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Covid-19 Vaccination FAQ
Can the vaccine give you COVID?
No. COVID-19 vaccines will not give you COVID-19. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development and being considered for use in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
There are several different types of vaccines in development. However, the goal for each of them is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
Can I get COVID-19 if I’ve been vaccinated?
For a short period of time, maybe. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it is possible to be infected with the virus just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
Can the vaccine make you test positive?
Maybe. COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests, which determine whether you are actively infected. However, antibody tests determine whether you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.
Does the vaccine help even if you get COVID?
Probably. People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people are recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.
At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have a vaccine and more data on how well it works.
What is an EUA?
During a public health emergency, the FDA can use its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) authority to allow the use of vaccines pending full approval to prevent serious or life-threatening diseases when certain criteria are met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives. A declaration of a public health emergency is required for an EUA.
What is the difference between Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines? Which is better?
If everyone else gets the vaccine, why do I need to get it?
Not everyone is able to get the vaccine. Religious and health exemptions may make it impossible for some people you care about to get the vaccine. Your being vaccinated protects not only you, but them.
Am I better off just getting the virus vs. the vaccine?
COVID-19 can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get sick, you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you. Additionally, data suggests there is a significant difference in the level of antibodies produced by the body after having the virus and after getting the vaccine–in fact, the vaccine produces 200 times the level of antibodies.
I’m concerned. Have the vaccines been tested enough?
Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine for use under what is known as an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
Who is paying for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost.
Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others after receiving the vaccine?
Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. There is not enough information currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
Are there side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Possibly. The side effects reported during clinical trials for the vaccine include injection site discomfort and redness, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, joint pain, and headache. It is important to note, the vaccine DOES NOT give you COVID-19. As a reminder, side effects from vaccines are not uncommon. The seasonal flu shot, for example, can cause fever and fatigue, among other symptoms. And the vaccine to prevent shingles can induce shivering, muscle pain and an upset stomach. In some ways, these mild to moderate reactions are a good thing, because it’s a sign that the immune system is responding to the vaccine.
How long before the COVID-19 vaccine takes effect?
Generally speaking, it takes a week or two for immunity to develop following vaccination, but the specific timeline for any coronavirus vaccine will depend to some extent on which type of vaccine is licensed. For example, a live, weakened vaccine requires time to reproduce in the body, whereas an inactivated vaccine is given at a dose that will generate immunity. On the other hand, because the live, weakened vaccine reproduces to generate immunity, it might provide a more robust immune response than an inactivated vaccine.
How will we know the vaccine is safe?
Given that COVID-19 vaccines were made more quickly than other vaccines, it is understandable to be concerned about their safety, but the following can provide reassurances:
Phase III trials for COVID-19 vaccines have been as large as those for other vaccines, including tens of thousands of participants. While these trials may not uncover rare adverse events (that occur in the millions), we can be comfortable that these trials were large enough to detect any major safety concerns.
The data from these large phase III vaccine trials have and will undergo several rounds of review by different, independent groups of experts in immunology, statistics, infectious diseases, virology, and vaccinology.
The trials are coded, so that the manufacturers do not know who got vaccine and who got placebo. During this time, an independent group of experts monitor the data to make sure that no concerning developments occur with trial participants.
Once the company submits the data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an advisory committee of independent experts, called the Vaccine and Related Biologics Product Approval Committee (VRBPAC) reviews the data to evaluate vaccine safety and effectiveness. This committee provides advice to the FDA before a vaccine can be accepted.
Once a vaccine is approved by the FDA, the data undergo a third round of review, by yet another committee of experts. This group, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), reviews the data and make recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding who should or should not get the vaccine and when, based on the data.
As a result, by the time a vaccine can be given to any individual, the results of the phase III trials have been reviewed and discussed regarding their scientific merit by more than 50 independent experts, in addition to the scientists at the companies and their own trial advisory groups.
How long will the vaccine immunity last?
We don’t know yet. Some new data is suggesting that the body’s T-cells, which store information about our immune system’s response, could maintain their memory of the vaccine for years. Unfortunately, much more time and study is needed to know for sure.
How often will the vaccine be needed?
This hasn’t been determined yet. Right now, the vaccine includes a booster between 3 and 4 weeks after the first shot, and more will need to be learned over the coming months and years to determine how long the vaccine lasts.
Can a person with COVID-19 get the vaccine?
It is recommended that those actively experiencing COVID-19 symptoms do not get the vaccine until after their symptoms end. This follows the guidance for other vaccines like the flu and shingles.
If I get the vaccine, can I still spread the virus to susceptible people?
We don’t yet know. While the vaccine can prevent you from getting sick, it is currently unknown if you can still carry and transmit the virus to others. This is why other infection control practices, like wearing a mask and washing your hands remain so important.
Will there be enough vaccine for everyone?
Yes; over time. While there will be a limited supply at first, manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine to the public will take time. The CDC estimates that Phases 2 and 3 of vaccine distribution, which includes the general public, will occur in late Spring or early Summer.
Is getting the vaccine necessary if I’m wearing a mask and practicing social distancing?
Yes. While masks and social distancing are vitally important, they alone will not get us to the level of immunity required to end the pandemic.
Once I’ve been vaccinated, am I exempt from state lockdown restrictions?
We don’t know yet. It is possible that state and local governments will begin to implement exemptions to lockdown restrictions, but we won’t know for sure until the vaccination process is underway.
Does the vaccine contain live COVID-19 virus?
No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Does the vaccine contain aborted fetal tissue?
No. Even though fetal cells obtained in 1973 and 1985 are still used to grow vaccine viruses, vaccines do not contain these cells or pieces of DNA that are recognizable as human DNA. Additionally, not all COVID-19 vaccines in development utilize these cells.
Does the vaccine contain a tracking device?
Will the vaccine change my DNA?
No. mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can most easily be described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease.