How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of “memory” cells that will remember how to fight that virus in the future. 

It typically takes a few weeks after your last dose of vaccine for your body to have the highest level of protection. 

Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, feeling tired. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. 

Types of Vaccines 

Currently, there are two types of COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized for emergency use in the United States. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19 because they do not contain any live COVID virus. 

mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build cells that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future. (Moderna, Pfizer- BioNTech) 

Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a live virus — a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19 — that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector). Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build cells that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future. (Johnson and Johnson) 

Most COVID-19 Vaccines Require More Than One Shot 

All but one of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently authorized for emergency use in the United States use two shots. The first shot starts building protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer. One vaccine (Johnson and Johnson) only needs one shot to provide protection. 

The Bottom Line 

Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, it can cause severe illness or death. All vaccines have been proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. It doesn’t matter which vaccine you get, just get vaccinated when it is your turn. 

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and physical distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19. 

Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccination Following Johnson & Johnson’s EUA 

  1. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved three COVID-19 vaccines for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). It is the first single-dose vaccine approved for EUA. 
  2. Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine uses a harmless adenovirus to activate an immune response to the coronavirus spike protein. It shows mild side effects like other vaccines. 
  3. Clinical trials showed a 72 percent efficacy against COVID-19 infection and 86 percent efficacy against severe illness and death in those who received the vaccine. No COVID-19 deaths were reported in those vaccinated during clinical trials. 
  4. It doesn’t matter which vaccine you receive. The most important thing is to get vaccinated when it is your turn. Vaccination is the most effective way to end the COVID-19 pandemic and protect yourself and those you come in contact with. 
  5. As health care professionals, we have the responsibility to continue to be leaders in our communities. Please encourage everyone to get educated about the vaccine’s safety and get vaccinated when supplies are available to them. Also, remind the people in your life of the importance of wearing with a mask, washing hands often, avoiding crowds and staying at least 6 feet away from others.  

Beam with SJMHS Colleague Signatures Now Sits in New IHA & St. Joe’s Livonia Medical Center

LIVONIA – Last year, we hosted a structural beam onsite and invited all SJMHS colleagues to sign it. Colleagues filled the beam with words of encouragement, expressions of pride in their work or department, and general well wishes. IHA and Schoolcraft College, who are partners in this project, also hosted the beam at their sites for signatures. The beam was then installed during a beam-raising ceremony in the new IHA & St. Joe’s Livonia Medical Center.

A year has passed, and construction of the new center is nearing its close. The beam is now displayed at the top of a stairwell on the south side of the building, intentionally left exposed so that people can see the signatures.

The Livonia Medical Center will open this April. The 124,000 square foot facility will house a variety of service lines, including primary and specialty care, urgent care, an outpatient pharmacy, ambulatory surgery, outpatient imaging, and more.

Thank you to all who took the time last year to make your mark on the new center. We will share more information about the Livonia Medical Center in coming weeks.

March is National Nutrition Month®

March is National Nutrition Month (NNM), an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.” During the month of March, our Trinity Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionists make a special effort to engage our colleagues, community and family members with making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and exercise habits. You are encouraged to seek the guidance of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), who can tailor a healthful eating plan to meet your specific, individual needs. Everyone is unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes. Personalizing your plate is what we do best.

RDNs can show people how to use MyPlate, which provides practical, consumer-friendly tips to follow the key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines. MyPlate recommends visualizing your plate as nutrient-rich sections with one quarter reserved for grains, another with protein-rich foods and the remaining half with fruits and vegetables along with a serving of low-fat or fat-free dairy.

We encourage you to take the “What’s on Your Plate?” quiz. The quick self-assessment provides tailored resources based on answers to a series of simple questions on current eating habits. The results page will provide a snapshot of how you are doing in meeting food group recommendations.

You can also give the “MyPlate Plan” a try.

In addition, the second Wednesday of March is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, an annual celebration of the dedication of RDNs as the leading advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world. This year’s observance will be March 10.

Colleagues, the COVID Vaccine, and HIPAA

As the vaccination roll-out is well underway for our colleagues and community members, this is a great time for some important privacy reminders.

  • When receiving a COVID vaccine, colleagues are considered patients. This means they should be afforded the same privacy protections under HIPAA as all other patients.
  • Receiving a COVID vaccine is not mandatory for colleagues which is different from flu vaccine.
  • A colleague must complete a Trinity Health release form in order for the organization to share their photo that was taken while getting a vaccine.
  • There are many community members cycling through our COVID vaccination clinics. It is very likely that the colleagues working the clinics will see people they know. Receiving a vaccination at a community clinic is considered protected health information (PHI) which should not be shared with others for personal purposes.
  • If a colleague or community member shares that they received their vaccine in a personal capacity, this is not considered PHI. 
  • If you learn that a colleague or community member received a vaccine while working in the clinic or providing care, this is PHI and should not be disclosed.

Is this a HIPAA violation?

  • A coworker at lunch tells you that she did not have any side effects after getting her second vaccination. You share that information with your mother to calm her fears about getting the vaccine.

Answer: No, this is not a HIPAA violation. The information was not learned during the course of your job. It was shared by the coworker presumably as part of a friendship. The coworker is free to share any of her own medical information with anyone she chooses.

  • In the COVID vaccination clinic one colleague loudly asks another colleague what time Dr. Jane Doe came in for her vaccine.

Answer: Yes, this is a HIPAA violation.  Everyone in the clinic heard that Dr. Jane Doe had an appointment and received her vaccination. Even though the doctor is a colleague, she is a patient for purposes of receiving the vaccination and the fact that she received a vaccination would be considered PHI. The colleague should have gotten up and quietly asked for the information so it couldn’t be heard by everyone in the room to protect the information.

  • While registering patients at the COVID vaccination clinic a colleague sees her neighbor. The colleague goes home and tells her husband that their neighbor Nick received his vaccine today.

Answer: Yes, this is HIPAA violation. This is PHI which should not be disclosed without authorization from the patient.

Another important reminder is to check MyChart or follow your RHM’s procedure for obtaining COVID test results. Personal use of the electronic health record outside of MyChart is not allowed. It is also never appropriate to check test results for another person, unless you’re a member of the patient’s care team or have a legitimate business reason to do so.  We appreciate your commitment to the privacy of our patients.

United Way 9-Day Equity Challenge Coming on February 22

Starting February 22, please join St. Joe’s as we embark on United Way’s Equity Challenge together!

The Challenge is a self-guided, voluntary learning journey that examines the history and impacts of racism and how it shapes people’s lived experiences. By taking 10 minutes from your day to read the daily email prompts delivered each morning, you can easily participate in this transformative effort at your own pace.

How the Challenge works:

  • Each weekday morning for two weeks, you’ll receive an email prompt with articles, videos, and/or podcasts.
  • Explore this work on your own, or share with your friends, family, or coworkers. Download the discussion guide.
  • Capture your daily reflections and actions using the activity log. Download the activity log.
  • Share your reflections and “aha” moments using the hashtags #miuwequitychallenge and #liveunited. See sample posts.

The goal for the Challenge is to raise your awareness, change your understanding, and shift the way you behave. Watch for the first email on February 22!

An American succumbs to heart disease every 36 seconds. Take action to lower your risk.

With over 600,000 victims a year, this silent epidemic is the leading cause of death for men, women, and most ethnicities. But February is Heart Month and the perfect time to take action to protect yourself.

Warning Signs

It’s easy to put off taking care of our heart health. But with 50% of adults affected by heart disease, you may be at risk without even knowing it. Below are some common warning signs to look for. If these describe you, it’s probably a good idea to schedule a checkup with your doctor.

  • Overweight – Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease.
  • Over 50 – As we age, our risk for heart disease increases.
  • A smoker – Smokers have nearly twice the risk for heart attacks as non-smokers.
  • Have high blood pressure – Untreated high blood pressure is a major factor in heart disease and should be treated with help from your doctor.
  • Live a sedentary lifestyle – If your job has you sitting most of the day you’re at an elevated risk.
  • Have high stress – Stressful workplaces, family life, and lack of sleep can all contribute to heart disease.
  • Drink alcohol – Regular drinking of alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Have a family history – Shared genetic and environmental factors can make you more susceptible to heart disease.

What can you do?

Heart disease is deadly. But it’s also preventable. Even small changes to your everyday lifestyle can reduce your risks. Here are a few simple steps you can take to help keep your heart healthy.

  • Stay active – Whether it’s a leisurely walk or an intense workout, try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Eat Healthier – Have a glass of water instead of soda. Make a home-cooked meal instead of grabbing fast food. Don’t eat after 8pm. Small choices can have a big impact.
  • Schedule a Checkup – Make sure you’re scheduling regular checkups with your doctor to keep track of your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Quit smoking. – Smoking has been linked to many health problems, including heart disease. The CDC has information on ways to quit.
  • Sleep Right – Try to get eight hours of sleep a night to help lessen stress.

Is it safe?

If you need to schedule a checkup, we’ve implemented comprehensive safety protocols such as temperature checks, mandatory masks, social distancing and personal protective equipment to ensure your visit is safe. You can also check with your doctor to see if virtual appointments are an option for you.

Take Action

Learn more about the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System cardiovascular program or find a physician today. Mercy Health has a nationally-recognized cardiovascular team dedicated to helping you manage your heart health. You’ll find advanced, patient-centered care, the latest treatments and the tools you need to live healthier.

StandOut Pulse Survey Opens on Feb. 11

Thank you for your ongoing participation in our StandOut journey. Colleague engagement is the foundation of our Trinity Health TogetherHealth strategy. 

Our engagement action plan is to work on our culture transformation through active participation in StandOut. Your feedback is vital for us to move forward with this plan. Your next opportunity to share your opinions is the StandOut Engagement Pulse survey that will run from February 11 through February 25, 2021. 

Enhancements to the StandOut Pulse Survey:

Similar to the October 2020 pulse, we are including a few questions from the Annual Colleague, Physician and Provider Survey in the StandOut Pulse Survey. These questions will help us closely link the annual survey to the StandOut pulse. This will allow colleagues to provide ongoing feedback as we strive to improve the experiences we create every day and cultivate our culture of safety.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • On Thursday, February 11, eligible colleagues will be invited by email to complete the Pulse survey (the Pulse will remain open through February 25)
  • If not yet utilizing StandOut, colleagues will be invited to
    • Complete the Pulse survey; and then
    • Take the StandOut assessment
    • Begin checking in on the Friday after completing the assessment
  • Job aids for both activities is HERE
  • Video: “What’s In It for Me”  <Click Here>

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and the important role you play in creating an exceptional experience for colleagues and those we serve.

Black Men in White Coats Film Screening and Live Q&A Session with Film’s Creator

As we prepare to celebrate Black History Month, the Diversity and Inclusion Council at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland is pleased to offer free virtual film screenings of Black Men in White Coats to colleagues across Trinity Health Michigan. This documentary explores the systemic barriers that prevent black men from becoming medical doctors, and has received national attention on outlets such as The Today Show, Forbes, and NPR.

The film’s description states, “Fed up with the lack of diversity among doctors, a medical doctor sets out to explore why only 2% of American doctors are black men and what that means for society.”

We will offer virtual film screenings of Black Men in White Coats on demand from Feb. 1 – 5. For an admission code, please submit a request at

On Friday, Feb. 5 at 1 p.m., we will also host a live virtual Q&A session with Dale Okorodudu, MD, the film’s creator. Dr. Okorodudu is passionate about increasing the number of black men in medical school, and will spend time discussing his experiences and answering colleagues’ questions.

We are honored to offer this experience to our colleagues, and encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity for learning and reflection.

Lori Marie Key, SMML RN, to Sing at National COVID-19 Memorial for Biden Inauguration Activities

A nationwide COVID-19 memorial is being held tomorrow to remember and honor the lives lost to COVID-19 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, the night before Inauguration Day. We are honored to share that Lori Marie Key, an RN at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, will sing as part of the ceremony. The memorial will feature a lighting around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and cities and towns are invited to illuminate buildings and ring church bells at 5:30 p.m. ET that day as part of a national moment of unity and remembrance. For more details and to watch, click here.