VACCINATIONS AT FOX LAKE. March 22, 2021 By S. Harlan King
Per WDOC Secretary Kevin Carr, all vaccinations are voluntary, as most of you already know. The second of two shots for the approximately three hundred and seventy, 65 and older recipients was administered the week of March 12, 2021. Those in the first round received the Pfizer (mRNA) vaccine. A two shot vaccine.
FLCI Health Services manager, Candace Whitman, said on Mar. 17, 2021, that vaccinations for those in the second group, those with underlying conditions, will begin as soon as the next shipment of vaccines arrive from the central pharmacy which could be as early as the week of Mar. 22, 2021. (If you haven’t signed up yet you can do so by sending a blue slip to HSU.)
She stated that she did not know which vaccine they would be receiving, but that WDOC Pharmacy Director, Daryl Daane, was trying to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which only requires one shot. Either way she says, “It will likely be either Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson.” The remaining population at Fox Lake will be eligible as soon as there are enough vaccines available from the central pharmacy. She did not know when that would be.
THE BATTLE OVER VACCINATING PRISONERS.
All Incarcerated people are to be offered a vaccination in phase 1B of the vaccination rollout. The phase currently underway in the state of Wisconsin. This has not been without controversy. While the committee overseeing the rollout recommended that incarcerated persons be included in phase 1B, Republican leaders in the state Assembly introduced a bill in January that would have barred the state department of health services from providing vaccinations to prisoners before they would be eligible if they were not in a communal living situation. After objections from their colleagues, state health officials and the WDOC that bill was withdrawn. “If we are saying we’re going to punish these people yet again… this constitutes a kind of double punishment… and I’m very uncomfortable with that.” Said committee co-chairman, Dr. Jonathan Temte of UW-Madison.
“Intentionally excluding this group and not meeting the community health standards would put us at legal jeopardy,” said Daryl Daane, pharmacy director for the WDOC. He pointed out that the eighth amendment requires the DOC to meet community standards. John Beard, spokesman for the WDOC, also argued that the WDOC has a constitutionally mandated requirement to, “respond to the substantial risks of serious harm to those individuals.”
According to data gathered from Departments of Correction nationwide, prisoners have 4 times the infection rate and 45% higher mortality rate from COVID-19 than those who are not incarcerated. Wisconsin has some of the largest state prison outbreaks in the U.S. As of February 12, 2021, 10,805 of the 19,000 prisoners in the WDOC have been infected. Given the inaccuracy and negligence in testing that number is likely higher.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE VACCINES
Polls show that about ⅓ of Americans don’t want to take the vaccine. An informal poll of prisoners at FLCI suggests that number applies to prisoners as well. Many are concerned the vaccines were developed too hastily. Some want to know more about how the vaccines are made and how they work, what is in them and what possible side effects there are. Some just don’t trust the government; understandably. I’m here to provide what info I can; what follows is a summary of what they found.
HOW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM FIGHTS A VIRUS
To understand how vaccines work, it helps to first look at how our bodies fight illness. When germs, such as coronavirus, invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection. Our bodies fight that infection with white blood cells also called immune cells. Different types of white blood cells fight infections in different ways:
White blood cells swallow up and digest germs and dead or dying cells. They leave behind parts of the invading germs called “antigens”. The body identifies antigens as dangerous and stimulates antibodies to attack them.
“B-lymphocytes ” are defensive white blood cells. They produce antibodies that attack pieces of the virus left behind.
“T-lymphocytes” are also defensive white blood cells. They attack cells in the body which have already been infected.
The first time a person is infected with a virus, it can take several days or weeks for their body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to get over the infection. After the infection, the person’s immune system remembers what it learned about how to protect the body against that disease. It keeps a few T-lymphocytes, called “memory cells” that go into action quickly if it encounters the same virus again. When those antigens are detected again, B-lymphocytes produce the antibodies to attack them before they can multiply enough to make you sick.
HOW COVID-19 VACCINES WORK
With all types of vaccines, the body is prompted to make a supply of “memory cells” (T-lymphocytes) as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus, by introducing antigens, or parts of the virus, which cannot cause illness. In short, vaccines help the body develop antibodies without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines accomplish this in different ways.
It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to produce the lymphocytes. Which is why, says the CDC, people aren’t considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving the vaccination.
If you are exposed to the virus in the two weeks following vaccination, you may still contract COVID-19 so you should continue to take precautions for avoiding infection after you have received your last shot.
TYPES OF VACCINES
There are three main types of COVID-19 vaccine – NONE OF THESE VACCINES CAN GIVE YOU COVID-19.
They all work by introducing a harmless “Spike protein” from the surface of the coronavirus. Those are the spikes we see in pictures of coronavirus without the part of the virus which actually invades the cells. Your body recognizes it as an invader, or an antigen, which prompts your immune system to make T and B lymphocytes which can identify the virus with that protein and fight it.
♦ mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer and Moderna are the newest technology. These vaccines introduce the spike protein by wrapping the RNA instructions for making the protein in a lipid droplet, (Lipids are just fat cells), to stop it from being degraded in the body before it can be introduced into a cell. Once the RNA is introduced into a cell, the cell makes a copy of the protein and then destroys the RNA. Your immune system then makes T and B-lymphocytes, antibodies, to recognize and fight the virus with that protein.
♦ Vector vaccines, such as Johnson & Johnson are another type. They contain a modified version of a different, harmless, virus than the one which causes COVID-19. The virus is modified so that it can infect only one cell but cannot reproduce – therefore cannot make you sick. Then you get the modified virus to carry the DNA instructions for making the spike protein. The cell reads the DNA and produces the protein which causes the immune system to make T and B lymphocytes which will recognize and fight the virus with that spike protein if it enters the body.
♦ “Inactivated” vaccines contain the dead virus itself or pieces of the dead virus which is called a “Subunit vaccine”. None of the vaccines approved in the U.S. contain dead virus’.
WILL THE VACCINES WORK AGAINST NEW COVID-19 VARIANTS?
The short answer is YES.
According to the CDC the vaccines are 100% effective against death and serious illness from all variants of SARS-CoV-2, (coronavirus), the virus which causes COVID-19. However, there is evidence that the U.K. and South African variants are somewhat resistant to some of the coronavirus vaccines. “Those who became infected after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine experienced mild to moderate illness.” According to Stuart Ray, M.D. of Johns Hopkins.⁴
According to Dr. Daniel DeSimone, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic,⁴ “Early research that still needs to be finalized suggests that the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can provide protection against variants identified in the U.K. [B.18.104.22.168] and South Africa [B.1.351].” Both of which have now been identified in the U.S., “Vaccine manufacturers are also looking into booster shots to improve protections against variants.” This applies to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well.
Dr. Stuart stresses that the more people who become infected the more we give new variants a chance to mutate and possibly become more dangerous. “We need to emphasize basic public health measures, including masking, physical distancing, good ventilation indoors and limiting gatherings of people in close proximity with poor ventilation.” Confined spaces, he says, give the virus an advantage.
CAN A VARIANT INFECT SOMEONE WHO HAS ALREADY HAD COVID-19?
In studies of the NOVAVAX vaccine researchers found among those who hadn’t been vaccinated that having recovered from the older version of COVID-19 did not protect against being sickened again by the B.1.351 (South African) variant. But again that second infection was mild.
Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause mild symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body aches and soreness or swelling at the injection site. The small pool of people I’ve spoken to say that what symptoms they had lasted anywhere from one to three days. Most said they had no side effects at all. You may want to ask people on your wing who are 65 and older if they received the vaccine and what if any side effects they had.
The Moderna vaccine had the most reports of side effects. The Pfizer vaccine did not have as many and the Johnson & Johnson had even fewer. Although it should be noted that the Johnson & Johnson was only approved by the FDA in March so there will be less data for that vaccine.
As for the question of trusting the government. Don’t blame anyone who doesn’t. I don’t either. But I don’t see an ulterior motive that makes any sense.