As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna were recently approved for emergency use, with health care workers, long-term care facility residents, and first responders prioritized for the first phase of vaccinations.

Initial shipments of the Moderna vaccine were received in Las Animas County, with those in the prioritized groups vaccinated in late December of 2020.

The Moderna mRNA vaccine is administered in two doses spaced 28 days apart.

Initial studies show a 94.1 percent efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in adults two weeks or more after the second dose.

While no serious safety concerns have been reported with the vaccine, common minor side effects include injection site pain, headache, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, and chills.

The vaccine must be kept at -20 degrees C (-4 degrees F) for long-term storage, but once thawed, vials of the vaccine are stable at refrigerator temperatures for up to 30 days.

With debate swirling around COVID-19 vaccines, including the rapidness of their development and their safety, members of the general public can turn to those who have already received the Moderna vaccine to share their experiences.

Jason Stodghill, a paramedic with the Trinidad Ambulance District, received his first Moderna COVID-19 vaccination on December 23.

Here, he shares his story:

Question: Why did you decide to vaccinate against COVID-19?

Jason Stodghill: I wanted to get the vaccine because I have a genetic predisposition for blood clots, which puts me at a higher risk for COVID-19 complications. I’ve also been exposed to a number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began due to my job, and I have been isolating myself from my family so as not to expose them. I want to be able to safely come home to my family. Vaccination reduces my chances of transmitting the virus to others, so it seemed a no-brainer.

Q: You received the Moderna vaccine. What side-effects did you experience in the first few hours after receiving the vaccination?

JS: None, really. Just the normal pain of getting a shot.

Q: What side effects did you experience in the first few days after receiving the vaccine?

JS: Pain in the arm. The pain lasted for a few days, about the same as a flu shot.

Q: Have you experienced any long-term side effects thus far from taking the Moderna vaccine?

JS: No.

Q: Did you receive a vaccination ‘passport’ after getting the vaccine?

JS: No, I received a card with a reminder for the date of my second vaccination.

Q: Does receiving the vaccine mean you no longer have to take certain safety precautions, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and the like?

JS: No. I still have to wear all required PPE, social distance, and disinfect any affected surfaces after a COVID-19 exposure. This is still recommended by the CDC, to protect myself and to protect others. The shot just adds another layer of protection.

Q: What would you say to the general public about vaccinating against COVID-19?

JS: I would tell them to think it through, because it’s a decision everyone will have to make for themselves at some point. And to remember - by getting vaccinated, we can protect one another from infection, including our health care workers, first responders, and essential workers. It protects everybody.

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