Dr. Rajeev Fernando is one of New York's top infectious disease specialists, and this week, he talks exclusively about the COVID-19 vaccine, and how safe it will be when it's released.

When you need to know what's happening with the coronavirus, join KICKS 105.5 every Thursday morning. Dr. Rajeev Fernando answers your COVID-19 questions.

We are hearing everyday about the vaccine for COVID-19 being on the way, I know a lot of people are concerned about the safety of the vaccine, how safe did you think it's going to be?

"Great question, the main concern people have is how quickly these vaccines have been developed. To put that in perspective, the fastest vaccine prior to this was four years for the mumps vaccine, but now people are saying that this has been developed so quickly and they have safety concerns, which is completely valid and understandable. The one thing everyone has to realize is that science has progressed so much since then, we now have engineering which can help produce it through this new mechanism called MRA vaccines. With regards to safety, these trials were large trials, one of them involving 43,000 patients, the other involving around 33,000 patients, and for me, to be perfectly honest with you, about 90 to 95 percent of any side effects really occur within the first month. At this point, everything is what we call a risk versus benefits situation. We have to look at the situation and say the vaccine is 95 percent successful, it works, and we haven't seen any major side effects. We may not know about any potential side effects for some time, but the question that pops up for the general public is that if you're at high risk for getting COVID-19, do I take the vaccine, or do I wait to see what the long term side effects may be? Everyone has a decision to make and you should choose based on your risk versus benefit situation."

We do know there are two inoculations needed for this vaccine correct?

"That's right, after the first dose, it gives you what we call a partial immunity, so it will give you some bang for your buck, but it's really after the second vaccine, given after three weeks, will then give you that slam dunk immunity."

We know that health care workers and those at high risk will get the vaccine right away, but for most of us, it won't be available until the spring, right?

"I think so, it's important to remember that right now we're just dealing with two companies that are out there, but there are about 180 companies around the world developing a vaccine, so you never know. They may actually produce something, export it to the states, there are a lot of possibilities that could come up. I just think we have to do the right thing, the end of the pandemic is in sight because of these vaccines, we have better treatments, our doctors, nurses, and health care professionals are better equipped, it's not such an invisible enemy anymore, so there's a lot of hope. We just have to get through the next few months even though it's going to be busy with the holiday on the way, but these are things we should be able to sacrifice, choose life over livelihood. If we can do that, I think we'll be on a good trajectory. Right now, we're pointed in a very horrible direction. My prediction is that we'll definitely get to a chilling half of a million deaths in America, it's the way the numbers are starting to stack up again. It's going to be a very difficult three months at least, December, January, February, and into March, so I urge everyone to just do the right thing and again choose life over livelihood."

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