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COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

Infectious Disease Specialists Dr. Nicholas Conger and Dr. Jesse Penico break down the most common questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccines

How Do These Vaccines Work?

Vaccines work by inducing your immune system into making an antibody against the virus. They have different targets, but all appear to be quite effective. All of them are reporting that they are preliminary studies show greater than 90% efficacy which is excellent for a vaccine.

This is a huge breakthrough and occurred in record time. All of the people that worked on these vaccines and the people that funded them and supported them should be very proud of this achievement. Those vaccines take many years to develop. There are some infections that we are not able to make vaccines for despite years of research. For an infection like this that can infect almost the entire population, an effective vaccine is a game changer.

Who Really Should Get Vaccinated?

In the United States, everyone age 12 and over is currently eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination. CDC recommends that everyone in this group get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they can.

Do You Think This Vaccine is Safe?

All three vaccines appear quite safe based on the preliminary data that is available to review.

It looks like the vaccines that require two doses may cause pain, redness, and inflammation at the injection site, like vaccines can do.

You need 2 doses of the currently available COVID-19 vaccine. If you have chosen the Pfizer vaccine, a second shot 3 weeks after your first shot is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer against this serious disease. For Moderna, a second shot is required 4 weeks after the first dose.

In addition, you might feel slightly ill the day you receive it, but that usually just means that it is stimulating your immune system the way it is intended to. 90 to 95% efficacy is excellent for a vaccine. Compare that to the flu vaccine which averages between 49 and 50% effective annually.

We have said that it will take herd immunity or mass vaccination to end this pandemic. A vaccine with efficacy greater than 90% could rapidly lead to herd immunity. Additionally, in some of the vaccine trials, the few patients that caught coronavirus despite vaccination had shorter, less aggressive infection courses.

How Does the Vaccine Coverage Work? Will People Need to Get the Vaccination More than Once?

There are multiple strains and the vaccines protect against all that we are aware of. They are unlikely to protect against other varieties of viruses. The levels fall after several months, but whether the immune system will need help of memory remains to be seen.

It is yet to be determined if we will need repeat doses or annual boosters of this vaccine. It will depend on exactly how efficacious it is and what it does to the rate of ongoing spread in the community.

What Will the Overall Effect of This Be? Will Things Return to Normal, or Will Masks, Social Distancing, Etc. Be Necessary for a While?

Experts hope that the vaccines widespread inoculation will provide enough immunity to provide herd immunity and finally stop the pandemic. We are all hoping that this could lead to a reduction in infection.

Can I Get the Vaccine if I’m Pregnant or Trying to Get Pregnant?

Yes, if you are pregnant or trying, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and you are encouraged to do so according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

You should have a conversation with your healthcare provider to help you decide whether to get vaccinated. While such a conversation might be helpful, it is not required before vaccination.

Are There Any Long-Term Side Effects

It is extremely unlikely you will suffer serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Long-term side effects following any vaccination are extremely rare. In the past vaccine monitoring has shown that if side effects are going to happen, they tend to happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose.

For this reason, the FDA required each of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to be studied for at least eight weeks after the final dose. Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been found.

The CDC continues to closely monitor COVID-19 vaccines for any safety issues, including problems with manufacturing, a specific lot, or the vaccine itself. If public health experts find any potential safety concerns, FDA and the vaccine manufacturer will work towards a solution.

You should have a conversation with your healthcare provider to help you decide whether to get vaccinated. While such a conversation might be helpful, it is not required before vaccination.