As the 2020 year comes to a close, the first COVID-19 vaccine has been approved to help stop the pandemic. Understandably, there are many questions about the vaccines in general, safety and risks, where to get the vaccination, and how initial doses will be distributed.
Because the roll-out and ongoing vaccination program will continue to evolve, Welia Health is committed to providing updated information to help you make informed, thoughtful decisions. We encourage you to check back often.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
We understand that there may be concern over the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA’s process for overseeing clinical trials for vaccines, however, is rigorous and driven by science and data. The first approved COVID-19 vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (Pfizer vaccine), was evaluated during phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials. These trials included approximately 44,000 participants and generated extensive data for review and evaluation by the FDA. In early December, having been determined to meet safety and effectiveness standards with an effectiveness rate of 95%, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization of the vaccine. After this decision, an independent group, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP,) reviewed all available data about that vaccine and voted to recommend Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19. Pfizer has issued a fact sheet on the risks and benefits of the vaccine.
Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?
No. The Pfizer vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and cannot give you COVID-19. In fact, none of the COVID-19 vaccines being developed in the U.S use the live virus that causes COVID-19. 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.
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Using all available tools, the vaccine will help stop the pandemic. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like wearing masks and social 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 COVID-19.
Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for individuals 16 years of age and older. At this time, children younger than 16 will not be vaccinated. Clinical trials studying COVID-19 vaccines in children are anticipated to begin in early 2021.
Individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to the components of the vaccine or any other vaccine or injectable therapy (e.g., anaphylaxis) should not receive the Pfizer vaccine. Please tell the healthcare provider administering the vaccine about all of your medical conditions, including if you:
- have any allergies
- have a fever
- have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner
- are immunocompromised or are on a medicine that affects your immune system
- are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
- are breastfeeding
Do I need to get vaccinated if I’m healthy?
Public health officials urge individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are available to you. Vaccination is an important tool to stopping the COVID-19 pandemic. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
Do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID-19?
There is not yet enough information to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. While the CDC has not made an official recommendation on whether people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 should be vaccinated, there may be some benefit.
When will I be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Because the current supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. is limited, the CDC has recommended that initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine be offered to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. In Minnesota, a phased approach will follow these recommendations. Early doses will be given to people working in health care settings who are at the highest risk for COVID-19 exposure and residents of long-term care facilities. Other groups that may get some of the earlier doses in phase 1 are essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions, older adults (65 years and older), and some adults living in congregate settings like group homes.
Is there enough vaccine for everyone?
Although there is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., the supply is expected to increase in the weeks and months ahead. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as large enough quantities are available. Once the vaccine is widely available, the plan is to have several thousand vaccination providers offering COVID-19 vaccines in doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and federally qualified health centers.
What can I expect from the vaccination?
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is administered by injection into the muscle (typically the upper arm). Following the vaccination, you will be asked to stay for a short observation period to ensure you don’t experience any injection site reactions.
Are there any side effects?
The most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. More people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.
Why do I need two injections?
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses in order to reach the 95% effectiveness level demonstrated in clinical trials. This second “booster” shot should be administered 21 days after the first dose. When you get your first dose, you will get an appointment to show you when to return for your second dose.
Once I get the COVID-19 vaccine, can I stop wearing a mask?
No, not yet. 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, including wearing a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and continuing to follow safety precautions will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.