment—and actually following through—may seem like an insurmountable feat for someone with an intense fear of needles. After all, a fear of needles (known as trypanophobia) is said to impact about 25 percent of adults in the U.S., and can cause increased heart rate, fainting, and even full-blown panic attacks.

If you are one of those individuals who struggles with vaccinations, here are some tips to prepare yourself for the COVID-19 vaccine.

1. Talk to your doctor

Getting a shot can be anxiety inducing, even when it is something as common as an annual flu shot. With the COVID-19 vaccine, there is a lot of fearmongering and politicization that may be heightening your anxiety. For this reason, you may want to talk with your primary care doctor about the vaccine to dispel any rumors that you’ve heard.

Your doctor will be able to explain the differences between the available vaccine brands, can discuss possible short-term side effects, and can also address any medical concerns that may need to be addressed prior to vaccination.

If you really struggle with vaccinations, talk to your doctor about which local vaccine provider location will be best suited to your needs.

2. Book the appointment

Worrying about making an appointment will not make the process any easier, and it won’t do anything positive for your mental health. When you’ve talked with your doctor, gotten the information you need, and feel ready to take the step forward…do it! Then celebrate your bravery!

3. Familiarize yourself with the site

Sometimes when you feel anxious about a new experience, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the place or process. If you have questions about a specific vaccine provider location, visit their website and read about what you should expect when you arrive for your appointment.

If you are making an appointment with Skagit County Public Health at the Skagit County Fairgrounds, reading our blog post may help to calm your nerves: https://skagitcounty.blog/2021/01/21/covid-19-vaccine-clinic-step-by-step/.  You can also access our website by visiting www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call our Hotline at (360) 416-1500.

4. Take Your Time & Talk to our Nurses

When you arrive to your appointment, make sure to give yourself some time. Try to arrive a few minutes early so you aren’t rushing through traffic and be sure to eat a bit before you come.

If you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk with the nurse. Letting them know that you are nervous about receiving a vaccine is totally okay! Trust us, it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve heard this!

Your nurse will most likely offer some advice on how to deal with getting your shot and will provide you with some information that you will need post-vaccine (such as what to do for pain management if you have a sore arm). If you have questions, ask! We are here for you.

5. Use Your Coping Skills

If you know from experience that you will be feeling particularly anxious during your vaccine appointment, make sure to have some coping skills at your disposal. Here are some examples:

Deep Breathing

Slow, deep, and calming breaths can help you avoid panic. There are many different breathing techniques that you can call upon. It is important to find the ones that work for you.

Box Breathing is an exercise where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for another four and repeat. It can help to imagine your breath creating an imaginary box in the air.

Another technique is Pursed Lip Breathing. To practice it, you breathe in through your nose and breathe out at least twice as long through your mouth with pursed lips.

Focus Shifting & Distractions

Distracting yourself may not help you get over your fear of needles, but it can help you cope in the moment. Need some ways to shift your focus or distract yourself? Here are some tricks:

  • Talk to someone about something random—the weather, sports, a TV show. Whatever!
  • Count backwards from 50 or try to say the alphabet backwards.
  • Think about fun plans that you have or what you would like to do on the weekend.
  • Look around and find three things you hadn’t noticed before.

Positive Affirmations

As you are waiting to receive your shot, be thinking about some positive affirmations. Remember that you have gotten vaccinations before and have been fine. That you’ve overcome difficult things. That you are not in danger, though your body or brain may be causing you to think so. You are okay, you are brave. You are making a difference in your community!

For more helpful tips and resources: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/821-133-BehavioralHealthTipsGettingTheVaccine.pdf


COVID-19 Vaccines & People with Disabilities

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On Wednesday, March 17th, Washington State expanded vaccine eligibility to Phase 1b-Tier 2. This new Tier includes critical workers in congregate settings and individuals 16 years and older who are pregnant or who have a disability that puts them at higher risk of infection.

People with disabilities continue to experience barriers to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and some disabilities increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This prioritization, by the Washington Department of Health (DOH), is intentional to provide access for a high risk group who experiences more barriers to access.

Under the category of disability, DOH has included:

  • Individuals with Down syndrome
  • Individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability
  • Those who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/low-vision, or deafblind

In order to be considered eligible under Phase 1b-Tier 2, an individual’s disability must put them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g. Down syndrome)—OR—the individual with a disability must have an underlying medical condition which increases their risk for severe outcomes per the CDC’s list of the conditions that put people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This list can be found here: https://bit.ly/3escFtw.

Below is some information that may be helpful to those individuals with a disability who are newly eligible for a vaccine. There is a lot of information circulating about the COVID-19 vaccine and about how difficult it can be to make an appointment, so we hope that this information will prove to be useful for you and your loved ones.

Who should receive the vaccine?

It is recommended that anyone who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine do so! To find out if you are eligible, please visit: www.findyourphasewa.org.

The only exception to this recommendation would be if someone has experienced severe complications (such as anaphylaxis) in the past after receiving a vaccine. In this case, please consult your doctor prior to scheduling a COVID vaccine appointment.

Are caregivers eligible?

Caregivers who meet the definition below are eligible for vaccine in Phase 1a as workers in health care settings:

  • Eligible caregivers (licensed, unlicensed, paid, unpaid, formal, or informal) who support the daily, functional and health needs of another individual who is at high risk for COVID-19 illness due to advanced age, long-term physical condition, co-morbidities, or developmental or intellectual disability. For the caregiver to be eligible, the care recipient:
    • Must be someone who needs caregiving support for their daily, functioning, and health needs.
    • Can be an adult or minor child. For dependent minor children, the caregiver is eligible if that child has an underlying health condition or disability that puts them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. For example: a caregiver of a minor child with Down syndrome.

To determine eligbility, visit findyourphasewa.org and respond “Yes” when asked if you work in a health care setting.

Are there side effects after getting the vaccine?

Yes, minor side effects are possible after receiving the vaccine. Common side effects may include:

  • Pain at the site of the injection
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm in which the vaccine was injected
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills

When side effects occur, they typically last just a few days. A side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus. Talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated.

How do you make an appointment?

Eligible individuals can locate a vaccine provider by visiting: www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations. Most appointments can be scheduled online, however there are other scheduling options available for those who need assistance.

Note: People can schedule a vaccine appointment for someone else, either online or on the phone! To learn more about what information you will need to do so, read our blog post here: https://skagitcounty.blog/2021/01/27/a-guide-to-skagit-county-public-healths-online-vaccine-scheduler/.

Blind and low-vision individuals can call BLIND COVID at (360) 947-3330 to ask questions regarding access to resources related to COVID-19. The purpose of BLIND COVID access line is to provide access to information over the phone that may otherwise be difficult to locate through the web or other means. Folks can use this resource to schedule an appointment, and staff will help to find a vaccine site that has accommodations for those with visual impairments.   

The Skagit County Vaccine Hotline is also an option for those who cannot schedule online. The Hotline is available in English and Spanish and operates Monday-Saturday, from 8am to 5pm. Please call (360) 416-1500 to schedule your appointment (when supply is available).

What to expect at the Skagit County Fairgrounds

The Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic is one of many vaccine providers in Skagit County. You can make an appointment with us by calling the Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500 or by visiting our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine. And if you make an appointment with us, there are some things to note!

First-Dose Clinic

First-dose appointments are a walk-up clinic, meaning people with an appointment are required to park their vehicle and enter the clinic building. There is parking available right at the front entrance to accommodate individuals with mobility needs. A wide entrance can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. There is also a ramp for individuals to get to and from our Observation Room (where folks wait 15 minutes post-vaccination for observation).

Second-Dose Clinic

Second-dose appointments are done through our drive-through system. In this case, folks will remain within their vehicles and will roll their windows down when the vaccine is being administered. If the window cannot be rolled down, or if the nurse is not able to reach an individual’s arm through the window, this person may be required to exit the vehicle to receive the vaccine.

Mask Requirement

Please know that masks are required for the safety of our staff and guests. If you are exempt, please be sure to let our staff know when you arrive to the site.

Site staff and volunteers will do everything they can to assist you. With that said, it is important to note that for some individuals, the Fairgrounds clinic may not be the best option. If someone has had a traumatic experience in the past with vaccinations or medical interventions, or if someone is easily over-stimulated, the Fairgrounds Clinic may be problematic.

If you have concerns, please talk with your doctor about clinic options that may suit your specific needs. You can also call Public Health for more information about our site at (360) 416-1500 or visit our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


COVID-19 Vaccines & Children

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On March 17th, Washington State will move into the next COVID-19 vaccine tier: Phase 1b-Tier 2. That means that even more people will soon be eligible for a vaccine. And—for the first time—some minors will become eligible for the vaccine, as well.

Those eligible beginning later this month will include people 16 and older who are pregnant and people 16 and older with disabilities that put them at high-risk for severe illness. In April, the State estimates that people 16 and older with two or more underlying conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness will also become eligible.

Parents and those 16 and older may have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine—and that is okay! Below are some answers to commonly asked questions about the vaccine that may help parents and minors decide whether the vaccine is right for them. And of course, if you don’t find the answers you are looking for here, talk to your child’s pediatrician.

Are children currently eligible for the vaccine?

At this moment, children are not eligible for the vaccine in Washington State. Those 16 and older who are pregnant and people 16 and older with disabilities that put them at high-risk for severe illness will be eligible when the state moves to the next tier (Phase 1b-Tier 2) on March 17th.

When will I know when my child is eligible?

To determine your child’s eligibility (or your own), visit www.findyourphasewa.org. After completing the online survey, you will be notified when you or your child become eligible for the vaccine. You can also find updates about eligibility on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

Is the vaccine safe for children?

The vaccines that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) thus far are safe for the ages included in their authorizations. At present, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in people 16 and older; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for use in people 18 and older. Currently, there are no vaccines that have been authorized for use in ages younger than 16.

For more information about vaccine safety, visit: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/VaccineInformation/SafetyandEffectiveness#heading62095.

Have the vaccines been tested in children?

To date, only the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use in those 16 year and older. This is because the Pfizer vaccine included those 16 and older in clinical trials, and data was collected on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine on this population.

Vaccine developers are now studying their vaccines in younger adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16. Once these studies are complete, the developers will report the results and apply for authorization through the FDA to vaccinate children as young as 12. Developers will begin studying their vaccines in children between age 5 and 11 after results from adolescent trials are made available.

Are the vaccines effective in children?

The Pfizer vaccine (which has been authorized for those 16 years and older) boasts 95% protection against COVID-19 after an individual has received both doses of their vaccine. This is an extremely high level of protection! Please keep in mind that this is a two-dose vaccine, given 21 days apart. Your child will not be considered fully protected until two weeks after they receive their second dose.

Will the vaccine affect my child’s future fertility?

No. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects future fertility. Experts believe that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to a person trying to become pregnant in the short or long term. The COVID-19 vaccines are being studied carefully by scientists around the globe, and their safety will be studied continuously for many years, just like other vaccines.

My child has already had COVID-19. Should they still get the vaccine?

Yes, people should be vaccinated regardless of whether they already had COVID-19. Experts do not yet know how long people are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19, and information is still being gathered around how long protection lasts. If your child was treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, talk to their doctor before making a vaccine appointment.

Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine if they are currently sick with COVID-19?

No, it is recommended that those who are currently sick with COVID-19 should wait until they have fully recovered before receiving the vaccine. If you have questions, please consult your child’s pediatrician before scheduling a vaccine appointment.

Are there side effects after getting the vaccine?

Minor side effects are possible after receiving the vaccine. Common side effects may include:

  • Pain at the site of the injection
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the vaccine was injected
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills

When side effects occur, they typically last just a few days. A side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort they may experience after getting vaccinated.

Note: If your child has experienced severe complications (such as anaphylaxis) in the past after receiving a vaccine, please consult their pediatrician before scheduling a COVID vaccine appointment.

Where can my child get the vaccine?

When your child becomes eligible for the vaccine, they will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider that is administering the Pfizer vaccine (which is authorized for use in those 16 years and older). To find a provider near you, visit: https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations. You can also call Skagit County’s Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500 for assistance.

Who should come to my child’s vaccine appointment and what should they bring with them?

Check with the vaccine provider for specific instructions regarding minors with vaccine appointments. For some providers, a parent or legal guardian may be required on-site at the time of the appointment in order to provide consent for vaccination of a minor.

If making an appointment at the Skagit County Fairgrounds Vaccine Site: Consent to vaccinate will be required for dependent minors. Dependent minors should either bring a parent/legal guardian with them to their appointment, or be prepared to have their parent/guardian provide verbal consent by phone at the time of their appointment. If a parent/guardian is planning to accompany a minor, please limit to one accompanying adult per patient. For more information about our clinic, visit: www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.

How much will the vaccine cost?

The federal government will pay for the full cost of the vaccine. You should not be charged out of pocket costs or receive a bill from your provider for the COVID-19 vaccine administration fee.

As my child’s caregiver, am I also eligible to be vaccinated?

Most people will become eligible for vaccine based on their age, occupation type, or medical status. To find out if you are eligible, visit: www.findyourphasewa.org. You can also access the state’s full prioritization plan here: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/SummaryInterimVaccineAllocationPriortization.pdf.

If you are a caregiver of a child with disability who is eligible under Phase 1b-Tier 2, you may be eligible under Phase 1a. Caregivers who meet the definition below are eligible for vaccine in Phase 1a as workers in health care settings:

  • Eligible caregivers (licensed, unlicensed, paid, unpaid, formal, or informal) who support the daily, functional and health needs of another individual who is at high risk for COVID-19 illness due to advanced age, long-term physical condition, co-morbidities, or developmental or intellectual disability. For the caregiver to be eligible, the care recipient:
    • Must be someone who needs caregiving support for their daily, functioning, and health needs.
    • Can be an adult or minor child. For dependent minor children, the caregiver is eligible if that child has an underlying health condition or disability that puts them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. For example: a caregiver of a minor child with Down syndrome.

To determine your eligibility, visit findyourphasewa.org and respond “Yes” when asked if you work in a health care setting.

My child is over 16 and pregnant. Should they receive the vaccine?

There is currently no evidence that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In addition, there is no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine. If you or your child has specific concerns, please consult your child’s physician.


My Vaccination Experience

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Post by Rosemary Alpert, contributing author.

Across the country, vaccination distribution is ramping up. Each week, Skagit Public Health has been working diligently to provide updated, reliable information and notice on vaccine availability. Together, we have experienced an unbelievable year of unknowns, questions and challenges. Each of us, hopefully, doing the best we can and getting the most updated accurate information. 

Since June, I’ve had a firsthand viewpoint on the pandemic, registering thousands of community members to get tested for COVID-19, and now as a part of the vaccination team. Last week, I had the privilege to receive my second Moderna vaccination. Prior to receiving my first vaccination, I had heard all kinds of rumors, including what I read scrolling through social media platforms. I understand how challenging it can be to keep up with information pertaining to the vaccines. And most importantly, making sure to get information from reliable sources. 

My vaccination experience

Engaging with the community has reminded me how unique we all are. Our responses and reactions to COVID-19 and the vaccination are also individual. I would like to share my experience. Because of this work at the testing site, in early January, I was able to receive my first vaccination. My reactions to the first shot were a sore arm and tired the day after receiving the vaccine. I rested and was grateful.  

Prior to receiving my second shot, I heard the possibility of a stronger reaction. Since the data is still being gathered, I had no idea how my body would respond. Some people that I talked with post second shot had little reactions to full blown flu-like symptoms. Within 24 hours of receiving the second vaccination, I experienced a whopper headache, chills, body aches, fever and extreme exhaustion. As uncomfortable as I felt, I knew my body was responding to the vaccine. I personally waited 24 hours before I took a Tylenol for the headache and fever. I rested, kept hydrated and the fever passed.

Within a few days, I felt reinvigorated and sincerely appreciated the opportunity to receive the vaccine.  

Reflections post-vaccination

While resting, I thought about all the lives touched by this virus. Tears fell for the 500,000 people who have died, along with thoughts for their family and friends. Also, grateful for the incredible medical teams of nurses and doctors across the country caring for the patients and administering vaccinations. This reinforced how important it is to be informed with accurate information.  

Upon returning to work, I spoke with my most reliable sources and true “Rock Stars,” the lead nurses at the testing/vaccination site. I shared my body’s response and they said, “That’s great! You have a strong immune system!” I felt much better hearing their words.

Over these many months, the nurses, in addition to the Skagit County Public Health website, have kept me informed. I asked the nurses about frequently asked questions they hear and any suggestions they have pertaining to the vaccinations. Here are their responses. 

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine? 
NO. The vaccine contains a “blueprint” for a specific type of protein so your immune system can recognize that protein if you become exposed to the virus. The vaccine does not contain the actual virus.

Can I take a pain reliever for any symptoms after receiving the vaccine? 
Yes, you can. Research says that people can take an anti-inflammatory and it doesn’t affect the efficacy of the vaccine. 

Which arm should I get the vaccine?
It doesn’t matter. 

The nurses also provided the following suggestions: 

  • Please eat before you come to get your vaccination. 
  • Don’t be afraid of reactions; it’s your body responding. 
  • Be aware of physical and emotional responses. Some people are overwhelmed with relief, gratitude and hope. This can be a tender time. 
  • Please keep wearing your masks and social distancing, even after receiving your second vaccination.  
  • Get your information from reliable sources, not social media. The CDC is always a great place to start, and the WA Department of Health has great information pertinent to our state specifically.  
  • Reach out to assist community members who may not have access to computers. 

Common Side Effects

Each of us responds differently to vaccinations, and this is normal. The side effects that I experienced post-vaccine—though uncomfortable—all fell within the normal range.

In large clinical trials, most side effects have been minor. When side effects occur, they typically last just a few days. A side effect or reaction isn’t necessarily all bad, by the way; it may indicate that the body is building protection against the virus.

Common side effects may include:

  • Pain at the site of the injection
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the vaccine was injected
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever or chills

Severe Side Effects

Rarely, a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis may occur, most often in people known to have had severe vaccine reactions in the past. Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • Rash
  • Low blood pressure.

Severe side effects usually occur soon after vaccination and can be treated with epinephrine (like an EpiPen). That’s why people are observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine with epinephrine at the ready. If you experience any severe reactions post vaccination, please call your doctor or go to emergency department immediately.

V-Safe After Vaccination Health Checker

People can download the V-safe smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Through V-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html.

As a community, we are moving forward. Please keep informed and share reliable sources with your family, friends and neighbors. March is here, spring is approaching, and hope is refreshingly leading the way forward. Stay Healthy! 

For more information about the Fairgrounds Vaccine Clinic, call the Skagit County Public Health COVID Vaccine Hotline at 360-416-1500 or visit www.skagitcounty.net/covidvaccine.

Re-emerging Lupines, ©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021 

Looking Toward the Finish Line: Precautions Post Vaccine

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We are at the point in this COVID-19 marathon where the muscles in our legs are burning and our feet are begging for a rest. We have been dealing with this “new normal” for so long, and sometimes it has felt like there will never be an end to it all.

With vaccines now becoming more widely available (though still quite limited, due to supply), many people may feel that the finish line is just within their grasp. And what a wonderful feeling this is!

As more and more people receive the vaccine and as Washington State moves through the Governor’s new Roadmap to Recovery re-opening plan, it is important to remember that the race isn’t over. While we are absolutely looking toward the finish line, it isn’t the time to stop just yet.

There are still precautions to take, even once someone receives the vaccine. We are all tired of these safety measures, but they will continue to be necessary (at least for now). So why do we need to keep taking precautions? Here are some things to consider:

The vaccine is highly effective–but not foolproof.

At present, both vaccines available in the U.S. (Moderna and Pfizer) require two doses. These vaccines have proven to be extremely effective; the first dose gives 50 percent protection against COVID-19, while the second dose raises the effectiveness to about 95 percent. Of course, that means that there is a 5% chance that someone may still contract COVID-19 after receiving both doses.

And while the hope is that most—if not all—people receive the vaccine over the next several months, we know that there are some limitations. Both Moderna and Pfizer have not yet been approved for children (though Pfizer has been approved for people 16 and older). It may be some time until either a new brand of vaccine is approved that is recommended for children, or until Moderna and Pfizer finish clinical trials for minors and are granted approval for this population. So, until this time, children are still at risk of contracting the virus.

We do not yet know how long immunity lasts.

At this stage, experts do not yet know how long people are immune to COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. Long-term effectiveness will depend on two factors: the duration of one’s immune response and changes in the virus over time. There is a chance that people will need to receive the COVID vaccine yearly, just like the flu, in order to account for any changes. Experts just do not know yet because the vaccine is so new.

That said, some research has indicated that the current vaccines are effective for at least 6 to 12 months. We will become informed in the coming months as more people receive the vaccine and as scientists track long-term effectiveness.

Experts do not yet know whether people can still spread COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.

The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are designed to keep people from getting sick. Clinical trials did not test whether those vaccinated could still spread SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

This means that someone who has received the vaccine is approximately 95 percent protected against getting sick but could still contract the virus and infect a friend or loved one who has not been fully vaccinated.

Everyone should still wear masks and social distance—even after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

For all the above reasons, it remains crucial that people continue to take pre-cautions—even after receiving the vaccine. Continue to wear your mask when in public, continue to keep gatherings small and keep your distance, and stay home when you are sick. Yes, these precautions aren’t fun. And yes, we are tired and we want so desperately to stop.

The finish line is in sight and we are getting closer. In the meantime, continue to take precautions and make sure to get vaccinated when you are eligible. If you don’t know your phase of eligibility for the vaccine, visit: www.findyourphasewa.org. You can also call Skagit County Public Health’s Vaccine Hotline at (360) 416-1500, Mondays-Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

We will continue to update our webpage when new vaccine developments are available. Go to www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine for updates.

Keep Going! You’ve Got This!


A Guide To Skagit County Public Health’s Online Vaccine Scheduler

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As many have heard, Skagit County Public Health recently launched an online COVID-19 vaccine scheduling tool. This new online tool will greatly increase our ability to register individuals as vaccine supply becomes available and as more clinic dates are added. We are anticipating that the online portal will streamline the registration process for people over the coming weeks.

We have heard from some individuals calling into our Vaccine Hotline that the online tool (called “PrepMod”) is a bit intimidating for those who are less familiar with online scheduling tools. It is our goal to decrease barriers to scheduling for a vaccine, and we want to do everything in our power to continue to make vaccines widely available to our community.

As more vaccines become available, Skagit County Public Health will be able to provide more clinic dates through the PrepMod online scheduler. We will communicate on our website at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine and on our Facebook page when new clinic dates have been added.

So, here goes—a guide to Skagit County Public Health’s online registration process:

1. Get acquainted with the system…before you register!

While people can absolutely call into our Vaccine Hotline to get assistance with registering for an appointment, we want to encourage those who are able to do so, to register themselves online through PrepMod.

There are two reasons for this: (1) Our hotline has been experiencing extremely high call volumes. Though we have extended our hours and have increased staffing, there is still a chance that someone may have difficulties getting a hold of staff; and (2) Registering online will take about 10-15 minutes (depending on how tech savvy you are). By the time someone reaches our call center, all vaccine appointments may already be taken.

For these reasons, we encourage people who may be concerned about their ability to use the online scheduler to find a “Scheduling Buddy.” The online tool allows for people to register for someone else by proxy—we just ask that people be sure to enter all information correctly when doing so!

And if you need clarification on any of the directions below, please reach out to our Vaccine Hotline before you plan to register so that staff can walk you through the system. The Hotline is now available Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (360) 416-1500.

2. Check your eligibility

Before attempting to schedule an appointment at the Skagit County Fairgrounds Clinic, be sure to check your vaccine eligibility. Visit www.findyourphasewa.org to do so. You will need to enter personal information such as location, age, occupation type, living situation, and some medical history. Your eligibility is based on the information that you provide.

3. Visit PrepMod for scheduling online

If you are currently eligible for a vaccine, go to https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/ to begin scheduling your appointment.

Click on “Find a Vaccination Clinic,” and check “COVID-19 Vaccination” under service type on the following page. You can search for a clinic by entering your address, by searching for a specific clinic, or by searching by date.

The Skagit County Public Health Clinic is located at the Skagit County Fairgrounds and will appear as “Skagit County Public Health- Fairgrounds.”

4. Choose a location and date

Vaccine clinic dates are based on our current vaccine supply. If you search under “Skagit County Public Health- Fairgrounds” and there isn’t a blue button that says “Sign up for a COVID-19 Vaccination,” this means that all clinic spaces are currently filled. You can also check under “Available Appointments” to see how many appointments remain for that specific clinic date (see below for example).

You will find locations listed by date (the image below shows 01/29/2021). Find the date that works for you, check that there is—in fact—availability, and proceed.

Please note: It is possible that during the time it takes someone to enter information into the system that available spaces are taken by other users. We know that this can be extremely frustrating, but unfortunately it is just how online scheduling works. Vaccine clinics have been filled very quickly due to high demand in recent weeks. Please do not be discouraged if you do not book an appointment the first time you try. There will be many more opportunities to schedule an appointment over the coming weeks.

5. Personal Information

Please enter information for the person seeking an appointment, including phone number, mailing address, and email address. It is crucial that all of this information is entered correctly. PrepMod registration MUST be fully completed for each person being registered.  DO NOT enter two names into one registration or you risk not receiving vaccine.

6. Health Insurance Information

This page may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry! The scheduling tool will ask you some basic information about whether you are insured or not but we do not collect any detailed insurance information as we do not charge any administration fee at our vaccination site.

7. Medical History

If you are scheduling an appointment for someone else, it will be advantageous to register while on the phone with them. You will be asked a short series of medical questions, so please be prepared to answer these. Questions include things like chronic health conditions and previous reactions to vaccinations. It is very important that these questions are answered honestly in order to avoid any issues when the individual arrives at the Fairgrounds for their appointment.

8. Provide Consent

On this page, people will be asked to provide a signature allowing consent for vaccination. By signing this form, you are giving permission for a vaccination to be administered and a record of the vaccine to be entered into a database to monitor control of COVID-19. Further, you are agreeing that the information provided is correct and that you understand the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine.

Here, a proxy can sign for someone else, and can indicate their relationship to the patient. You will be asked to provide a signature by moving your cursor like a pen (see below for an example). As you can tell, the signature doesn’t need to be perfect!

9. Review, choose a time & submit

You will have an opportunity to review your information. If something is not correct, you can edit by clicking the “BACK” button. Please note: as you progress through the pages, your information will be saved! You will not lose information entered if you use the “BACK” button on the bottom of the page.

Finally, you will be asked to pick an appointment time; you would have already chosen the date when you began entering your information.

Please note: This is where frustration may happen. It is possible that you can get all the way through to this page before finding that no appointments are available. As mentioned above, please do not be discouraged! There will be other opportunities to schedule an appointment. You can also visit www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations to see if there is availability with another vaccine provider.

You will know that you have successfully made an appointment when you receive an email confirmation from Skagit County Public Health. We are unable to maintain waitlists for clinics, even if PrepMod gives you this option.  If you make an appointment with Skagit County Public Health, you are committing to keeping that appointment.  DO NOT make appointments with multiple clinics.  If you have a confirmed appointment with our clinic you should remove yourself from waitlists with other clinics.     

Skagit County Public Health recognizes that this online scheduling tool may not meet the needs of everybody, and we understand that people are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to be vaccinated. It will take several weeks to get through our current vaccine phase (Phase 1b-Tier 1), and we ask that people remain patient as we wait for more vaccine supply to become available from the State. There will come a moment in the future when vaccines are much more widely available. It will take a bit of time, and we fully expect that adjustments will need to be made along the way.

For more information about Skagit County’s vaccine roll-out, please visit www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine.


Seniors Hopeful for a Vaccination

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Post contributed by Jackie Cress, Skagit County staff.

There is a valid question for many people amid this pandemic: When will life return to normal? Perhaps no one in modern times can truly answer this question. We’d have to step into a time machine and go back to one of the number of historic pandemics to really know.

The first recorded pandemic happened in 430 B.C. and here we are today facing this uncharted territory. Most of us could never imagine what has taken place during this Covid-19 time frame. For some, this would merely be a short inconvenience. We hoped that it would pass with warmer weather or as immunities built up. For others, the fear has been almost paralyzing. What we have in common though, is the knowledge that there is hope on the horizon.

Desmond Tutu said “Hope is being able to see that there is a light despite all of the darkness.” As the vaccine supply increases in the weeks and months to come, it is an important step for our senior community. We know that the risk for severe illness with Covid-19 increases with age and older adults are in the highest risk group. Fundamental ordinances have taken place to keep our communities safe such as instructions to stay-at-home, social distance and wear face coverings when in public. Now that the vaccine is becoming more readily available, we can start to imagine life returning to normal. 

There is much credit to our senior community during this time! Instead of accepting a life that can be often isolating, lonely and boring, seniors have adapted, possibly more than any other group and it is inspiring. Seniors have learned to use technology in a time frame that could have left them behind. Seniors have refused to let the institutions that strive to protect them define them into seclusion! They’ve learned to use smart phones, computers and new programs that brought us all together virtually. We’ve played Bingo together, sang along to online concerts and exchanged our every day celebrations and tribulations through technology. It’s nothing short of remarkable.

Our youth seem to learn all technological things in an instant. They’ve grown up not knowing a world without the internet. For them, familiarizing themselves with new electronic components comes naturally. It’s not so easy for us who have seen the birth of the internet which happened around the late 1980’s. Despite these challenges, seniors have adapted in many innovative ways to meet their needs. This alone is a cause to celebrate! These new found life skills will be advantageous even as we start to return to the life we knew pre-pandemic. 

Getting the Covid-19 vaccine is very literally our best shot at rebounding from what has kept us all apart. The vaccine has been rigorously tested world-wide. Side effects are mild and severe side effects are rare. We are all dreaming of when we can share a meal in person, do a crossword puzzle together and hug our friends. This vaccine is Desmond Tutu’s light in this dark time. Vaccine facts can be found on line at CDC.gov website and on Skagit County’s webpage at www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine

Until we meet again, Be safe. Continue to stay at home when possible. Wash your hands frequently. Wear a face covering when in public and most importantly, schedule your Covid-19 vaccination as soon as you are able. 


Preparing for the COVID-19 Vaccine

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We have been hearing some really positive things in the media recently about the development of COVID-19 vaccines. This news has been very exciting for the many people who are anxiously waiting for a vaccine to become available. With case numbers on the rise, it is no wonder that people are encouraged by the idea of a vaccine being approved before the New Year.

Understandably, there are those who are concerned about a new vaccine. For this reason, it is important to discuss the State’s plans for vaccine distribution, as well as what we should expect over the next several months. After all, it is important that Skagitonians have all the necessary information so that each individual can make an informed decision about the health and safety of themselves, and their loved ones.

Why is a vaccine important?

Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. A COVID-19 vaccine will help to protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience sickness.

How are vaccines vetted for safety and effectiveness?

The speed in which these vaccines have been developed and the newness of the technology can seem scary to some. It is important to understand that safety has in no way been compromised, even with a quicker development timeline. Rather than eliminating steps from traditional development timelines, steps are being conducted simultaneously.

Clinical trials are currently underway to evaluate investigational COVID-19 vaccines. These clinical trials include thousands of study participants to generate scientific data and other information for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This data is then analyzed to determine safety and effectiveness.

These clinical trials are being conducted according to the FDA’s rigorous standards. If it is determined that a vaccine meets the FDA’s safety and effectiveness standards, it can make these vaccines available for use by approval or Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

An EUA allows the FDA to make a product available during a declared state of emergency before it has a full license. So far, two vaccine manufacturers have applied for emergency use authorization, however the FDA has not yet approved a COVID-19 vaccine. If EUAs are approved, these vaccines will then be vetted by the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, as part of the Western States Pact.

Even once a vaccine is approved for use, there are vaccine safety monitoring systems in place to track any possible side effects. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to assess whether it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in vaccine recommendations.

When is a vaccine going to be available?

As of right now, we don’t have an exact date. The timeline is based on when an FDA-approved, safe and effective vaccine is available.However, WA DOH is hopeful that a vaccine will be available to begin administering by mid-December 2020.

There is a lot of planning taking place at the federal, state, and local level around vaccine distribution. In October, Washington State submitted its interim vaccine distribution plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for approval. In Skagit County, the Public Health Department and its community partners are currently discussing plans for distribution—including logistics, as well as messaging.

Who will receive the vaccine when it first arrives?

Manufacturing, distribution, and administration will all take time. The availability of the vaccine, as well as local capacity to vaccinate people, will directly impact the timeline for distribution.

Washington State’s vaccination plan is tiered to focus on specific groups early on. Included in the first phase are those at highest risk. This is to ensure that these individuals will receive the vaccination as soon as possible.

Based on recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine, these high-risk individuals include: health care workers at high risk for COVID-19; first responders at high risk for COVID-19; and people with underlying health conditions that put them at a significantly higher risk for COVID-19.

The second phase would expand to include more people, including school and child care staff, as well as people of any age who have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness.

Most healthy adults shouldn’t expect to be vaccinated until phase three or four. We expect more information for groups such as children and pregnant women to be available in the coming months.

Where can I go for more information?

There is so much information right now about the COVID-19 vaccine, but there is also a lot of speculation and misinformation. It is so crucial that we seek out credible information! Please turn to trusted sources for health information, including your healthcare provider and public health experts.

For general questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, email WA DOH at covid.vaccine@doh.wa.gov. And as always, you can contact Skagit County Public Health with any of your COVID-19 questions (360-416-1500).

Other resources:

https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/Vaccine#FAQ

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/8-things.html

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines


Have You Heard About WA Notify?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Information provided by WA DOH.

On Monday, Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced the launch of WA Notify, a simple, anonymous exposure notification tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

What is WA Notify?

Washington Exposure Notifications (also known as WA Notify) is a new tool that works through smartphones, without sharing any personal information, to alert users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. It is completely private, and doesn’t know or track who you are or where you go.

How does it work?

When you enable WA Notify, your phone exchanges random, anonymous codes with the phones of people you are near who have also enabled WA Notify. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to exchange these random codes without revealing any information about you. If another WA Notify user you’ve been near in the last two weeks later tests positive for COVID-19 and adds their verification code to the app, you’ll get an anonymous notification that you’ve had a possible exposure. This lets you get the care you need quickly and helps prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to the people around you.

How will it help?

Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit. Models based on three counties in Washington state show that even a small number of people there using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths. Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify is another tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How do I sign up for notifications?

WA Notify is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out at any time.

Is it safe to use?

WA Notify uses privacy-preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data. WA Notify is based on Google Apple Exposure Notification technology, which was designed to safeguard user privacy. The system never collects or shares any location data or personal information with Google, Apple, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), or other users. Participation is entirely voluntary. Users can opt in or out at any time.

Once I am signed up, what do I do next?

Additional action is only needed if:
1. You test positive for COVID-19, or
2. You receive a notification that you may have been exposed.

If you test positive, and public health reaches out to you, they will ask if you are using WA Notify. If you are, they will generate a verification code and help you enter it into WA Notify. The code is not tied to your personal information. Public health has no way to know who will be notified by the app about exposure when you enter your code. The notification will not include any information about you. The more people who share their codes, the better we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If WA Notify detects you may have been exposed, a notification on your phone will direct you to a website with information about what you should do next. This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions. It’s important to read and follow the directions on the website carefully. The notification will not include information about who may have exposed you or where. It’s completely anonymous.

Why did Washington choose this solution?

Washington formed a state oversight group, including security and civil liberties experts and members of several communities, to review the Apple/Google solution. The group recommended adoption based on the platform’s proven reliability, robust data protection and use by other states.

Visit WANotify.org to learn more.

View a video that describes how WA Notify works: