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Answering your COVID-19 vaccine questions

Answering your COVID-19 vaccine questions
With thousands of the nation's frontline healthcare workers and first responders beginning to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, many are starting to make their plans for vaccination against the virus. 

Carle strongly encourages everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available. We must continue to fight continued spread of this virus, and we believe wide application of the vaccine is the beginning of the end of this pandemic.

Carle Health is answering your frequently asked questions regarding the approved COVID-19 vaccines.GettyImages-1276396315.jpg

What vaccines will be available?
Pfizer and Moderna have both been approved for Emergency Use Authorization under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Multiple other manufacturers are in the final stages of evaluation.
How do they work?
Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines use new mRNA technology, which does not use the live virus that causes COVID-19. While many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies, mRNA teaches our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
How effective is each vaccine in preventing me from getting sick?
Both vaccines are clinically proven to be an effective way to protect yourself from becoming ill from COVID-19. Read below for more information on the effectiveness of each approved vaccine.
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
The FDA has given emergency use authorization to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Data has shown that the vaccine starts working soon after the first dose and has an efficacy rate of 95% seven days after the second dose. This means that about 95% of people who get the vaccine are protected from becoming seriously ill with the virus. This vaccine is for people age 16 and older. It requires two injections given 21 days apart.
Moderna vaccine
The FDA has given emergency use authorization to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Data has shown that the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 94.1%. This vaccine is for people age 18 and older. This vaccine requires two injections given 28 days apart.
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA). Coronaviruses have a spike-like structure on their surface called an S protein. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give cells instructions for how to make a harmless piece of an S protein. After vaccination, cells begin making the protein pieces and displaying them on cell surfaces. Your immune system will recognize that the protein doesn't belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies.
What kind of testing did researchers do to make sure the vaccine is safe?
It begins in a lab with scientific observations and evaluation of what vaccine will work well. If approved for human clinical trials, phase one means a small group of adult volunteers receive the vaccine trial, phase two is for a group of volunteers who receive the new vaccine and phase three is to determine safety and efficacy in a larger number of volunteers. It takes months for each phase. These phases happened simultaneously and under emergency utilization authorization, the approval, not the study, was expedited.
The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) establish committees to review the scientific data and make recommendations on a vaccine candidate’s safety, efficacy and distribution. The FDA holds the studies for COVID-19 to the same standard as every other vaccine.
What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and lead to death in some people. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. If you get COVID-19, you could spread the disease to family, friends and others around you.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you by creating an antibody response in your body without your having to become sick with COVID-19.

A COVID-19 vaccine might prevent you from getting COVID-19. Or, if you get COVID-19, the vaccine might keep you from becoming seriously ill or from developing serious complications.

Getting vaccinated also might help protect people around you from COVID-19, particularly people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Should people be worried that drug companies produced these COVID-19 vaccines so rapidly?
No. Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) issued by the government allows the process to move faster and COVID-19 assessments began with larger control groups of 30,000.

Lab testing processes of various vaccines ran simultaneously rather than sequentially with control groups.
Scientists and vaccine manufacturers around the world have a solid understanding of how to rapidly manufacture a vaccine for infectious agents that stimulate a strong immune response. The flu vaccine is a good example of this process.

With the pandemic, there was a strong focus across the world on deploying extra resources in terms of research, manufacturing and clinical testing teams in companies and research labs. There were many eyes on the development of the vaccine.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?Dr-Dionne-Pendleton-Hospitalist.jpg
Like with any vaccine, you may experience some side effects – that’s a sign that the vaccine is working. Plan for a day of rest after each dose if possible. Some trial participants see tenderness, achiness and mild fever. Staff will monitor you for 15 minutes after getting a COVID-19 vaccine to see if you have an immediate reaction. Most reactions happen with the first few days after vaccination and last no more than three days.

Can I take a pain reliever such as Tylenol® or Aleve® before my vaccination?
Medicines such as acetaminophen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be taken after vaccination if medically appropriate and symptoms appear. Taking these medications before vaccination has been shown to reduce effectiveness of other vaccines, and its impact on the effectiveness of COVID vaccine has not yet been determined. We are discouraging prophylactic use but encouraging use once side effects begin to show.  It is OK to start once the side effects like myalgias, fevers, etc begin to appear.

Can a COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID-19?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines currently being developed in the U.S. don't use the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Keep in mind that it will take a few weeks for your body to build immunity after getting a COVID-19 vaccination. It is possible that you could become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 as a result, just before or after being vaccinated.

How many doses will I need to protect myself?
The vaccine is a two-dose series with the second shot 21 to 28 days after the first, depending on the specific vaccine received. It’s important to commit to getting both doses at the correct time.
Does Carle require its healthcare workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19?
We will not require the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary but strongly encouraged.
Can you still spread the virus after getting the vaccine?
Given the currently limited information on how much the vaccine may reduce transmission in the general population and how long protection lasts, vaccinated persons should continue to follow all current guidance to protect themselves and others. This includes wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, following quarantine guidance after an exposure to someone with COVID-19, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or COVID-19 testing.
Should someone who has had COVID-19 and recovered take the vaccine?
Experts are uncertain of how long natural immunity lasts in someone who has had COVID-19. A person who has COVID-19 now should wait to get vaccinated until that individual has recovered and criteria have been met to discontinue isolation. While there is otherwise no recommended minimum interval between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Thus, those with documented COVID-19 infection in the previous 90 days may delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if desired.

Should someone who has received passive antibody therapy (Monoclonal Antibodies) for COVID-19 take the vaccine?
Currently, there is no data on the safety and efficacy of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination in people who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of COVID-19 treatment. Based on the estimated half-life of such therapies as well as evidence suggesting that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after infection, in this instance, vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days, as a precautionary measure until more information becomes available, to avoid interference of the antibody treatment with vaccine-induced immune responses. 

Should you take the vaccine if you are pregnant?
Based on current knowledge, experts believe that mRNA vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant. Observational data demonstrates that while the absolute risk is low, pregnant people with COVID-19 have an increased risk of severe illness. Additionally, they might be at an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth due to COVID-19. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends the vaccine. Patients who are pregnant should talk with their provider with questions.

Should you take the vaccine if you are lactating?
There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating people or the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. A lactating person who is part of a group recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., healthcare personnel) may choose to be vaccinated. As always, if you have questions, talk to your healthcare provider.
Should you get the vaccine if you plan to become pregnant soon?
There is no recommendation for routine pregnancy testing before receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination.

Should you get a vaccine if you have underlying medical conditions?
Both approved COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to persons with underlying medical conditions who have no allergic reactions to the ingredients of the vaccination. Staff will observe patients for 15 minutes following vaccination.

Should you get a vaccine if you have allergies?
The only adverse side effect is a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any component of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Those with a history of anaphylaxis to other vaccines or other injectable medicines should have a risk assessment and potentially defer the vaccine. If it is given, the patient should be observed for 30 minutes.

Should you get the vaccine if you have an immunocompromising condition?
Immunocompromised individuals may still receive COVID-19 vaccination if they have no contraindications to vaccination. However, they should be counseled about the unknown vaccine safety profile and effectiveness in immunocompromised populations, as well as the potential for reduced immune responses and the need to continue to follow all current guidance to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Persons with HIV infection, other immunocompromising conditions, or who take immunosuppressive medications or therapies might be at increased risk for severe COVID-19. Data are not currently available to establish vaccine safety and efficacy in these groups. Persons with stable HIV infection were included in phase 2/3 clinical trials, though data specific to this group are not yet available.

Individuals who are immunocompromised should talk to their doctor with questions. After vaccination, immunocompromised patients will be observed for 30 minutes.

Is there a cost to me? Is it covered by insurance?
The federal government will cover the cost of the vaccine at this time.
When will the vaccine be available to the public/patients?
It’s unclear how soon vaccine will be available to the general public at this time but it could be several weeks. That’s why it’s important that we continue to follow proven prevention practices while we work to build immunity.
If someone who has COVID is exposed to virus again, can they spread or carry the virus to others?
Experts believe that those who have had a COVID-19 infection are most likely immune for the 90 days after their symptoms began or they had a positive test, whichever comes first.

Should I be worried about the new UK variant?
You have probably heard of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 that was discovered in the UK. There are, and will be, many variants of the virus. This is common with almost any virus. Some things to now about the UK variant.
  • It appears to spread more easily
  • It does not cause a more serious case of COVID-19
  • The vaccines we have are effective against this variant.
Does the vaccine affect fertility or miscarriage risk?
No. The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna cause our immune systems to make antibodies to something called a “spike” protein on the coronavirus. The false warnings about fertility are based on the claim that these antibodies could also attack a similar protein in the placenta during pregnancy, called syncytin. In reality, the spike protein and syncytin are similar only in one very small region, and there’s no reason to believe antibodies that can grab onto spike proteins would lock onto syncytin.

The human body generates its own supply of spike antibodies when it fights off the coronavirus, and there’s no sign that these antibodies attack the placenta. If they did, you’d expect that women who got COVID-19 would suffer miscarriages. Many studies show that COVID-19 does not trigger miscarriages. 

Categories: Staying Healthy

Tags: coronavirus, covid-19, vaccine