With the COVID-19 vaccines now widely available to Minnesotans ages 16 and older, there are, understandably, many questions about the vaccine’s safety and risks, where to get the vaccine, and how doses are being distributed.
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 2020, having been determined to meet safety and effectiveness standards with an effectiveness rate of 95%, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EAU) 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.
Shortly after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for emergency use, in mid-December 2020, the Moderna vaccine received authorization to be distributed to those 18 years or older living in the United States. Moderna was proven 94.1% effective in preventing the COVID-19 disease.
In February 2021, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) received authorization for its single dose COVID-19 vaccine. Initial trials have shown the Janssen’s vaccine to be 66.9% effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19.
The FDA has provided facts sheets and FAQs on each of the three authorized vaccines:
How did the COVID-19 vaccine get developed so quickly?
Manufacturers have been working to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine while maintaining strict standards for safety and efficacy. Protocols were developed to allow some of the authorization steps to happen simultaneously.
What is an mRNA vaccine?
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna utilize a technology called messenger RNA (mRNA). With this technology, a small piece of the virus’s genetic material instructs cells in the body to make the virus’s distinctive “spike” protein. After a person is vaccinated, their body produces copies of the spike protein, which does not cause disease, but rather triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against COVID-19.
mRNA vaccines can be developed more quickly and easily. The process of making the vaccine can be standardized and scaled up at a faster pace, making development much faster than traditional vaccines. mRNA vaccines instruct your body how to fight off the virus that causes COVID-19, without ever exposing you to the virus itself.
mRNA technology has been studied for decades and been studied for viruses including influenza, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus. Future mRNA vaccines could allow one vaccine to provide your body with protection against multiple diseases.
Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?
No. The vaccines do 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. 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 now underway.
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?
Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible—although rare—that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again.
If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Experts are still learning more about how long vaccines protect against COVID-19 in real-world conditions. CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.
When will I be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
As of March 30, all Minnesotans age 16 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Minnesota has directed providers to prioritize vaccine appointments for people most at risk of getting COVID-19, or those who could develop severe illness if infected. This includes older Minnesotans, those with underlying health conditions, and those in essential jobs.
Can I get my name or someone I care for on a waiting list?
Yes, you can email or call Kanabec Community or Pine County Public Health offices. View waiting list instructions.
Is there enough vaccine for everyone?
While the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. has been limited during the first few months of 2021, supplies have and will continue to increase dramatically in the weeks ahead.
What can I expect from the vaccination?
The 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.
Will I need to get two injections?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses in order to reach the 95% and 94.1% effectiveness level, respectively, demonstrated in clinical trials. This second “booster” shot should be administered 21 days (Pfizer) or 28 days (Moderna) 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.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine was developed as a one-shot vaccine. Research indicates that one dose is 85% effective at preventing severe to critical illness 28 days after immunization.
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.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the vaccine causes infertility in women. In addition, infertility is not known to occur as a result of natural COVID-19 disease, further demonstrating that immune responses to the virus, whether induced by infection or a vaccine, are not a cause of infertility.
Reports on social media have falsely asserted that the vaccine could cause infertility in women and the FDA is concerned that this misinformation may cause women to avoid vaccination to prevent COVID-19, which is a potentially serious and life-threatening disease.
Where will my vaccination information be recorded?
Your vaccine information will be recorded in your electronic medical record as well as the Minnesota Immunization Information System (MIIC). Vaccinators will also provide you with a vaccination card. If you are receiving either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, please remember to bring your card with you to your second dose. A new card will not be provided.
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.
If I’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine and then am exposed to someone positive for COVID-19, will I be required to be tested/quarantine?
On February 10, the CDC updated its guidance to say that most individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for at least two weeks and no more than three months will not need not quarantine after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 if they have not had COVID-19 symptoms. The guidance generally applies to people who have received a second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose; however, it excludes vaccinated healthcare personnel, inpatients and residents in health care settings. This will be continued to be reviewed by the Department of Health.
Who is paying for the COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge to all people living in the United states. Vaccine providers can be reimbursed for administration fees by either a patient’s public or private insurance company or if you are uninsured by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. You will be asked to present your insurance information before being vaccinated.
If I develop side effects who should I contact?
Contact your provider as soon as possible if your side affects are severe. To gather as much information, V-safe, a vaccination health checker has been developed to record your side effects to the CDC. This is a smart phone-based tool that uses text messages and web surveys to monitor side-effects. V-safe cannot schedule vaccine appointments.