INFORMED CHOICE ON VACCINES - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Your conversation and decision whether or not you get the COVID-19 vaccination begins now. The vaccine is important. What’s more important is your CHOICE. When making decisions about taking a vaccine, THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
- You have control of what happens to your body.
- It can be hard to make decisions that feel right to you when you do not have all the information.
- Unaddressed, unacknowledged and unhealed trauma has given rise to well-founded fears and distrust.
- You need trusted, fact-based information to make the choices that are best for you.
Vaccines are a product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines help your immune system recognize and destroy the virus when your body is exposed to these viruses from other people. Over the last hundred years, vaccines have been developed to combat smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, and more.
A vaccine is one of the tools available to stop a pandemic. They boost your immune system so if you are exposed to the virus, you can fight it. Other steps, like wearing a mask, washing your hands, and physically distancing, help reduce your chances of being exposed to or spreading the virus.
Clinical trials are an important part of determining vaccine safety and effectiveness. The purpose of clinical trials is to generate scientific and safety data for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review and base their recommendations on. Currently, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have conducted Phase 3 clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. The trials determined the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have received emergency use approval from the FDA to distribute their vaccines in the United States.
All vaccine clinical trials included people of diverse races and ethnicities. Researchers have not seen differences in the way the vaccines work in people of diverse groups. Pfizer’s clinical trial enrolled more than 44,000 participants worldwide. Four in 10 participants had racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. Moderna enrolled 30,000 participants, including 6,000 Hispanic and 3,000 Black participants. Johnson & Johnson’s trial included over 40,000 participants, including 8,515 Black and 19,000 Hispanic or Latino participants.
An Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a vaccine or medication in response to a public health emergency. An EUA may be granted for therapies that “may be effective,” or with a lower level of evidence than would otherwise be required for full FDA approval. The FDA reviewed two to three months of safety and efficacy data before issuing an EUA for the COVID-19 vaccines. In December 2020, the FDA authorized Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines for emergency use in the United States. In February 2021, the FDA granted EUA for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
If you decide to get the vaccine, it is recommended that you get whichever vaccine is made available to you. If you get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, be sure to get both the 1st and 2nd dose. If you don’t get the 2nd dose, you may not be fully protected. If you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need 1 dose. Currently, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are available in the United States. Clinical trials have shown that all 3 vaccines work well to protect you from getting COVID-19, lower the chance of having serious illness from it, and lower hospital stays and deaths due to COVID-19.
It is not known yet when the vaccines will have full FDA approval.
There were many factors that helped the COVID-19 vaccines get developed so rapidly. Significant resources were invested to fund the basic research and clinical trials, greatly speeding up the timeline. Instead of developing new trial sites, scientists joined existing ones; thus, saving time. Additionally, the amount of infection in the communities allowed scientists to quickly compare vaccinated to unvaccinated populations and conclusively show the vaccine worked. Last, but not least, the large number of brave volunteers willing to try the “novel” vaccines during the clinical trials helped accelerate the process.
According to medical experts, including current and former U.S. Surgeon Generals, there is no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against new virus strains as well.
There are no plans at the state levels to mandate vaccinations.
Clinical trials have shown that all 3 vaccines work well to protect you from getting COVID-19, lower the chance of having serious illness from it, and lower hospital stays and deaths due to COVID-19. This is true across age, sex, ethnicity, people with underlying medical conditions, and those who already had COVID-19. In clinical trials, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protected 95% of the people who got them, compared to people who got a placebo (a shot with no active ingredient). That’s more than 9 out of 10 people. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine protected 67% of people, compared to those who got a placebo. That’s more than 6 out of 10 people.
In clinical trials, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines protected 95% of the people who got them, compared to people who got a placebo (a shot with no active ingredient). That’s more than 9 out of 10 people. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine protected 67% of people, compared to those who got a placebo. That’s more than 6 out of 10 people. The reason for the different results may be that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in countries with several COVID-virus variants and at a time when case numbers were very high in some of these countries. A lot of cases means more opportunities for infections. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested before these variants had spread. While some people may have gotten mild symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19 even after they got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it worked just as well as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to prevent serious illness or death.
No, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not work less well than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because it’s only 1 shot, not 2. While clinical trials for the 3 vaccines showed slightly different results, this is not due to the number of doses.
If you get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you will be fully protected about 2 weeks after your 2nd dose. Be sure to schedule your 2nd dose whenever you get your 1st dose of the vaccine. If you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will be fully protected about 2 weeks after your 1st and only dose.
It is not yet known how long immunity will last with a vaccine. The length of protection is still being studied.
The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials have been tested with tens of thousands of participants and have passed safety requirements. While some people have had mild side effects, such as a sore arm and headaches, serious side effects are extremely rare. Vaccine safety monitoring systems are in place to make sure that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to assess whether it is a true safety concern. This helps experts make sure the vaccines continue to be safe for the public.
Like any vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects. These are usually mild and go away after a few days. Most side effects are signs that your body is building immunity from the virus. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, side effects may happen more often after the 2nd dose, but they happen less often among older adults. Common side effects include: Pain where you got the shot, Fever or chills, Fatigue (feeling tired), Headache, Muscle pain, and Diarrhea. More serious or long-lasting side effects to vaccines are possible but extremely rare. Vaccines are continually monitored to find out about any rare side effects.
Like any vaccine, there is no guarantee that you will not get the virus, but early indications are that the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines work very well to protect people from getting seriously ill with COVID-19. If you get the vaccine and still become infected, you are likely to have mild, if any, symptoms. That is why it is so important to continue to wear your mask, wash your hands, and continue to maintain social distance.
No. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. That’s because the vaccine does not use live virus but blueprints for a part of a virus.
It is possible for you to get COVID-19 between the time when you get the vaccine and until your body builds full immunity. This is because it takes your body at least 2 weeks after you get a vaccine to build immunity. The 1st dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only offers some protection from getting COVID-19. You are not fully protected until 2 weeks after your 2nd dose. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only needs 1 dose, and you have full protection about 2 weeks after getting it.
Yes. At this time, it is recommended that even if you get vaccinated, you should continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, physically distance at least six feet apart, and avoid large gatherings (especially indoors) likely until most people are immune to COVID-19 and cases in the community have decreased significantly.
You should consider getting vaccinated because some people who have had the virus are getting reinfected. Also, it is unclear how long immunity lasts after having COVID-19 and it may vary from person to person.
What you need to provide will vary for each vaccinator. Just like a regular doctor's appointment, you should call ahead to ask what you will need to provide. Examples may include a driver’s license and insurance provider information, if applicable.
Your healthcare information will be safe. It cannot and should not be used in unethical ways. Limited personal information is reported from your local vaccination site to state and federal government.
The initial clinical trials did not include children. Thus currently, there is no vaccine for children under 16 because more studies need to be completed. However, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use to vaccinate those 16 years and older. People 18 years and older can get the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Pregnant women were not included in the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 clinical trials. This means there is no data to show how well the vaccine works in pregnant women. However, based on how COVID-19 vaccines work, experts think they are unlikely to pose a specific chance of harm to pregnant women. Several studies have shown that pregnant women who get COVID-19 are more likely to have a more severe case of it. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor to learn more about getting the vaccine.
At this time, students are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It may be some time before one is approved and becomes available for children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has endorsed a plan to prioritize the nation's 21 million health care workers and 3 million residents of long-term care facilities. States have the final say over which groups are first in line for any vaccine the federal government sends them, but they are expected to go along with the CDC recommendation. After health care workers and those at long-term care facilities get vaccinated, the people who will likely get vaccinated next are the 87 essential million workers — such as teachers, police officers, fire fighters, prison officers and grocery store workers. They will be followed by 100 million adults with certain high-risk medical conditions and people who are 75 years old or older.
Each state has been asked to prepare plans to receive, store, distribute and prioritize the vaccine. The States of Missouri and Illinois do not yet have a schedule for the general public to get vaccinated. However, the most vulnerable and critical populations are being given priority for getting the vaccine. These populations include: healthcare workers; residents and staff who work in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes; essential workers such as first responders, teachers and education staff and childcare workers; and high-risk people ages 18 and older.
As more vaccine is distributed by the federal government, several thousand vaccination providers will be available, including but not limited to doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals, and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
All people, including those without insurance, will be able to get the vaccination for free. No person can be billed for the COVID-19 vaccine. If applicable in your situation, vaccination providers may charge an administration fee to insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
employment and vaccination
There is no federal or state mandate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine to all Americans age 16 and older.
It is up to each employer of a private company to determine whether they want to require their employees to get vaccinated.
There are no legal repercussions (such as fines, sanctions or punishments) for refusing the vaccine. If you do not get vaccinated, you will not be protected against the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, you will be at risk of transmitting this deadly virus to co-workers and loved ones.
Yes, private companies could fire you for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine, as some of them are considering getting vaccinated as part of conditions of employment. Most companies do not yet have policies in place. Some employees may be exempt from getting vaccinated due to health or religious reasons.
influenza and COVID-19
You should talk to your medical provider to help you determine the risk. It will depend on what exactly you are allergic to and whether that is a component of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 belong to two different virus families, so one vaccine is not interchangeable for another. It is important that you also consider getting the flu vaccine this year.
A seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19. Being infected with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time could lead to a more severe illness, which is why it is more important now than ever to consider getting the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine.
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