A letter to our community

Dear community members:

We are at an important moment in our fight against COVID-19. Each and every one of us has an opportunity to make a significant contribution to bring this devastating pandemic to an end.

Currently, three vaccines have been studied, authorized and are now widely available to all Minnesotans 12 years and older. Each has proven to be highly effective lowering the risk of getting COVID-19, with all three over 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

We understand you may have questions about getting vaccinated. We also believe you deserve to know the facts. We address a few important topics here, but we urge you to talk to your doctor, NP, PA, or pharmacist about your specific medical issues and any concerns you may have about the COVID-19 vaccine.

We also invite you to visit WeliaHealth.org/vaccines where we answer many of the questions about the COVID-19 vaccines we’ve heard from our patients.

COVID-19 Vaccine Answers with Dr. Brian Niskanen

The Importance of Vaccines

To date, more than 184 million Americans, including nearly 3.25 million Minnesotans, have received at least one dose of a vaccine. As more vaccines are administered in our community, our state and our country, the closer we will be to herd immunity.

What is herd immunity and why is it important? Herd immunity is reached once a significant number of people are immune to the virus (either through antibodies following illness or from a vaccine). At that point, the virus has nowhere to go and can no longer spread freely. It is believed once 60-80% of the population is immunized, we will reach herd immunity, allowing us to return to so many of the normal activities we have missed. However, if we do not vaccinate our communities, dangerous new variants will continue to surface, ultimately prolonging the pandemic.

The Danger of Misinformation

Unfortunately, a significant amount of misinformation is being spread online suggesting the vaccines are not safe. We feel it is our responsibility to address these falsehoods and share what we know to be accurate information.

The vaccines cause permanent changes to our DNA.
This is false.

Pfizer and Moderna, the first two authorized COVID-19 vaccines, are called messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Our DNA is located in the nucleus, or very core, of the atoms that make up our cells. The mRNA vaccines deliver a message to our cells, instructing them to make the spike protein which our body will use to develop immunity to COVID-19. This happens without the mRNA ever entering the cell’s nucleus or interacting with the DNA. The J&J vaccine is the third vaccine, and is a “viral vector” vaccine using a modified adenovirus. The adenovirus is not able to give you illness, and is used to deliver the genetic code to make the spike protein. It also does not alter your DNA in any way.

The vaccine are dangerous.
This is false.

While there have been reports about serious side effects, these have been exceedingly rare. The two most reported side effects include the J&J vaccine causing a rare and serious blood clotting disorder, and the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) causing inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) or the sac around the heart (pericarditis). With J&J vaccine, the blood clotting disorder affected women ages 18–49 (the rate has been calculated to be 7 episodes for every 1 million vaccinated women in this age group). For the mRNA vaccines, the inflammation appears to happen primarily in younger males (it appears the rate is about 12 males affected for every 1 million doses of vaccine in males in their teens and twenties). While both of these side effects are serious, they are treatable. The rationale for continuing to recommend vaccination is that the rate of blood clotting, myocarditis and pericarditis in those with “natural infection” of COVID-19 is much, much higher than in those who have been vaccinated.

COVID-19 has gone away.
This is false.

While the U.S. and Minnesota have seen a dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases, multiple variants continue to be tracked. Currently, the most concerning is the “Delta” variant, a strain initially detected in India and is now the dominant variant in the U.S. In fact, the Delta variant is now responsible for more than 50% of the cases in the U.S. Evidence shows this variant is up to 75% more contagious than the initial COVID-19 strain. And while data suggests it can cause more severe illness, this is still being investigated. Among our greatest concerns is that there will be pockets of outbreaks in areas with low vaccination rates. The COVID-19 vaccines appear to protect individuals against severe illness from all known COVID-19 strains, including the Delta variant. In addition, higher community vaccination rates help prevent the spread of this dangerous variant and future variants.

Our Plea to You

We strongly believe these vaccines are safe, and the disease is not. COVID-19 spreads quickly and affects some more severely than others. However, even with all the research that has been done in the past year, we don’t know with any certainty who will have a mild form of the illness and who may suffer more severe effects. What we do know is that we need to take this opportunity and alter the course of this deadly virus.

We can all agree, we all want this pandemic to end. We know widespread vaccinations may be our only way to get there. So please, roll up your sleeve and take the shot. Protect yourself, your family, your neighbors, and help change history!

Dr. B. Niskanen, Chief Medical Officer
Welia Health

The following Welia Health providers signed this letter.

  • Kelsey Abraham, PA-C
  • Dr. M. Allen
  • Darla Anderson, NP
  • Nikki Anderson, NP
  • Amber Axtell, PharmD
  • Chelsea Benson, PharmD
  • Dr. R. Bostrom
  • Aimee Burke, PharmD
  • Renee Coleman, PA
  • Dr. D. Dahlen
  • Heidi Deutschlander, NP
  • Dr. P. Donner
  • Joseph Dvorak, PharmD
  • Kati Dvorak, PharmD
  • Brenda Fischer, NP
  • Dr. R. Gaalwsyk
  • Beth Gilbertson, PA-C
  • Nicholas Giller, PharmD
  • Dr. R. Halvorson
  • Jill Herges, NP
  • Jenny Houglum, PharmD
  • Amy Huseby, PA-C
  • Anna Insley, PharmD
  • Dr. T. Johnson
  • Dr. K. Keogh
  • Shannon Koski, NP
  • Dr. K. Kroschel
  • Dr. R. Kroschel
  • Dr. J. Lind
  • Patricia Lind, PharmD
  • Amy McDaniel, PA-C
  • Sandy Moore, NP
  • Dr. T. Mullin
  • Dr. J. Olen
  • Dr. B. Qualey
  • Dr. M. Schultz
  • Dr. J. Schwinghamer
  • Erin Shierts, PharmD
  • T. Stearns, PA-C
  • Dr. S. TenNapel
  • Aaron Terning, PharmD
  • Brent Thompson, PharmD
  • Dr. C. Valentine
  • Dustin Voss, PA-C
  • Lindsey Wagenbach, NP
  • Dr. R. Weeks
  • Dr. A. Youn

We invite you to visit WeliaHealth.org/vaccines where we answer many of the questions about the COVID-19 vaccines we’ve heard from our patients.