A vial of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19.

KANKAKEE — A panel of Riverside Medical Group doctors responded to community COVID-19 vaccine questions presented by Dr. Keith Moss, Riverside’s vice president and chief medical officer, in an online forum Tuesday night.

Riverside CEO and president Phil Kambic opened the forum, then Moss asked prepared and audience-submitted questions for 40 minutes to six doctors from the pediatrics, internal medicine, interventional cardiology, obstetrics and family medicine fields.

Here are some of the questions panelists answered during the forum.

What effect can mRNA vaccines have on DNA?

“With the Pfizer and the Moderna, it actually doesn’t enter the nucleus of the cell where the DNA is housed, so it’s really not able to cause any effects on our DNA,” family medicine doctor N’Djamina Robinson said.

She added that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (not an mRNA vaccine) enters the nucleus, but uses “oldie but goodie” vaccine technology that has been proven to be safe.

Will the vaccine be mandated?

“When something is under emergency use authorization, it’s very difficult to make it mandatory because of the legal implication of something under emergency use,” Moss said.

He expects employers and government entities will weigh the option as vaccine brands get FDA approval in the next six months.

Why should people get vaccinated if 99 percent of COVID patients recover?

“Well, 99 percent survive but that 1 percent that die could be saved,” Dr. Nadeem Ansari of internal medicine said.

In the U.S. alone, there have been over 500,000 deaths.

“Ask the people who have lost their relatives,” he said. “They would have loved to have saved them.”

Also, some who recover still develop chronic problems, according to the panel.

“It’s not a benign disease,” said Dr. Stonewall McCuiston of the internal medicine department. “Most people do well, but you will have those people with long-term complications.”

Why vaccinate kids?

The recent Pfizer study with over 2,200 children found it to be 100% effective with side effects comparable to those in young adults, Dr. Josefina Batista of pediatrics said. The FDA approved it for use in 12- to 15-year-olds Monday.

Healthy children can still contract COVID and develop long-term side effects or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), Robinson said. Kids have been shown to spread the B117 variant more easily than the main strain, according to Moss.

Many kids are watched by grandparents and could pass COVID on to them or other adults they come in contact with, Robinson said.

“It’s best if we can vaccinate as many people as possible, even young children, to protect the population as a whole and protect entire families,” she said.

Are masks needed after vaccination?

“You do need the masks because we don’t know everybody else got vaccinated or not and we are not at the level of herd immunity yet,” Dr. Saroja Yalamanchili said.

They signal protection to others, according to Moss.

“It’s also to make sure everyone knows that you’re not going to give them that virus because you don’t walk around with a vaccine card on your lapel,” Moss said.

Do the vaccines protect against variants?

Yes, but the efficacy rates are lower and depend on the variant, according to the panelists.

“So far, J&J and Moderna and Pfizer are doing well, they are not always as effective, but they certainly are much, much more effective than getting nothing,” Moss said.

What’s the risk of severe blood clots?

Dr. Vikas Patel of the interventional cardiology department said there is a plausible relationship between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 15 cases of thrombosis or severe blood clots in young to middle-aged women. The instances are very rare and extremely rare in men and older women.

Getting vaccinated while using oral contraceptives like birth control does not increase the risk of thrombosis, he said.

Where are Riverside’s clinics?

Riverside Healthcare is now conducting vaccine clinics six days a week at six locations: Coal City, Watseka, Frankfort, Bourbonnais, Bradley immediate care and the Kankakee outpatient center.

Anyone eligible for the vaccine can register to get a shot through MyChart or create a MyChart account at

Digital Content Editor

Meredith Melland earned a BA in journalism from DePaul University, where she worked as a web developer and editor for 14 East, DePaul's online student magazine. She has interned for Chicago magazine and WGN. Her email is