COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers

Updated Jan. 14, 2021

Answers to common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Additional information can be found at NortonHealthcare.com/COVID-19 and in these recent Get Healthy posts.

Vaccine update information is subject to change. Please refer to this page regularly.

Who received the COVID-19 vaccine first?

Norton Healthcare is using guidelines from the National Academy of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine, available to patient-facing health care workers, is being distributed using a thoughtful and orderly process to ensure providers, clinical staff and other team members susceptible to the highest risk of exposure based on their work in close proximity to COVID-19 patients were among the first to receive the vaccine.

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When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available to the general public?

The vaccine is being distributed based on risk, with priority for high-risk health care workers, first responders and others at higher risk of developing serious complications with COVID-19. The rollout is currently broken into four tiers.

The timetable for widespread distribution will become clearer as vaccine production ramps up and once more vaccines are authorized as safe and effective.

Currently, Kentucky officials have identified the following four tiers of vaccine distribution:

Tier 1

Tier 1a: Long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, health care personnel.

Tier 1b: First responders, anyone age 70 or older, K-12 school personnel.

Tier 1c: Anyone age 60 or older, anyone age 16 or older with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highest-risk COVID-19 risk conditions, all essential workers.

Tier 2

Anyone age 40 or older.

Tier 3

Anyone age 16 or older, or 18 and older if the Moderna vaccine is all that is available.

Tier 4

Children under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group (estimated 18% of Kentucky population)

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How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The vaccine is free of charge.

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What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Known side effects of the vaccine have been very rare and typically very mild.

Side effects of the Pfizer vaccine — the first to be distributed — include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. The side effects typically last several days. More people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.

The most common side effects of the Moderna vaccine are very similar to the Pfizer vaccine and were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain and chills. The Moderna vaccine’s side effects were more common than with the Pfizer shots.

There have been a handful of reports around the word of anaphylaxis after getting a vaccine outside of the clinical trials. These patients have recovered, and providers are required to have appropriate medical treatment for severe allergic reactions, including epinephrine, immediately available when administering the vaccine.

Everyone is monitored for 15 minutes after the injection, and those with a history of severe allergic reaction are monitored for 30 minutes. Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past still can get either vaccine, but should take precautions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We recommend discussing your specific health concerns with your physician(s) before getting the vaccine.

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How many doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will I need?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require an initial vaccine and a booster. The Pfizer vaccine requires a booster 21 days after the first and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose 28 days after. There may be reasons for delaying the second dose, and that is something you should discuss with your provider. The different vaccine products are not interchangeable. The second dose must be completed with the same vaccine brand as the first dose. Both doses are important to ensure full protection.

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When are you supposed to get the second COVID-19 vaccine dose?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. The clinical trials showed a significant amount of protection after the first dose and the most significant protection after the second dose.

The booster shot needs to be administered 21 days after the first Pfizer shot and 28 days after the first Moderna shot. There are additional vaccines being tested that require just one shot.

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Will I be able to choose which COVID-19 vaccine I get, and are they so similar that I can mix the initial dose and the booster?

Your booster shot needs to be the same as your initial vaccine — there’s been no testing of the safety and effectiveness of mixing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. As for choice, there’s currently no significant difference between the two shots. Which shot you get likely will depend on what version your provider receives.

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What does the COVID-19 booster shot do?

When you get the first shot, your body starts the immune reaction, and the vaccine is about 50% effective. The need for a second shot is based on studies and how the vaccine was dosed in these studies. At 14 days after the second dose, both Pfizer and Moderna report around 95% effectiveness. Some vaccines being tested are intended to deliver high levels of immunity with just one shot.

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How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines use novel messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. It uses genetic material which causes the body to create a protein, and our body then develops antibodies toward the virus. This process helps to direct the immune system to attack the COVID-19 virus.

The Pfizer study has enrolled 43,538 volunteers, and the Moderna study has enrolled more than 30,000.

In both late-stage clinical trials, 50% of the volunteers got the vaccine, while the other half got a placebo of saltwater. Then they waited to see who would get sick with COVID-19. An independent board of experts looked at the placebo and vaccine participants and reported that both vaccines are about 95% effective.

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Who shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved only for those age 16 and older. The Moderna vaccine is available to those over age 18. Clinical trials recently began in younger children.

Except for anyone who has a severe allergic reaction to the first vaccine dose, there are currently no medical conditions that have been identified as a reason not to get the vaccine. Even those who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past are cautioned to be aware of the risks and to balance those with the potential illness and death that can result from COVID-19.

There is no complete data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in pregnant or lactating women. These women should stay in touch with their obstetricians, who will have the latest data to allow a consideration of the risks and benefits of vaccination.

Precautions and risk assessments should be considered before vaccinating those with a moderate or severe acute illness and those with a history of severe allergic reaction to vaccines or other injections in the past.

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When will I start getting protection from the COVID-19 vaccine?

In studies of both vaccines, subjects demonstrated a significant decrease in COVID-19 infection around day 14 after the first dose of the vaccine. It normally takes about two to three weeks for cellular immunity to develop and several weeks for a full antibody response.

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Why will we still have to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash our hands often after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Even once you’re vaccinated you’ll need to protect others who have yet to get the vaccine. That means continued masking, distancing and hygiene steps.

The vaccine creates antibodies that circulate in your system. If you’re exposed to the virus, the antibodies go to work fighting the virus and wiping it out. That can take weeks, and during that time you can spread it to others, risking the health of those who haven’t had an opportunity to be vaccinated.

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I’ve already recovered from COVID-19. Do I still need the vaccine?

In short, YES, current data suggest that the vaccines convey more effective immunity than the type your body created while fighting off the disease. Those who were more severely stricken by the disease may have developed more antibodies than those who had mild or no symptoms after infection.

Current recommendations suggest waiting at least 14 days from onset of symptoms and at least 24 hours without fever, though given our understanding of natural COVID-19 immunity, one may wish to wait for 90 days to receive their vaccine without negative effects.

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When will the COVID-19 pandemic be over?

It’s too soon to know. It will depend on how quickly vaccine doses become available and how many people choose to get the vaccine.

For instance, if only 40% of the population gets vaccinated, we’re going to have COVID-19 with us longer than we would if 70% are vaccinated. The current estimates are that 70% immunity — either through vaccination or infection — will be enough to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity is achieved when there as a critical mass of the population immune, robbing the virus of hosts and eventually its ability to spread.

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Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientific staff, an independent panel of vaccine experts and others review the safety and efficacy data collected as the vaccines are tested on thousands of volunteers.

Currently, all available data suggests these vaccines are safe, with minor side effects such as pain at the site of the shot, headache, fatigue and other flu-like symptoms for a short period of time. These side effects seem to follow the second shot more than the first.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration will continue to monitor for signs of even rarer safety issues.

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Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

NO, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use only a small gene from the virus while other vaccines being studied use inactivated virus or other methodology. None of these can cause COVID-19.

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Should I take Tylenol or ibuprofen before receiving the vaccine?

Antipyretic or analgesic medications (e.g., acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be taken for the treatment of post-vaccination local or systemic symptoms, if medically appropriate. If you routinely take such medications, you may continue. However, routine prophylactic administration of these medications for the purpose of preventing post-vaccination symptoms is not currently recommended, as information on the impact of such use on mRNA COVID-19 vaccine-induced antibody responses is not available at this time.

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What about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy or breastfeeding?

There is incomplete data available at this time on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Data, however, does indicate that pregnant women are potentially at increased risk for severe illness from the COVID-19 infection.

Further considerations around use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant or breastfeeding individuals will be provided once data from Phase 3 clinical trials and conditions of Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization are reviewed.

These women should stay in touch with their obstetricians, who will have the latest data to allow a consideration of the risks and benefits of vaccination.

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Will COVID-19 vaccines cause me to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests?

No. These vaccines will not cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.

If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility to test positive on certain antibody tests. These tests indicate you had a previous infection or vaccination and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.

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