COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
Everyone 12 years and older is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. *A parent or legal guardian must be present and signature is required to vaccinate a minor.
All those receiving the vaccine are encouraged to schedule through their state's website, ourshot.in.gov or gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. If you need assistance from the state to schedule your appointment, you may call 211.
Refer to the Indiana state website for other important information on the vaccine.
Since the pandemic started, the federal government has been working to make COVID-19 vaccines available. Operation Warp Speed was put in place to get one or more vaccines developed as soon as possible. The FDA has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine and granted emergency use authorization of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson products, so Reid Health is distributing vaccines according to state and federal guidelines.
Is it mandatory to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, it isn't mandatory. You, your family and your friends get to make your own informed decisions about whether it's right for you.
How do we know the vaccines are safe?
The vaccines were tested in large clinical trials for which tens of thousands of people of different ages, races and ethnicities with different medical conditions were recruited to participate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviews all safety data from the trials and only authorizes a vaccine for emergency use when the expected benefits outweigh the potential risks.
The CDC has an independent group of experts who review all the safety data that comes in as vaccinations are administered. If a problem is found, immediate action is taken to determine if the issue is related to the vaccine and to decide the best course of action.
How is getting the vaccine different than having the virus and building antibodies naturally?
If you take the vaccine, you build up antibodies without running the risk of getting really sick from COVID-19. Granted, a young, healthy person isn't likely to get very sick from the infection, but the risk is not zero. Even if you don't get very sick from the infection, you're a risk for transmission to someone more vulnerable. And none of us want to be the source of infection for a vulnerable elderly or chronically ill family member or friend, even unwittingly, if we can possibly help it.
Also, it appears the antibody level generated by the vaccine is better. Antibody levels from natural infection are quite variable from person to person and, in some people at least, might not last longer than a few months. The vaccine, on the other hand, appears to cause a much higher and more consistent antibody response that should be more protective.
Once the body has produced COVID-19 antibodies thanks to the vaccine, how long will that protection last?
We don't know for sure at this point, but we're seeing data that suggests booster shots are needed. Some people think we will need one yearly, taken along with the annual flu shot.
Can't we just develop herd immunity through natural infection among young, healthy people who don't usually get very sick from COVID-19?
The problem with this idea is there is no practical way to completely keep young, otherwise healthy people from contacting vulnerable elderly and chronically ill people. Plus, some young people are at risk. That means a lot of people will die along the way.
Another problem is the time it would take to develop herd immunity naturally, which is probably a minimum of two more years of sequential waves of outbreaks in the U.S. with all the additional deaths, restrictions and economic devastation that would bring. That was the experience of the last really large pandemic, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which actually had waves that recurred over three years.
So if we have the possibility of achieving herd immunity more quickly through vaccination, get back to normal life that much sooner, and avoid so many deaths along the way, using a vaccine that seems to have very good effectiveness and low risk, shouldn't we consider it?
What does it mean that the Pfizer vaccine has received full authorization from the FDA?
Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been available under Emergency Use Authorization in those 16 and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12-15 on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.
FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency's standard process for reviewing the quality, safety, and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer's submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For the Pfizer vaccine, the BLA built on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made.
Pfizer's vaccine received full approval for those 16 and older on Aug. 23, 2021. It remains available under the EUA for those 12-15.
What does it mean that the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA?
It means the available effectiveness and safety data are good enough to use the vaccines during the public health emergency. However, the data is limited, and the vaccines do not have full, unlimited FDA approval yet. They are still investigational products. The EUA allows for the vaccines to be distributed under certain limits during the public health emergency, until the authorization is rescinded or until the vaccines receive full approval through the normal process.
Are there risks in taking the vaccine?
The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for people ages 12 and older. For Moderna, it's 18 and up. A very small number of people have had serious reactions called anaphylaxis, which they also had after other past injections. In Pfizer's phase 3 trial, only 0.63% of people in the vaccine group reported possible allergic reactions, which was barely more than were reported in the placebo group. People who have had a severe reaction after the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, or are known to be severely allergic to certain of its components, should not take the vaccine at all. Anyone with severe medication allergies should talk to their doctor about their particular risks and whether getting vaccinated is right for them.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine can affect women's fertility?
The COVID-19 vaccine will not affect fertility. The truth is that the COVID-19 vaccine encourages the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the coronavirus's surface. This "teaches" the body's immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it. A false report said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine would cause a woman's body to fight a different spike protein (syncitin-1) and impact her fertility. The two spike proteins are completely different and distinct, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods.
How does the vaccine work?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the first to use messenger RNA (mRNA), but researchers have been studying the technology for decades, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previous work has been done on potential mRNA vaccines for flu, Zika, rabies and more. mRNA also has been used to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells.
Traditional vaccines put a weakened or inactive virus in the body, but mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a harmless protein unique to the virus that triggers the immune system. That response then produces antibodies and provides protection from getting infected by exposure to the real virus.
In other words, the vaccine makes the body falsely believe it has been exposed to COVID-19 to trigger cells to react and produce the crucial antibodies that will protect against an actual virus infection. The process takes a few weeks to accumulate enough antibodies to help protect a person from getting the disease.
After the harmless protein is made, the cells break down the mRNA instructions and get rid of them. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cells where the DNA is kept nor interacts with the DNA in any way.
Can I get COVID from the vaccine?
Because the vaccines don't use a live virus, they can't give you COVID, but it will take a few weeks for the body to build up immunity after vaccination, so it's possible someone could become infected just before or after getting the shot and still get sick.
Are there side effects from the vaccine?
Some side effects such as headaches, fever and muscle pains have been reported during trials, mostly coming after the second of the required two injections. It's normal for vaccines to cause such symptoms, which are a sign that the body is building immunity to the virus.
What are COVID vaccine recommendations for people over 90 years of age ? People living in their own homes? Do the vaccine side effects outweigh the risk of the virus if they are following COVID safety precautions?
Dr. Thomas Huth states, "A person who is 90+ is very high risk for complications from COVID-19 and at very low risk of serious side effects from the vaccine, all other things being equal. Therefore, he or she should definitely consider taking the vaccine. However, there could be factors unique to the individual to either increase or decrease the risks. Therefore, that person's personal doctor should be consulted. I don't recommend relying solely on isolating the individual. He or she MUST come into contact with other people sometimes. We have seen many examples of at-risk people getting sick from well-meaning caregivers who don't know they are spreading the virus."
What's the difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?
There are some minor differences such as the Moderna vaccine possibly having a slightly higher likelihood for immediate minor side effects. The biggest difference is in handling and storage with Moderna's vaccine being easier for providers to manage. But on the important issues -- such as overall effectiveness and safety -- they are very similar.
Are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines interchangeable?
No, whichever one you get for your first round needs to be the same that you receive for your second shot.
How long do I have to wait between rounds of vaccinations?
It depends on which vaccine you get. For Pfizer, the time between shots should be 21 days. For Moderna, that number is 28 days. There can be some wiggle room within those timeframes, but everyone is encouraged to stick to the suggested waiting period for maximum effectiveness.
Do I need a booster shot?
The FDA has expanded the EUA for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to include a third shoot for certain immunocompromised individuals, specifically, solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.
Plans have been announced to eventually allow a booster shot for all those who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines starting eight months after they received their second dose.
It's likely those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also will need a booster shot, but more data is needed before federal health officials make that decision.
Once I've been vaccinated, will I still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing?
Yes. Although it appears being vaccinated reduces your chances of spreading COVID should you still become infected, it doesn't prevent spread altogether. It's important for you to continue to wear your mask, wash your hands, stay at least 6 feet away from others, and avoid large gatherings.
Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and physical distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC's recommendations to protect yourself and others, will offer the best protection from the virus.
Do I need to be vaccinated if I've already had COVID?
The CDC says yes. It appears that persons who have received the COVID vaccination may be better able to resist getting reinfected with the COVID virus, than those who do not receive the vaccination. This is based on studies which show higher levels of antibodies against the COVID virus found after vaccination than after infection. The CDC recommends vaccination after infection, once you are cleared from isolation within roughly 3 months from infection.
I have a surgical procedure scheduled. I've received both vaccines. Am I still required to have a COVID-19 test?
Yes. Reid's process for requiring COVID-19 testing prior to all inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures is not affected by having the vaccine. Although vaccination reduces the rate of symptomatic COVID-19 disease by up to 95%, some people can still become infected and transmit the virus, perhaps with few or no symptoms. It is the subject of ongoing scientific research.