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We know there are a lot of questions about the emerging COVID-19 vaccines. We have created a list of common questions about the COVID-19 vaccines based on current knowledge and understanding. These questions will continue to evolve with time, so we encourage you to check back frequently for the most up-to-date information.
Common Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines
- If we are all vaccinated and the vaccine works so well, why are we still wearing masks?
To reduce the risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and potentially spreading it to others, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of community transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated. As healthcare personnel, we are in contact with patients and the public. We are protecting those who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease. Learn more about how to select, properly wear, clean and store masks by visiting this CDC link.
- What effects does the vaccine have on people with autoimmune disorders like Crohn's, eczema, etc.?
Per the CDC, having a weakened immune system can make you more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, making those individuals especially vulnerable for serious complications including hospitalization and death. Immunocompromised individuals were the first group recommended for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (separate from a booster dose). The vaccine is considered safe and effective with no increased risk for those with autoimmune disorders. Additional information may be found at this CDC link.
- Can you talk about natural immunity?
Similar to the variability in COVID-19 case severity, every individual that becomes infected with COVID-19 will have varying amounts of antibodies that are produced as a result from the infection. Unfortunately, this uncertainty in the production of antibody levels and how long the immune response will last make it challenging to know exact protection against future infection. Studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccination provides a longer lasting and more predictable immunity in comparison to natural immunity from infection. This University of Nebraska study shares more information about natural immunity versus vaccination.
- What are the statistics on COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated versus vaccinated individuals?
The CDC provides weekly rates and trends of COVID-19 cases and deaths by vaccination status at this CDC link. Data from September 2021 showed that unvaccinated persons had a 5.8x greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, and 14x greater risk for dying from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated persons.
- How is the vaccine to protect me since there is no virus material in the vaccine? What does the mRNA vaccine do to my natural immune system?
The mRNA vaccines do not contain any live virus. Instead, they work by teaching our cells to make a harmless piece of a “spike protein,” which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. After making the protein piece, cells display it on their surface. Our immune system then recognizes that it does not belong there and responds to get rid of it. When an immune response begins, antibodies are produced, creating the same response that happens in a natural infection. This CDC link provides more information about mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
- When does the efficacy of these shots start to wane?
The CDC recommends booster doses for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines following six months after the initial 2-dose series. A booster dose following the J&J single dose COVID-19 vaccine is suggested two months after the initial regimen. This CDC presentation provides additional details and data analyses for more information.
- Are you able to provide a complete list of the contents of the COVID-19 vaccines?
There are 4 components to the formulation of the COVID-19 vaccines: 1) the active component - mRNA or viral vector, 2) lipid, 3) buffers, 4) stabilizers. A full list of ingredients for all COVID-19 vaccines may be located on the FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Fact Sheets for recipients and caregivers, available via this CDC link.
- Has there been an increase in cases of SIDS in infants of mothers that were vaccinated?
There has been no evidence of increased risk to mothers or babies on any condition from COVID-19 vaccination. This CDC link addresses general questions and concerns about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and vaccines.
- Can someone have an allergic reaction to one vaccine but not another?
Yes. While severe allergic reactions to vaccines are rare, they can happen. A history of allergic reactions to vaccines is part of the pre-vaccination screening for a COVID-19 vaccine. Those individuals that have experienced allergic reactions to any non-COVID-19 vaccine or injectable therapy should be monitored for an longer period of time (30 minutes) following vaccination. Individuals that have experienced an allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine should not receive the same type of vaccine for a subsequent dose (mRNA vs. viral vector). Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for people with allergies by visiting this CDC link. Additional concerns and questions regarding allergic reactions to vaccines should be shared with the individual's primary care physician.
- Are you aware of any concerns surrounding giving this vaccine to individuals who have multiple allergies?
There have been studies on individuals with allergies receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, with trial data suggesting monitoring those individuals longer than those that do not have a history of allergies. All the COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective for those with allergies, even severe allergies. Allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are rare, however, if an individual were to experience a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends not getting another dose of that type of vaccine. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for people with allergies by visiting this CDC link. Individuals that have concerns about allergies and vaccination should consult with their primary physician.
- Are there any fertility concerns for teenage males receiving the vaccine?
This CDC link supports that there is currently no evidence that any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in males or females.
- If I have had a COVID-19 vaccine, am I able to donate blood and/or plasma for general public use to both vaccinated and unvaccinated recipients?
The Red Cross is following FDA blood donation eligibility guidance for those who receive a COVID-19 vaccination, and deferral times may vary depending on the type of vaccine an individual receives. If you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine, you’ll need to provide the manufacturer name when you come to donate. There is no deferral time for eligible blood donors who are vaccinated with an inactivated or RNA based COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca, Janssen/J&J, Moderna, Novavax, or Pfizer. Learn more about blood donation and COVID-19 vaccination by visiting this American Red Cross link.
- Would an unvaccinated individual have any issues receiving blood from an individual who was vaccinated?
Antibodies that are produced by the stimulated immune system in response to vaccination are found throughout the bloodstream, the actual vaccine components are not. It is safe and acceptable for unvaccinated persons to receive lifesaving blood from an accredited and licensed blood provider. Learn more about blood donation and COVID-19 vaccination by visiting this American Red Cross link.
- If we were vaccinated early last year and have not gotten a booster, what is the level of risk now that we are more than six months past that initial vaccine? What are the reported side effects of getting the booster? What is the recommended timing, etc.?
Studies have shown that COVID-19 immunity may begin to wane following certain timeframes once the initial vaccine dose or series is completed, requiring a booster dose to keep antibodies to a level that protects from infection and/or severe disease, like hospitalization. The current recommendation is that anyone 16 years of age and older are encouraged to and may receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine dose. Pfizer and Moderna boosters should follow a six-month period after the initial 2-dose series. The J&J booster should follow a two-month period after the initial single dose. Most individuals have reported the same side effects with a booster that were experienced with the initial dose/series. The most common side effects from all COVID-19 vaccines are a sore arm at the injection site and fatigue. This CDC link shares more information about common side effects.
- If we received the Moderna vaccine, should our booster also be Moderna?
All approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J) may be mix-and-matched for booster doses. This CDC link provides more information on COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
- Is there any benefit to receiving a booster dose that is from a different manufacturer than the initial COVID-19 vaccination dose(s)?
While early data may show benefits to mix-and-matching initial vaccine regimen and booster manufacturers, all of the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Individuals should take advantage of whichever vaccine is available, keeping in mind that the initial series for a 2-dose regimen must be from the same manufacturer while a booster dose can be mix-and-matched. This CDC link provides more information on COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
- What is the definition of "fully vaccinated"?
“Fully vaccinated” is defined by the CDC as two weeks following the single dose (J&J) vaccine, or two weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose series (Pfizer, Moderna). Visit this CDC link to learn more about vaccination timing.
- If an employee got only one of a two-shot series of a COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021, do they have to start over, or do they just need to take an additional dose?
Individuals that miss a second dose in a 2-dose series do not need to restart the series, only the missed dose should be administered. This CDC link provides more information on COVID-19 vaccines that require two doses.
- If a COVID-19 vaccine dose causes myocarditis, do providers recommend getting the second dose in a series or a booster?
Individuals that have experienced myocarditis following a COVID-19 vaccination should consult with their primary physician before receiving another dose. This CDC link provides more information about myocarditis and clinical considerations for clinicians.
- Where can we locate the adverse event data for all three trial phases for each vaccine?
The FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Fact Sheets contain this information. Individuals may visit the CDC website to obtain all EUA Fact Sheets for recipients and caregivers via this CDC link.
- Is there any risk of getting too much of a COVID-19 vaccine, such as getting vaccinated too close to having COVID-19 or while asymptomatic?
The CDC recommends that individuals that have recently been infected with COVID-19 be asympomatic and recovered before getting vaccinated. Each vaccine has a specific dose for certain age groups that should be followed closely to ensure appropriate amounts of vaccine are administered.