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December 18, 2020

What You Need to Know About The COVID-19 Vaccine

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Last updated:01/04/21

What is the COVID-19 vaccine and how does it work? 

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to encourage your body to start an immune system response to COVID-19. Our bodies use mRNA every day to make different antibodies or other proteins.  

The ingredients used in the mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are simple. They contain mRNA and lipids, which simply make sure the mRNA is delivered safely into your body to jump start your immune system.  

How can the vaccine be safe and effective when it was produced so quickly? 

It’s quite unusual to have so many scientists around the world working on the same problem at the same time. Instead of trying one solution at a time, hundreds of solutions are being tested at the same time.  

Vaccines that use mRNA are usually faster and easier to produce, which has helped accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine process. No corners have been cut in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists have had a jump on developing the vaccine, using their experience from previous coronavirus vaccine efforts (like the MERS and SARS viruses) 

COVID-19 vaccines have been in the final stages of clinical trials while they are being manufactured, rather than delaying production until after the clinical trials are completed. If they didn’t pass the approval process, then the manufactured vaccines wouldn’t be used. The FDA approved both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines and determined them to be safe and effective. 

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

The most common side effects are typically very mild and include pain or swelling at the injection site. Some clinical trial participants have reported experiencing fatigue, mild fever, and muscle aches, like the flu shot side effects. These side effects usually only last for 24 hours.  

What do I do if I have significant side effects? 

Call your primary care provider if you are concerned about your side effects. Drink plenty of water and rest as much as possible. 

How effective is the vaccine? 

The Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection in their clinical trial. This result was consistent across age, race, and ethnic demographics. The Moderna vaccine was 94.5% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection.

Can I still get COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine? 

There is a small chance that you could contract COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine, but the vaccines are proving to be very effective. Getting the vaccine can significantly reduce the severity of your symptoms if you do contract the virus. It’s important to know that you could still spread the virus to other people after getting the vaccine. That’s why it’s important for you to continue to wear a mask and socially distance after receiving the vaccine. Social distancing, mask wearing, and vaccinating are all critical tools to defeating COVID-19. We must use every tool available until the virus is under control.  

How long does the COVID-19 vaccine work? 

We don’t know for sure yet. A vaccine will trigger an immune system response to develop active immunity. Active immunity means that your body will recognize and create the antibodies needed to fight the virus if you are exposed in the futureAlthough we don’t know exactly how long COVID-19 immunity will last for the current vaccines, active immunity can be long-lasting.

Most people recover from COVID-19 infection. Why do I need to get a vaccine if I’m not at risk for severe symptoms? 

COVID-19 is a deadly virus that may cause severe illness and long-lasting symptoms that we don’t fully understand yet. The COVID-19 vaccines have been created to reduce death and severe illness.  

Although a high percentage of people recover from COVID-19, some are hospitalized and get seriously sick. If you contract the virus and don’t have severe symptoms, you could still pass it along to someone who does get seriously ill or die. When you get vaccinated, you are protecting not only you but also your loved ones and those you encounter in daily life. 

I’ve already gotten COVID-19 and recovered. Do I still need to be vaccinated? 

Yes. We have seen growing numbers of people who have gotten COVID-19 after previously recovering. The COVID-19 vaccine is much more likely to have long-term effectiveness.  

What is herd immunity? 

Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause widespread disease. Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 because that percentage varies by disease. We do know that herd immunity will not be achieved unless we all do our part at get the vaccine if we are able.

Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine and when? 

Missourians will qualify for the vaccination based on priority in phases, as is recommended by the State of Missouri. Starting on December 20th, healthcare workers and staff are eligible to get vaccinated. You must live or work in Missouri. If this criteria applies to you, please send your name, phone number, and the name of the healthcare organization you work for to covidvaccine@kccare.org If you are calling for a healthcare group, please send the name of the healthcare organization and number of employee’s who are eligible to be vaccinated. 

As we move through the phases of vaccine distribution, the State of Missouri will provide guidance and a timeline for subsequent priority groups. Based on current information, the phased rollout looks like this:

Once vaccines are made available to the general public, everyone will be able to receive it except for children under the age 16. Clinical trials are still in progress for children 12 years old to 16 years old. If you are pregnant, or expect to become pregnant, ask your doctor if the vaccine is right for you.

Who can get the vaccine? 

Once the vaccines are made available to the general public, everyone will be able to receive it except for children under age 16. Clinical trials are still in progress for children 12 years old to 16 years old. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or chest feeding, talk to your doctor about if the vaccine is right for you.

How many shots are required for the vaccine and how do I know when to get the second one? 

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are series of two shots. The Pfizer vaccines require 21 days in between shots, while the Moderna vaccines require 28 days between shots. Both series have some wiggle room within a few days but should not be given early. If you receive your first shot at KC CARE, your follow-up visit for your second shot will be scheduled at that time. We will remind you of your appointment via text or phone call.

Do I have to get both shots to be protected? 

Yes, both shots are necessary to achieve maximum efficacy.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine? 

No. Every day, a healthy immune system successfully fights off thousands of germs. Antigens are parts of germs that cause your immune system to build antibodies, which fight off diseases. The antigens in vaccines come from the germs themselves, but the germs are weakened or killed so they cannot cause serious illness. Vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens they encounter every day in their environment. Vaccines give you the antibodies they need to fight off serious but preventable diseases. 

How much will the vaccine cost? 

Vaccines provided by the federal government will be given to Missourians at no cost. However, your doctor’s office can charge an administration fee for administering the shot to help with their staffing and facilities costs. A maximum fee amount has not been set at this time. Most insurance companies will cover this fee.

What’s the difference between the different COVID-19 vaccines? 

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA. These two vaccines are very similar in ingredients, efficacy, and side effects. 

Will I get to choose which vaccine I receive? 

Vaccines are being produced as quickly as possible, so they’ll be ready for distribution immediately after FDA approval. It is likely that your doctor will not have more than one vaccine type and you will not have a choice. It’s important to remember that if a vaccine is being distributed to the public, it has been rigorously tested and approved by the FDA.

Do I need to quarantine after I get the vaccine? 

No. You will need to continue to social distance and wear your mask in public for our community to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these practices, in addition to the vaccine, are critical tools in the fight against COVID-19.  

You may need to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 even if you’ve gotten the vaccine, as it is possible to be an asymptomatic carrier after being vaccinated. Until most of the population has been vaccinated, it’s important that we take every precaution to protect our community.

Is there a microchip in the vaccine? 

There is no microchip or tracking device in the COVID-19 vaccine doses.

What personal information do I need to provide to receive the vaccine and what information is shared with the federal government? 

Name, address, and date of birth are collected when you receive your vaccine at KC CARE. This is the same information that KC CARE, and all other healthcare providers, gather regularly in normal circumstances. This is also the same information collected by the government when infants receive immunizations.

Can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing after I get the vaccine? 

No. At this time, it is recommended that even vaccinated individuals practice an abundance of caution by continuing to wear a mask, social distance, wash their hands, and avoid large gatherings (especially indoors). Even if you have the vaccine, it is possible you still need to quarantine if you are exposed to someone with an active COVID-19 infection. 

Does the vaccine impact fertility? 

The FDA has not excluded pregnant and lactating people from getting the Pfizer vaccine. They are allowing pregnant people to opt in for the vaccine because there is currently no known risk to the pregnant parent or the fetus. The Pfizer vaccine has not yet been studied in pregnant or lactating individuals; however, pregnant individuals are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 and the benefits of receiving the vaccine may outweigh any theoretical risk. 

If I have participated in a COVID-19 clinical trial should I get the vaccine?  

If you participated in a clinical trial, you will be notified if you received the vaccine or not. If you find out that you did not receive the vaccine, you should get vaccinated. It is important to confirm that you did not receive the vaccine during the trial you participated in before you get vaccinated.