State officials talk COVID vaccine at Sequoyah

State of Tennessee Epidimiologist Dr. John Dunn (left) and Scott Brower, chief of staff for the COVID-19 Unified Command from the governor’s office, talk about the COVID-19 vaccine during a meeting at Sequoyah High School last week.

Following discussions of the virus during the COVID-19 meeting at Sequoyah High School last Thursday, guest speakers, Scott Brower and Dr. John Dunn spoke about the vaccines.

Brower is the chief of staff of the COVID-19 Unified Command and Dunn is the state epidemiologist.

Their conversations surrounded the COVID-19 vaccines that have been release and the impact they can have across the state and in the local region.

According to Dunn, the current vaccinations will still work against the new “U.K. strain” of the virus.

“Viruses change and we expect that,” Dunn said. “Bacteria and viruses change, they have mutations and change at certain rate.”

He noted the new strain of the virus mutated it to become more transmissible, but the effects aren’t any worse than the current strain that they have grown accustomed to.

“The (current) vaccines cover those expected areas and the virus will not break through those vaccines,” Dunn stated. “The current vaccines are Pfizer and Moderna. They have both been authorized by the FDA. The vaccine is giving yourself the recipe for the spiked protein of the coronavirus that allows your body to recognize the virus and fight it off.”

Dunn noted that, along with the two current vaccines, four more are currently being developed and will be released in the future.

“Five of the vaccines (including the two that we have) requires two doses,” Dunn noted. “There is one that is a one dose vaccine, so there are more vaccines in the pipeline that will give us more of a supply as we get further into 2021.”

A question was presented by Brower during the topic of the vaccinations that questioned if the the vaccinations received will last through a person’s lifetime or if it would need to be administered annually, such as the flu shot.

“We don’t really know right now but I think we are aiming for an annual vaccine right now,” expressed Dunn. “There are other coronaviruses out there that we see every year during cold and flu season and we don’t immunize those, so we just don’t know what is going to happen with the virus over time.”

He believes they will continue to produce a vaccine supply so they could administer vaccines in the future on a needed basis.

Dunn also mentioned the current known side effects of the vaccine.

“The side effects are kind of routine as your body is having an immune response with headache, fatigue, tiredness and soreness at the site of the injection,” Dunn said. “Those usually go away after one or two days. We have also seen people who have had an allergy to the vaccine and we watched them for a period of time and, so far, we have only had mild reactions.”

Current information on the virus as well as vaccine information can be obtained by going to

Some places have received more vaccines than others in the state due to supply, the officials noted.

“There are counties that we know are distressed but the rest of the vaccine is distributed per capita, so the places with the highest populations,” Dunn noted. “We are trying to be as equitable as possible, obviously there are large metropolitan areas that receive more of the vaccine because they have a larger population so they are the first to get allocated the vaccine ... When we were in the planning phases we didn’t focus on how much vaccine was available because that is very much in flux, we don’t know when vaccines will be available we are going by a week to week basis.”

Dunn is holding high hopes for the end of the month of January.

“We are hoping that by the end of January, our most vulnerable population (across the state) will be protected by the vaccine,” expressed Dunn. “Right now most of our counties are in the 1a2 phase with the focus on health care workers and simultaneous age criteria of 75 and older.”

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