Are you still deciding if you will get one of the available COVID-19 vaccines? CHC Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Dr. Karoline Oliveira encourages you to take the time to get the facts before you make a decision.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Co-Chair of President Biden’s COVID-19 Equity Task Force, shared with us what she would say to people from marginalized backgrounds who are skeptical of the vaccine.
It’s normal to have questions. CHC’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Veena Channamsetty, and Dr. Marwan Haddad, Medical Director of CHC’s Center for Key Populations, addressed common concerns to help you feel more confident about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective?
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Do I need to wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from others and wash my hands often?
The vaccine can protect you, your loved ones and your community from COVID-19. Leaders from across Connecticut shared with us why they got their vaccine. If you decide to get yours, be sure to let us know why using #GotMyShotCHC!
Yes. We know for sure that the vaccine stops you from becoming sick with COVID-19 but we do not yet know if it stops you from getting infected with COVID-19 altogether or if it stops you from giving COVID-19 to others. We also do not know how long it continues to protect you from becoming sick with COVID-19.
Until we know the answers to those questions, it is very important that you continue to wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often whether you get the vaccine or not.
No. We were lucky that scientists have been working with viruses like COVID-19 for years. They knew exactly what part of the COVID-19 virus the vaccine needed to target. The genes that make up COVID-19 became known in January 2020 and scientists were able to make the vaccine immediately after that.
COVID-19 caused the world to come to a stop. Scientists from all over the world worked together. And millions and millions of dollars like never before were given to scientists to figure out the right vaccine to use and to companies to start making the vaccine even before they knew if the vaccine was going to work.
Scientists were also able to start the important part of the trials (Phase 3) in 6 months (instead of 2 years like with other vaccines) because they already knew a lot about coronaviruses (the virus that causes COVID-19).
No. The name Operation Warp Speed was used because it allowed different parts of the trials to be run at the same time, instead of one part after the other. This cut down the time for the trials by many months.
This did not mean that corners were cut though. The numbers of people used in the trials were the same as other vaccine trials, like the HPV and the pneumococcal vaccine trials. And every part of the COVID-19 vaccine trials met the goals and showed success.
Operation Warp Speed also allowed the vaccines to be made before they were reviewed by the FDA.
No. Changing someone’s DNA is extremely difficult. This vaccine uses our body to make a small part of the COVID-19 virus (one protein called the spike protein). Unlike other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine does NOT use a live or weakened virus, so the vaccine does not and cannot give us COVID-19.
You may have heard that the vaccine uses something called a messenger RNA (mRNA) which sounds like it might do something to our DNA. This mRNA does NOT come near our DNA. Instead, the mRNA makes our body make this spike protein and then the mRNA breaks down and disappears from our body. The protein it makes then triggers our body to make antibodies against it. These antibodies then protect us against COVID-19.
Here is a link to a short video (about 5 minutes) that explains more about the vaccine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=the81FQoAUI.
Some people are worried that this spike protein that our body will make because of the vaccine looks a lot like a protein in the placenta (the organ during pregnancy that feeds the baby). However, experts say that these two proteins are very different; only a very small part of them are similar. So, the antibodies our bodies make against the spike protein will only attack COVID-19 and almost certainly will NOT attack the placenta.
Also, when we get sick with COVID-19, our bodies make the same antibodies against this spike protein. Many women in the U.S. and in the world have become sick with COVID-19 and so far, we have not seen any problems with pregnancy.
Most side effects from vaccines happen within days to a few weeks after getting the vaccine. All these side effects have already been reported from the trials. In the trials, there were no serious or severe side effects. Side effects reported included injection site reactions/soreness; headache; fatigue; muscle and joint aches, and fever/chills. Side effects may happen more after the second vaccine shot.
Use of fever-lowering medication may be recommended before getting the vaccine to help avoid or decrease side effects.
Two healthcare workers in the United Kingdom had a serious allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine. Both had a history of severe allergic reactions.
The FDA has said that anyone with a history of an allergic reaction to any ingredient of the Pfizer vaccine must not get the Pfizer vaccine. The FDA has also said that anyone with a history of any serious allergic reaction can get the vaccine but must be watched closely afterwards.
Long term effects (after many months/years) will continue to be checked as the trials continue and through the strong national reporting system we have in place in the U.S. after the trials are over.
The vaccines have not been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding women, which is the reason that it will likely not be recommended for them. The FDA may allow pregnant and breastfeeding women to get the vaccine if they want it and after speaking with their medical providers about it.
The vaccines have not been studied in people with a weak immune system or who are living with HIV. The vaccines will most likely be able to be given to them but they may or may not make the antibodies against COVID-19 as well as others do.
The FDA has allowed the Pfizer vaccine to be given to children and adults 16 years and older. We will see if that will also be the same for Moderna and the other vaccines to come.
The vaccines have not been studied enough in children under 16. There are trials that are happening now looking at children 12 years and older.
Side effects usually happen soon after getting the vaccine and stay for a short time only (like a day or two). If you are worried that you do have COVID-19, please speak to your medical provider and think about getting a COVID-19 test. The vaccine itself will not turn your test positive and it will not give you COVID-19.
We do not know how long someone who gets COVID-19 will stay protected from getting COVID-19 again and this will likely be different from person to person. We also still do not know how long someone who gets the vaccine will stay protected against COVID-19.
We believe someone who had COVID-19 most likely will be protected from getting infected again for 3 months, if not more. (There have been just a very small number of people who got COVID-19 again within 3 months after first infection).
If we still do not know the answer to this, people who had COVID-19 already can decide to get the vaccine if they want it and after speaking with their medical provider.
Yes. An EUA does not mean that the FDA has approved the vaccine. The FDA gives an EUA when they think using the vaccine now will save many lives before they have all the information they need to give a final approval.
The vaccine trials will continue until all the information is collected that is needed for full FDA approval.
An EUA will be given when the vaccines show they are safe to use (this means that at least half the people in the trials have received both shots of the vaccine and have been followed for at least 2 months looking for side effects) and that they work (this means that the vaccine will stop people from becoming sick from COVID-19).
The trials will continue until we have more information on how long the vaccine will protect people for, if the vaccine stops people from getting COVID-19 altogether, and if the vaccine stops people from giving COVID-19 to others.
The trials so far have not seen the vaccine cause any new autoimmune disease in people. The trials also did not look at individuals who have an autoimmune disease.
No. At this time, you must get the same vaccine from the same company for both shots.
(Please know that U.S. recommendations may be different)
The United Kingdom has advised that people who have a history of serious allergic reactions should not get the Pfizer vaccine. The reason is because two healthcare workers had a serious allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine one day after the shot.
Vaccines must be given to people under medical supervision in case a rare, serious allergic reaction happens.
People who are sick and have a high fever should get the vaccine only after they get better.
People on blood thinners or who have a bleeding disorder should get the vaccine only if the protection against COVID-19 is better for the person than the chance of having a bleed from the injection in the muscle.
People with a weakened immune system may not get the same protection from the vaccine compared to others.
The vaccine may not work for all people.