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COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

November 03, 2022

Updated February 20, 2023

To help you sort fact from fiction on all things COVID-19, we provide answers to common questions here.

About the vaccine

  • Bivalent vaccines and boosters, which protected against multiple strains, are no longer approved as of September 2023. For recommended vaccination schedules for all age groups, visit the CDC website.

  • A booster dose (Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech) is given after the primary series to enhance protection against the virus. A 3rd primary dose (Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech) is administered to moderately to severely immunocompromised people a minimum of 28 days after their 2nd dose. This 3rd primary dose improves immunocompromised people’s response to the vaccine. Moderately to severely immunocompromised patients are also eligible for a bivalent booster after the 3rd dose of their primary series.

    Children ages 6 months-4 years also receive a 3rd dose as part of their primary 3-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine series. This 3rd dose may be bivalent.

    For more information on the COVID-19 booster, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Current data show that vaccines strongly protect adults and children from severe illness and death from all current and past COVID-19 strains. The best protection is provided when you are up to date with recommended vaccines and boosters.

  • The health system follows CDC guidance. Refer to this CDC vaccination schedule illustration to better understand the recommendations best for you. If you have questions, reach out to your healthcare provider.

  • The CDC recommends primary vaccination for everyone ages 6 months and older. Boosters are recommended for those 5 years and older and for many children ages 6 months-4 years, depending on the primary series they received.

    Visit the CDC website for specific guidelines.

  • Yes, booster shots are recommended for those who are 18 and older and received their initial vaccine at least 2 months ago.

  • Mixed dosing occurs when a person receives a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose from a different manufacturer than their primary series. The CDC’s recommendations frequently allow for mixed dosing with booster shots. There are exceptions where mixed dosing is not advised, including for children 6 months-4 years and for people receiving a 2nd booster dose.

    Visit the CDC website for specific guidelines.

  • No. It was not rushed. Vaccine development is led by the world’s best scientists. One reason that rapid, safe vaccine development was possible is because the mRNA approach to creating a vaccine, which has been in place for more than a decade, is highly precise. Using this previously established technology, scientists could quickly develop safe vaccines.

    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. In addition, the COVID-19 vaccines have been safely provided to billions of people across the globe.

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

  • No. The FDA has not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. Ivermectin is often used in the US to treat or prevent parasites in animals. Ivermectin is not an antiviral (a drug for treating viruses). It could be poisonous to people. The effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 continue to be vaccination, wear your mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you, wash your hands frequently and avoid crowds.

  • A messenger RNA vaccine, or an mRNA vaccine, 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.

  • COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective. Being up to date on vaccinations and boosters helps protect against severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. Visit the CDC website for more information on how the CDC tracks COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness.

  • 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. If you have had COVID-19, studies indicate that being vaccinated after you no longer have symptoms will boost your immunity.

  • Children ages 6 months and up are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

  • Children ages 12-15 years receive the same dosage as adults. Children 6 months-11 years receive a smaller dose.

  • Yes, boosters are available for children 6 months and older. Talk with your doctor or visit the CDC website for specific booster recommendations based on your child’s age and the primary series they received.

  • Unlike vaccines, which are designed to prevent COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy is an IV infusion to help fight existing COVID-19 in patients who meet eligibility criteria for this care. Importantly, lab studies have shown that monoclonal antibody therapy is not effective with all strains of COVID-19. We will continue to monitor updates for this therapy.

  • No. It is not true.

  • Because no vaccine is 100% effective, some people who are vaccinated will still get sick with COVID-19. However, being up to date on vaccinations and boosters reduces the risk of infection. And if you do get sick, vaccination strongly protects against severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.

    The vaccine itself cannot cause COVID-19 infection.

    Practicing the pillars of infection prevention – wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping your distance, avoiding large, indoor gatherings – remains critically important.

  • If you are fully vaccinated and boosted, your body’s response against COVID-19 is stronger. Your immune system is better equipped to stop the virus and, if you do get sick, chances are your symptoms will be mild. By strengthening your body’s defense system, you can help prevent severe illness and death from the virus.

  • It is natural to hesitate because you have questions. That’s much different than rejecting the science. If you follow the science, you’ll be making your decisions based on repeatable, generalizable information. This is not guesswork. It is certainly legitimate to have questions and feel unsure. We urge you to make decisions based on information from qualified medical experts. Remember, physicians and others in the medical field take an oath to first do no harm. We have a deep understanding of viruses and immunology and the value of vaccines. Like everything in life, there is risk and benefit associated with the vaccine. It is our experience that the risk is much lower and the benefit much higher for those who get the vaccine – and the opposite is true for those who are not vaccinated and get COVID-19.

    If you are still hesitant, talk to your doctor about your concerns.

  • Science, especially regarding a new virus, is updated as learning occurs. Once scientists can prove and replicate their findings, they often publish the data, which goes through a rigorous review by their peers. Observational data and measured data continue to take place, and new findings are tested and published. Scientific findings evolve as is the case with other academic pursuits.

  • Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus (such as an adenovirus, which causes cold-like symptoms) to deliver disease-fighting instructions to our cells. With COVID-19 viral vector vaccines, the transporter (in this case the adenovirus) enters a cell in our body and then uses the cell’s internal workings to produce the spike protein, a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. The cell displays the spike protein on its surface, and our immune system recognizes that it doesn’t belong there. This triggers our immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating other immune cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. Viral vector vaccines have been previously developed against a number of infectious diseases including Zika virus, influenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, HIV and malaria. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot is a viral vector vaccine.

Getting the vaccine

  • Yes. The CDC strongly urges pregnant people to vaccinate due to an increased risk of severe illness compared to nonpregnant people.

  • 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. You should continue these behaviors even after you're vaccinated. They will continue to protect you and those around you.

  • 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 with COVID-19.

  • 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. You can receive the vaccine after you are symptom-free and out of isolation/quarantine or 90 days after you recover.

  • Yes. Herd immunity can be achieved when most of the population receives COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

    Additionally, getting vaccinated helps protect you, your family and your community. Even if you become infected with COVID-19 without developing symptoms, you can still transmit the virus to others who may become seriously ill. Getting vaccinated protects not only you, but also everyone around you.

  • There is no proven benefit to taking Tylenol® or ibuprofen as a preventive measure. Side effects of vaccination, if any, are mild in most people. We see no reason to generally recommend a pain reliever be taken before vaccination. We recommend you receive your vaccination and take Tylenol or ibuprofen only if necessary after the fact.

After receiving the vaccine

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

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when and where to wear a mask depends on your COVID-19 Community Level. As masks offer protection against all variants, the CDC recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission. Learn more about COVID-19 Community Levels.

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

  • Yes. After being fully vaccinated and boosted, you can feel comfortable sharing time indoors with other fully vaccinated and boosted people.

    But limit these indoor interactions to the same set of people who are in your bubble. If you are unaware of someone’s vaccination status, wear a mask.

    While being fully vaccinated and boosted helps protect against severe disease and death, it does not prevent you from becoming infected. It is possible you could carry and transmit the virus without becoming sick yourself. We advise you to continue practicing the pillars of infection prevention.

  • No. The effects of any pain relievers will wear off long before the body’s immune response is complete. We would cite Tylenol as the preferred pain reliever, as it does not have anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Possibly, but it’s much safer to have your get-together outdoors. While being fully vaccinated and boosted reduces your own likelihood of becoming severely ill, you may still be able to carry the virus and transmit it to others who have not been vaccinated, including children.

  • Yes. This is not an unusual side effect and should resolve quickly. We recommend you receive the second dose to achieve full protection. You may want to get the second shot in your other arm.

  • Yes. Through MyChart, the health system’s patient portal, you can share your COVID-19 vaccination or lab result information quickly and securely, when you:

    • Use the MyChart app or website to create a scannable QR code(s).
    • Download a PDF document that includes your QR code(s).
    • Export your information to another application, such as a health wallet app.

    Received your COVID-19 vaccine(s) elsewhere? Complete your own query to add your information directly to the COVID-19 activity in MyChart.

    Note: You cannot scan your own QR code. It is only readable when someone else scans it for your COVID-19 information.

    Learn more about how to share your COVID-19 vaccination or test information.

Special considerations

  • Your doctors know you best. We encourage you to contact your primary care physician or specialist and ask for their recommendations based on your specific condition and needs.

  • 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. If you have concerns, speak to your healthcare provider.

  • You can safely take the vaccine.

  • Yes, you can safely take the vaccine.

  • Yes. You can get the vaccine.

  • Yes. We 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 as well because of your suppressed immune system. We encourage you to talk with your doctor.

  • Our immunology expert recommends 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 Benadryl® before receiving the vaccine. You should talk with your doctor.

  • Yes. 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.

  • Yes. That is a good indication to get the vaccine. We recommend it, as long as you are at least 2-3 months beyond your initial COVID-19 diagnosis. Some patients have reported an improvement in their symptoms after vaccination.

  • 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 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.

  • Yes. The CDC recommends that pregnant people get a COVID-19 vaccine after research showed that the inoculation doesn’t pose additional risks for mothers or babies. The guidance is based on a study published April 28, 2021, in The New England Journal of Medicine, which indicated that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines don’t pose heightened risks during pregnancy. Pregnant people who develop COVID-19 are at high risk for serious medical problems – far outweighing the risk of vaccination.

    In the peer-reviewed paper, the CDC’s COVID-19 Pregnancy Registry Team looked at self-reported data from nearly 36,000 people who were either pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant. They reported side effects after getting a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, which appeared to be typical, such as pain at the injection site, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches. The data “did not show obvious safety signals among pregnant persons” or additional risks, the researchers wrote.

  • Yes. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has reported that lactation or the desire to become pregnant are not in themselves reasons to decide against taking the vaccine. The CDC also encourages all pregnant people, those who are thinking about becoming pregnant and breastfeeding women to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19. The vaccines are safe and effective for this population and have never been more important for protecting against disease that can cause severe illness or death.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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, 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 recommend you get the vaccine. We have seen no evidence to suggest any general contraindication against it. ITP is an immunologic disorder, and people who have it are the type of individuals we want to protect from COVID-19 through vaccination. This applies to anyone who has underlying disease that would increase their risk for a poor outcome from COVID-19.

  • There are several points to make on this topic. First, there is currently no data indicating there is enhanced risk in receiving an mRNA vaccine among those who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome. Second, by way of comparison to known vaccinations in this population, we do know that having Guillain-Barré syndrome is not in itself a contraindication to receiving an influenza vaccine unless contracting the syndrome occurred within 6 weeks of having received an influenza vaccine previously. And third, as Guillain-Barré is often caused by viral infections, it is likely that getting the vaccine carries lower risk to a person who has had this syndrome than contracting a virus would carry. Please talk with your doctor.

  • Yes. We would like you to get the vaccine to reduce your risk for severe illness, as we know patients with blood cancers have a higher risk for worse outcomes if they do become sick with COVID-19. We urge to you proactively talk with your provider about their recommendation for you.

  • Yes. The only absolute reason for you to not get the COVID-19 vaccine is if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine or a vaccine component. If you have experienced anaphylaxis to penicillin, which is rare, you should get the COVID-19 vaccine. The observation time we offer following your vaccination may be extended, which we recommend for anyone who has a history of anaphylaxis.

  • No. We want you to be as healthy as possible before you receive your vaccine and that means making sure your allergy symptoms are well controlled. If you currently take an antihistamine for allergy symptoms, continue taking it. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec will not interfere with your immune response to the vaccine. Antihistamines are not known to interfere with the immune response generated from the COVID-19 vaccine.

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