Health

COVID-19 vaccine FAQ: Answers to your most common questions

More than a year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are anxious, depressed and pissed off — but in addition hopeful, as vaccines are getting to thousands and thousands of individuals throughout the nation, and research present that they work in opposition to the lethal illness.

But because the vaccine has rolled out, so have the questions: Who ought to get it? What’s protected to do when you’re vaccinated? What about breakthrough instances? 

Here are the solutions to your most often requested questions concerning the vaccine, together with its effectiveness, its dangers, and what to anticipate when it comes to unwanted effects.



How can I get the COVID vaccine?

Vaccine distribution acquired off to a patchy and complicated begin, with some states rolling out quicker than others to completely different precedence teams, however vaccines at the moment are broadly obtainable throughout the U.S. and eligibility has expanded to embody everybody age 12 and up. The tempo of vaccinations reached a peak of over 3 million photographs per day in April earlier than beginning to decline. 

More than 62% of eligible folks within the U.S. (ages 12 and up) had been totally vaccinated as of early September, the CDC reports, and over 73% have gotten at the least one dose.

Doses can be found — for gratis — at hundreds of vaccination websites and pharmacies throughout the nation. 

To discover a location close to you, go to the web site vaccines.gov, textual content your ZIP code to 438829, or name 1-800-232-0233 (the CDC says the call center operates in 150+ languages).

When can kids get the vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine obtained authorization in May for adolescents age 12 to 15 after scientific trial outcomes confirmed it’s protected and efficient in that age group. That has allowed many college students to get vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19 earlier than the beginning of the college year. 

But youthful youngsters can have to wait some time longer. Vaccine makers have begun together with youthful kids in scientific trials, with outcomes anticipated within the coming months. Many consultants anticipate vaccines to be obtainable for youthful age teams by early this winter.


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The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are at the moment approved just for ages 18 and up.

What are the variations between the COVID vaccines?

In December 2020, the FDA approved emergency use of the primary two coronavirus vaccines within the U.S., one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, and the opposite by Moderna. Both require two doses. A 3rd vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson‘s Janssen Biotech division, acquired FDA authorization in late February and solely requires one shot.

All three proved extremely efficient at stopping extreme sickness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. 

On August 23, Pfizer’s vaccine turned the primary to be granted full FDA approval. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are each made utilizing messenger RNA, or mRNA, expertise.

Traditionally, vaccines have been created from a weakened or inactivated germ that trains the immune system to combat off an infection if it encounters the virus sooner or later. But mRNA vaccines do one thing completely different: They train human physique cells how to make a innocent piece of a protein — a “spike protein” — that is additionally discovered on the floor of the coronavirus. After that protein piece emerges on the floor of a cell, the human immune system acknowledges it and begins making antibodies for it — which provide safety if the particular person is uncovered to the precise virus sooner or later.

One distinction between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is the wait time between the 2 required doses: Pfizer’s are given 21 days aside, whereas the Moderna photographs are given 28 days aside. 

Johnson & Johnson took a different approach, creating what’s known as a viral vector vaccine — a kind that has been used for years in opposition to different illnesses. It makes use of an altered, innocent, non-replicating model of a common chilly virus, known as adenovirus sort 26, to introduce genetic directions for the “spike protein.” The immune system responds by making antibodies which can shield the particular person in the event that they’re contaminated by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, sooner or later.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine has the benefit of being saved in common fridges, whereas the 2 others should be saved and transported at below-freezing temperatures. 

What are the recognized unwanted effects of the COVID vaccines? 

In normal, unwanted effects aren’t unusual with vaccines, and the COVID-19 shot isn’t any exception. Your physique’s immune response might embody the identical sorts of unwanted effects usually seen with different vaccines, together with a sore arm, fatigue, fever, chills or complications.

“This is expected,” Dr. Neeta Ogden, an inside drugs specialist and immunologist, mentioned in an interview on CBSN.

“People should maybe think about vaccinating on weekends, for example,” she mentioned. “You probably might need to take a day off from work. … This is predictable and I don’t think that it is alarming.”

Not everybody experiences unwanted effects, however medical doctors stress that their prevalence is regular and shouldn’t discourage folks from getting the photographs. 

Can the unwanted effects be minimized?

The CDC gives some advice on methods to fight vaccine unwanted effects: After vaccination, use or flippantly train the arm that acquired the shot. Take Tylenol or Motrin for any ache you will have, however solely after you have gotten the shot, not earlier than. The CDC additionally recommends ingesting loads of liquids after you get both the primary or second dose. If redness or tenderness will increase on the vaccination website within the days following the shot, the CDC recommends that you simply name your physician.

Do the COVID vaccines shield in opposition to new variants? 

Health officers say the vaccines nonetheless provide robust safety in opposition to extreme sickness from the present variants. Recent knowledge present hospitalization charges amongst unvaccinated adults had been 17 occasions increased than among the many totally vaccinated, the AP reported.

There are at the moment 4 “variants of concern“: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. Delta, which turned up within the U.S. within the spring, is extra contagious and now makes up the overwhelming majority of U.S. instances — about 99% of latest infections are Delta.  

Experts are additionally maintaining a tally of the Mu variant, which emerged in Colombia in January, and which has mutations suggesting it could have the option to bypass present coronavirus antibodies. 

“But there isn’t a lot of clinical data to suggest that. It is mostly laboratory in vitro data,” Dr. Fauci mentioned. “…We don’t consider it an immediate threat right now.” 

Who should not get a COVID vaccine?

The CDC says folks allergic to the ingredient polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate, which has similarities, shouldn’t get an mRNA COVID vaccine, and anybody who has a right away allergic response to the primary dose shouldn’t get the second.

A handful of individuals suffered hostile reactions, together with anaphylaxis, after getting the vaccine, however all recovered.

People with a historical past of allergic response to a vaccine or injectable remedy for an additional illness ought to discuss to their medical doctors, the CDC advises. It says folks with meals allergic reactions do not want to keep away from the vaccine.

Should you get a COVID vaccine throughout being pregnant?

The CDC up to date its guidance in August to advocate that people who find themselves pregnant or planning to grow to be pregnant ought to get vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, citing a rising quantity of information verifying the security of the vaccines throughout being pregnant.

“I would say if you’re pregnant, not only is it a good idea to get the vaccine on the basis of safety, but it’s highly effective and important because you are at increased risk of bad outcomes if you get COVID,” mentioned Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. 


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Although pregnant folks had been not included within the preliminary scientific trials, tens of hundreds of pregnant girls have now gotten the photographs safely. Additional analysis has discovered no issues of safety and no elevated danger of miscarriage.

Many medical doctors say the photographs are particularly necessary due to the recognized danger of extreme sickness from COVID-19 throughout being pregnant.

“I recommend highly that all pregnant women be immunized, from initial discovery of the pregnancy right up to term,” Dr. Bob Lahita, professor of medication New York Medical College and chairman of medication St. Joseph University Hospital, mentioned on CBSN. He mentioned there may be “no evidence” that the vaccine “has any effect on the placenta, on the fetus, on the mother. Except if one gets the infection, the COVID, and you are pregnant, you run the risk of becoming very, very sick.”

How lengthy will COVID vaccine safety final? 

Researchers and well being consultants say they do not but know for positive. On its official internet FAQ, the CDC says, “We won’t know how long immunity lasts after vaccination until we have more data on how well COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions.”

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel supplied a tough window: “We believe there will be protection potentially for a couple of years.”

But amid the unfold of the extra transmissible Delta variant and proof that vaccine efficacy is waning considerably, U.S. well being officers started creating plans to provide booster photographs to improve safety.

What’s a booster shot and when can I get one?

A “booster” refers to an additional dose for these whose immune programs responded properly to the preliminary vaccines however would possibly face waning efficacy as time goes on.

Pharmacies started providing third doses to totally vaccinated, immunocompromised sufferers in August 2021. Roughly 10 million folks within the U.S. might qualify for such extra photographs, with roughly 3% of Americans estimated to be immunocompromised.

Pharmacy chains anticipate the FDA to authorize boosters for the overall over-12 inhabitants as quickly as September 2021. 

Can you continue to unfold COVID after getting the vaccine?

People who obtain a vaccine dramatically decrease their probability of getting sick from the virus, although in a comparatively small variety of instances, folks might catch what’s often known as a breakthrough an infection regardless of being vaccinated. Vaccinated individuals who contract the virus might have a excessive viral load for a time period, even when they do not develop signs. But most analysis signifies the vaccines assist scale back its unfold.

What are my dangers of a breakthrough an infection?

Large-scale knowledge continues to be trickling in, however a London research launched in early September 2021 was encouraging.

The knowledge, gathered from December 8, 2020, by way of July 4, 2021, present that, of greater than 1.2 million adults who acquired a primary dose, fewer than 0.5% reported a breakthrough an infection two weeks or extra after getting the vaccination. Among individuals who acquired each photographs, fewer than 0.2% acquired such an an infection throughout the identical interval. 

Even higher: The odds of a completely vaccinated one who does catch COVID-19 needing a hospital keep shrank by greater than two-thirds, in contrast with an unvaccinated coronavirus affected person. The survey additionally discovered that the danger of sufferers affected by lengthy COVID, with signs lasting greater than a month, had been lower in half by full vaccination.

Do I nonetheless want to put on a masks after receiving a COVID vaccine? 

Once you have gotten vaccinated it takes about two weeks for the physique to develop immunity, so you will want to proceed taking precautions like social distancing and carrying masks to scale back your danger of an infection throughout that point.

After that, the CDC says it’s protected for totally vaccinated folks shed their masks in some conditions, though it urged the continued use of masks indoors in areas of upper transmission because the extra contagious Delta variant unfold. Masks are nonetheless required for everybody in sure venues like airways, public transit and well being care amenities.

Many states have since dropped their masks mandates, though masks are nonetheless advisable for people who find themselves not vaccinated.

What can I safely do after I’m totally vaccinated?

Once persons are totally vaccinated — which means two weeks have handed after their last dose — the CDC is assuring Americans that they will can resume most actions and collect with different vaccinated folks, indoors or outside.

Vaccinated folks not want to self-quarantine after journey. The CDC has a extra detailed record of do’s and don’ts here

Can employers drive you to get vaccinated?

Many massive corporations already do, and President Biden is following swimsuit.

On September 9, 2021, Mr. Biden introduced new COVID-19 vaccine necessities, which can have an effect on roughly 100 million Americans. The new measures embody a vaccine mandate for all federal staff and contractors, and a requirement that corporations with over 100 staff mandate vaccines or common testing. 

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is creating a rule requiring these employers to make certain their workforce is totally vaccinated or require unvaccinated staff to get a adverse check at the least as soon as every week.


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“Generally speaking, employers are free to require safety measures like vaccination with exceptions for certain employees,” mentioned Aaron Goldstein, a labor and employment accomplice on the worldwide regulation agency Dorsey & Whitney. “So the answer is likely to be yes, with an asterisk.” Many hospitals, for instance,  have lengthy required workers to get vaccines, with exemptions allowed for medical or spiritual causes.

American staff largely again employers making that decision. More than half of these in a single current ballot say they favor requiring vaccination for his or her workplaces.

Do I want to get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID?

Even after you have gotten sick from COVID-19 and recovered, you can nonetheless get it once more. So-called pure immunity varies from particular person to particular person. The vaccines, however, present a reliably excessive stage of safety.

That mentioned: If you had been handled with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma throughout your sickness, you must wait 90 days earlier than getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC additionally recommends you must discuss to your physician earlier than continuing.

What are the components in COVID vaccines?

The FDA has posted detailed data on its web site, together with a full record of components for the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Why are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines two doses?

For these vaccines to attain most effectiveness, two doses are wanted. The first injection begins constructing safety within the immune system. A second shot will increase the quantity of that safety to greater than 90% in opposition to the virus.

In reporting on this concern, CBS MoneyWatch senior reporter Stephen Gandel uncovered issues that getting solely one of many two photographs would possibly really make the pandemic worse over time.

“The concern is that if people get one shot, and not two shots, and those people get exposed to the coronavirus, the virus won’t get killed off [from] them… and the virus will figure out a way to adapt itself, and then it could spread again. Then we could have a vaccine-resistant strain of the coronavirus out there,” he defined.

Why was there a brief “pause” on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?  

On April 13, U.S. well being officers recommended a non permanent “pause” in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after a number of cases of uncommon blood clots had been reported. Health officers recognized 16 instances, largely amongst girls underneath the age of fifty, three of whom died, out of greater than 6.8 million individuals who had obtained doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The pause was lifted 10 days later after a CDC panel of medical consultants decided that the advantages of the vaccine outweigh the dangers. A warning was added about an elevated danger of uncommon however severe blood clots for girls underneath 50.

The CDC and FDA mentioned the blood clots, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, had been seen alongside low ranges of blood platelets — an uncommon mixture that requires specialised remedy. The companies mentioned the “adverse events” appear to be extraordinarily uncommon, however that the pause was necessary in order that well being care suppliers might be made conscious of how to acknowledge and handle such instances.

“One of the things you can take away from all of this is that when the surveillance system, the CDC and the FDA, say that something is safe, you can be sure that it’s safe,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s prime infectious illnesses professional, mentioned.

How many individuals want to be vaccinated earlier than we attain herd immunity?

Experts have not reached a consensus on precisely what it would take for the world to obtain herd immunity — a stage of widespread safety that leaves the virus few remaining targets, so outbreaks can not flourish. 

A big majority of the inhabitants will want to be vaccinated earlier than it will possibly occur.


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