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COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

January 12, 2021

Following months navigating a pandemic, the arrival of vaccines brings us much hope. It also brings many questions, and we’ll answer the most commonly asked ones here. Visit the coronavirus vaccine FAQ often, as this is a rapidly evolving situation. We’ll update this page as we learn more.

About the vaccine

  • Emergency use authorization allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to permit use of new medical products in emergency scenarios while the standard approval process continues to proceed.

  • Absolutely. The emergency use authorization allows us to protect people now, but research will continue for decades.

  • No. Vaccine development has been led by the world’s best scientists. One reason this came about so quickly is because the mRNA approach to creating a vaccine is highly precise. With new techniques, this sequence was developed in a matter of days. Stage 3 clinical trials testing the vaccines on tens of thousands of people have occurred. These all provide confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

  • No. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus.

  • A messenger RNA vaccine, or an mRNA vaccine, is a vaccine that teaches our bodies how to make the protein they need to trigger an immune response to fight off a certain disease. That harmless protein, or even just a piece of a protein, is called the spike protein. It is found on the surface of the disease-causing virus. The vaccine enables your body to make antibodies so that when it sees the virus, it already has the defense mechanisms to attack it.

  • Research shows that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% effective after 2 doses.

  • This hasn’t been fully studied. We hope that it will, but the 2 vaccines coming out studied symptomatic COVID-19 cases. It’s possible that someone could have a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19 and be able to spread disease. It’s why the pillars of infection control remain important even after getting the vaccine.

  • We believe the body’s immune response to the vaccine is stronger than it is to COVID-19 itself, especially if illness was mild. Trials have shown higher antibody concentrations that lasted longer in the trial patient groups than in people who recovered from COVID-19 after experiencing mild or no symptoms.

  • Tens of millions of vaccine doses have become available, and many more are expected in the coming months. It may be the middle of 2021 before the general public has full access to COVID-19 vaccines. Look to your local health department for details on your state’s or county's distribution plan.

  • We don’t yet know these exact details. Distribution is a matter of supply and demand. Today, we do not have the supply to fully meet the demand. This is why national, state and county health departments are working on phased distribution plans that target the highest risk populations first. As supplies increase, we will together be able to meet greater demand.

  • At this time, the vaccine will not be given to anyone younger than 16 years.

  • This is something that the federal government plans for. There is a program that addresses safety and injury claims related to vaccines. There is protection for both those who get the vaccines and the companies that make the vaccines.

  • No. High-risk populations will be targeted first, such as frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents. Here in Kansas, we know we have healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents in each of our 105 counties, both urban and rural. All 105 counties will receive vaccines proportionate to their populations.

  • Not necessarily. Remember, many hospitals have reduced their surgery volumes and postponed nonurgent procedures in order to keep beds, staff and supplies available to care for patients with COVID-19. It will take time to get to the point of vaccinating a large percentage of the general population, and full vaccination requires 2 doses spaced over several weeks. Until we see the effects of widespread vaccination, the best and fastest way to help hospitals return to normal practices is to work together to reduce COVID-19 admissions – by wearing masks, washing our hands, distancing from others and avoiding large gatherings.

  • We hope that it will, because we hope a widely available and widely used vaccine will greatly reduce the number of people hospitalized with severe disease. But if you haven’t been vaccinated and get very sick, those treatments would still be used in the hospital setting. We do also hope there will be more treatments becoming available that could be given on an outpatient basis in cases of mild disease. Monoclonal antibody infusions have also been beneficial for eligible outpatients who meet the criteria for treatment.

  • There isn’t enough data yet to be certain, but we expect the vaccines will offer protection against this mutation. Viruses actually mutate quite frequently. We expect them to. The medical community has been looking at these variations under the microscope since the pandemic began. The fundamental properties of the spike protein we talk about have not changed, so we expect the vaccine to remain effective.

  • No. Unlike vaccines, which are designed to prevent COVID-19, monoclonal antibody treatment is an IV infusion to help fight existing COVID-19 in patients who meet eligibility criteria for this care.

  • Although that has been explored, at this time, we have not seen data to prove that a reduced dose is equally effective against COVID-19. We know that there is an antibody response to the first dose, but the best antibody response comes following the second dose. Data currently indicate that 2 doses are the best practice.

  • It is not true.

  • It is certainly possible that we could see this in the future. Today, with the vaccines being given under emergency use authorization, it is necessary to monitor each person for 15 minutes after they receive the vaccine. That would require a large parking lot for waiting and would be a large distance for medical providers to cover to monitor patients. Today’s vaccines also have rigorous storage and preparation requirements. We may resolve these challenges in the future and be able to increase the ease of access and administration, such as with drive-thru vaccination options.

  • The short answer is yes. We would like to be able to mass-vaccinate groups of young people who often live in close quarters and spend a lot of time socializing. It would be an excellent way to help manage disease spread. But we do not know any timing or specifics as of yet.

  • This is not unheard of. Here’s why it can happen. First and foremost, remember the vaccine itself cannot cause COVID-19. A person may, however, be exposed to COVID-19 just before getting vaccinated and become infected. Also, full protection from the vaccine does not occur until about 2 weeks after the second dose. People who have received only the first dose are not yet fully protected and could be susceptible to infection. This is why practicing the pillars of infection prevention – wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping your distance, avoiding gatherings – remains critically important.

    We anticipate scenarios like this will occur less frequently as a larger percentage of the population becomes vaccinated.

Getting the vaccine

  • The first shipments of vaccines will go to frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to be equally effective. Initially, vaccine availability will determine which vaccine people get. As more vaccines are introduced into the market, additional work will be done to optimize the right vaccine for each individual, depending on availability.

    Based on transportation requirements as well as packaging and storage, it seems possible that the Pfizer vaccine will be suited for distribution in hospital settings while the Moderna vaccine will be suited for smaller practices, retail pharmacies or rural settings.

  • We are seeing very few, and they are quite consistent with those of other vaccines. Most people who experience any side effects at all will experience some injection-site irritation or mild pain. A few may feel some fatigue, a mild headache or a low-grade fever. The side effect profile is very similar to that of the flu shot. Any side effects should last no more than 24-48 hours.

    Current data show that the side effect profiles for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very similar and increase slightly with the second dose.

  • Side effects like arm pain might develop immediately while others may develop over the next 24 hours. Most side effects resolve within 24-48 hours.

  • As thousands of people in the United Kingdom began receiving vaccines, only 2 experienced severe allergic reactions. Both individuals had previous issues with severe allergies and already carried EpiPens® with them. We need to learn more about their allergic reaction to truly understand the cause.

    Far more common is some mild irritation or discomfort at the injection site or mild fatigue – not unlike receiving an influenza vaccination. Severe reactions to date have been extremely few. The vaccine continues to look to be very safe.

  • Food allergies, including to eggs, should not prevent you from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. During clinical trials, there was no difference in the number of allergic reactions that occurred in groups who received the vaccine and groups who received the placebo. There were no cases of severe allergic reaction. And eggs are not used in the production of these vaccines.

    We are monitoring vaccine recipients for 15 minutes after administration. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine (or other medicine) such as anaphylaxis, we may monitor you for longer. If you have had a serious allergic reaction to PEG (polyethylene glycol) you should not get the vaccine.

  • We have not seen any reports of deaths from the vaccine. All data continue to support the vaccine being very safe and causing only mild side effects in some people.

    At this time, more than 100,000 people have taken part in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines. There have been no deaths from the vaccine in these studies.

  • State health departments are working around the clock to determine the best way to communicate to the public about when it will be individuals’ turns for the vaccine. There will be media outreach. Your providers will be informed. There will be visibility as to who is eligible to get the vaccine when.

  • Continue to practice the pillars of infection prevention and control that have been crucially important since the pandemic began. Wash your hands. Keep your distance from others. Avoid gathering in groups. Stay home when you’re sick. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Wear a mask when in public places and anytime distancing isn’t possible – including after you’re vaccinated. These behaviors will continue to protect you and those around you.

  • This will vary depending on which vaccine you receive. Most likely, you will receive the second dose 21-28 days after the first.

  • Nearly all COVID-19 vaccines being studied in the United States require 2 shots. The first shot starts building protection, but the second one is also required to get the most protection the vaccine can offer. We will be scheduling appointments for the second dose of vaccine as we give people their first dose.

    We are seeing separate supply chains being formed to ensure that as people receive their first dose of vaccine, their second dose has been reserved for them.

  • We would strongly encourage you to plan to receive both doses at the same location. While it might be possible to receive them at different locations, it will be much easier to manage the logistics of a 2-dose vaccination if received from the same provider who has planned this allocation for you.

  • No. Your first and second doses of vaccine should be from the same manufacturer. When you receive your first dose, you’ll be given a card with the vaccine details you can take with you when you receive your second dose.

  • No. You will not be contagious and do not need to quarantine. The vaccine does not contain a live virus. It is designed to trigger an immune response in your body without making you sick.

  • You will be eligible to receive the vaccine. You will not need to take an antibody test.

  • No. This is not necessary.

  • The CDC recommends getting the COVID-19 vaccine even if you’ve previously had the disease. At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Once you are out of isolation/quarantine and are without symptoms, you can receive the vaccine.

  • We would encourage you to contact your study coordinator for guidance.

  • No. You should not be vaccinated while you have active infection. Wait until 2-3 months after you have recovered.

  • Yes. The only way we can defeat COVID-19 is if we’re all getting vaccinated. That’s how we achieve the herd immunity concept. The majority of a population needs to be vaccinated so we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and return to some normalcy. And remember, even if you become infected with COVID-19 without developing symptoms, you can still pass the virus to others who may become seriously ill. Your vaccination protects not only you, but also everyone around you.

  • The federal government has partnered with CVS and Walgreens to plan vaccination clinic dates for each long-term care facility in the country. Facilities had the option to choose the pharmacy they currently work with, and some did make that choice. But for most, as CVS and Walgreens get their vaccine supplies, they’ll work with the facilities to come out and vaccinate residents.

  • We are seeing very few side effects, and those that have occurred are very mild. We’ve seen a little bit of flushing. We’ve seen a couple of people experience a metallic taste in the mouth. We’ve seen one semi-allergic reaction, but nothing significant. Some people have reported mild symptoms consistent with receiving any vaccine – such as mild pain or irritation at the injection site.

  • If you get the chance to get the vaccine, get it. Don’t wait. Family members should each get the vaccine as soon as each is eligible to do so.

After receiving the vaccine

  • Since 2 shots will be required, it will be 6-7 weeks after the first shot until the vaccine is offering full protection.

  • Yes. We must continue to observe the pillars of infection prevention and control. We must continue to protect each other. It will be a number of months before masks are no longer needed. Continuing to observe the pillars of infection prevention and control remains vitally important.

  • The current thinking is that the COVID-19 vaccine will be an annual shot or shots.

  • We have no data indicating boosters will be necessary this quickly. While still not known for certain, an annual booster is more likely.

  • No. You should still take care. While the vaccine will prevent you from becoming sick or especially severely sick, we don’t know if it will prevent you from becoming infected. It is possible you could carry and transmit the virus without becoming sick yourself. We would advise you to continue practicing the pillars of infection prevention.

Special considerations

  • Yes. You should be fever-free for 24 hours before receiving the vaccine, but you can receive it while also taking antibiotics.

  • Yes. The vaccine does not contain a live virus and is safe to take.

  • You can safely take the vaccine.

  • Yes, you can safely take the vaccine.

  • Yes. You can get the vaccine.

  • Yes. We would recommend you get the vaccine. There is no medical reason or safety concern against vaccination. What we would pay attention to is whether your body will mount the desired immune response. It is possible the vaccine wouldn’t work because of your suppressed immune system. We would encourage you to talk with your doctor.

  • Our immunology expert is recommending that her mast cell patients receive the vaccine. She recommends her patients remain for monitoring for 30 minutes following each shot and that they keep their EpiPens with them for optimal caution. You may also take Benedryl before receiving the vaccine. You should talk with your doctor.

  • We expect the COVID-19 vaccine to offer safe protection to those who have received kidney transplants. We encourage you to talk with your doctor.

  • Although the vaccine has not been specifically studied in these populations, there is no safety data to suggest any concerns. These vaccines do not contain any virus. It is possible if someone has a weakened immune system that they will get less of a response to the vaccine and have less protection.

  • Yes. That is a good indication to get the vaccine. We would recommend it, as long as you are at least 2-3 months beyond your initial COVID-19 diagnosis.

  • No. There is no data to support this currently. The vaccine has not yet been studied extensively in these specialized populations. We do know that patients who have cancers that affect the T cells or B cells, for example, have weakened immune systems, so we don’t know if the vaccine will trigger the desired immunity. We would encourage patients with cancer to talk with their care teams about the vaccine.

  • Yes, we believe it is safe for you to receive the vaccine. What we don’t know is whether your body will mount the immune response we’re looking for, if your immune system is weakened. You should talk with your oncologists.

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has reported that pregnancy, lactation or the desire to become pregnant are not in themselves reasons to decide against taking the vaccine. It is highly recommended that women who fall into these categories strongly consider getting the vaccine, as long as they meet other eligibility criteria. They are encouraged to talk with their doctors about any concerns.

    The V-safe smartphone-based tool is used for reporting any side effects from the COVID-19 vaccination. As the 20 million frontline healthcare workers in the first phase to receive the vaccine – and invited to register for V-safe – includes 10s of thousands of pregnant women, there will soon be more data available to assess for any concerns about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy. In the first week of vaccine availability, more than 500 pregnant women signed up for V-safe. Additional data is coming quickly.

  • You may begin trying to conceive a baby as soon as you want to.

  • We do not know of any such side effects.

  • No. It does not.

  • Absolutely not. The mRNA that forms the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of a cell. It remains in the cytoplasm, makes a protein and then gets broken down. There is no possible way it can be incorporated into your DNA or alter your DNA in any way.

  • We believe the answer to this question is no. The FDA has reported that a select few people who developed Bell’s palsy, a facial paralysis that is typically temporary, while participating in vaccine trials represents a number consistent with the development of this condition in any general population. The individuals also developed the condition at different points in the trials’ timelines. There is no clear causal relationship between the vaccine and the condition.

    In addition, a photo circulating with related headlines has been proven to have been taken in 2019, indicating information that is both misleading and inaccurate.

  • No. We are not aware of any concerns.

  • While it’s quite usual to give multiple vaccines at the same time, we do not currently have data specific to the shingles and COVID-19 vaccines. These will likely be shown to be safe and effective to receive at the same time. But until evidence is available, the guidance is to separate the COVID-19 vaccine from any other vaccine by 14 days. Currently, both the COVID-19 and shingles vaccinations are 2-dose vaccinations. We suggest you separate the first dose of each by 14 days. You can receive the second doses of each as recommended.

  • We expect that it will. Most people who develop these chronic, long haul symptoms have those symptoms during the disease. Asymptomatic people can develop changes, such as in their lungs, as well. And as the vaccine provides protection from severe disease, we would expect the probability of developing chronic conditions is much reduced with the vaccine.

  • We would always encourage you to talk with your provider, but, generally speaking, yes, we would recommend you get the vaccine and have seen no evidence to suggest any general contraindication against it. ITP is an immunologic disorder, and, thus, people who have it are just the type we want to protect from COVID-19 through vaccination – anyone who has underlying disease that would increase risk for a poor outcome from COVID-19.

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