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.

vaccine trials

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 and Moderna have completed Phase 3 clinical trials involving many thousands of participants. The trials determined the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. Both Pfizer and Moderna have received emergency use approval from the FDA to distribute their vaccines in the United States.
Pfizer’s clinical trial enrolled 44,000+ participants globally with 42% of them having racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds. Moderna enrolled 30,000 trial participants, including 6,000 Hispanic and 3,000 Black 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.
Currently, the Pfizer and Modern vaccines are available in the United States. The data suggests that both vaccines are similarly effective. If you decide to get the vaccine, it is recommended that you take whichever vaccine is made available to you. Be sure to get the two doses. If you choose not to get the second dose, you may not receive the full benefits of the vaccine.
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.

effectiveness

Both the Pfizer and Modena vaccines have an approximate 95% efficacy rate and are highly effective in preventing severe disease. This rate applies across age, sex and ethnicity, as well as among individuals with underlying medical conditions and those who have been previously infected by COVID-19.
The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to provide some protection a couple of weeks after your first shot. It reaches its greatest effectiveness after your second shot. It is very important to take the second shot within the recommended time period for maximum vaccine effectiveness.
It is not yet known how long immunity will last with a vaccine. The length of protection is still being studied.

safety

The vaccines in trial have been tested in tens of thousands of people and have passed safety requirements. Neither Pfizer nor Moderna have reported any serious adverse effects during their initial clinical trial phases. To date, of the people who have received the complete two-dose series, no serious adverse events have been reported. Vaccine safety monitoring systems are in place to collect side effect data. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to assess whether it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in U.S. vaccine recommendations. This monitoring is critical to help ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive vaccines.
While not seen in all people who get vaccinated, common side effects can include injection site soreness, diarrhea, fever, muscle aches and chills. Most vaccine-related side effects last one to two days. Side effects may be more frequent after the second shot, known as the booster, and less frequent among older adults. Additionally, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have not identified any specific safety concerns among people based on age, race, ethnicity or underlying medical conditions. Most side effects are signs that your body is recognizing the vaccine and mounting a response, so you can stay healthy. As for long-term side effects of the vaccines, they are unknown. The long-term side effects of vaccines are rare. Vaccine studies are ongoing, and they will continue to be monitored and watched for adverse side effects.
Yes. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses separated by at least three or four weeks depending on which vaccine you receive. At this time, it is not known whether follow-up or annual vaccinations will be required for COVID-19 like they are for the flu.
Like any vaccine, there is no guarantee that you will not get the virus, but early indications are that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are nearly 95% effective in protecting against severe COVID-19. If you are vaccinated and still become infected, we believe you are likely to have mild if any disease. 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.
The first dose of vaccine only offers some protection from getting the virus; thus, the recommendation is to receive two doses to be protected. Both Pfizer and Moderna say their vaccines are approximately 95% effective when both doses are taken.
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 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use to vaccinate those 16 and older and Moderna’s vaccine those 18 and older.
Many vaccines are recommended for pregnant women. However, pregnant women were not included in either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 clinical trials. Thus, it cannot be said for sure how the vaccine will perform in pregnant women. Several studies have shown that pregnant women who get COVID-19 are more likely to have a more severe case of it.
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.

distribution

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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