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Coronavirus Vaccine Q&A

Q&A with Dr. Lindsay Carter

With states starting to roll out their coronavirus vaccine programs, we thought it was the perfect time to have a Q&A with our medical director, Dr. Lindsay Carter.

When can I get the vaccine?
Each state and county has their own plan for giving vaccines. And each location offering the vaccine may have their own way of scheduling people to receive it. So, we've gathered some state and county resources to help you find out how and when you can get the vaccine in your area.

Find a Vaccine Near You

Is the vaccine a new technology?
Yes. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been approved both use new technology called messenger RNA (mRNA). It works by telling our cells make a piece of COVID. This small piece of COVID can't make you sick. But it's enough to help your immune system learn to protect us if we come into contact with the real virus.

How many shots will I have to get?
You'll need 2 shots and you get them 3 weeks apart. And you really do need both to protect yourself. Other vaccines coming out later will use different technology and may require just 1 shot. 

Does the vaccine work? 
Yes, very much so. During the studies, the vaccine prevented sickness from coronavirus 95% of the time. You almost can't do any better than that. Vaccines we have for other diseases have been incredibly successful, and this one is even better. By a lot. It's not often we see this kind effectiveness in fighting disease.

Scientists tested the vaccine on adults of different ages, genders, races, and ethnicities, and the results were the same across the board. They're still testing the vaccine on children. It's not yet approved for anyone under age 16.

Is it safe?
Yes, it is. Even though the vaccine was developed quickly, it went through all the normal stages in testing. The studies did NOT take any shortcuts. It all happened so quickly thanks to amazing collaboration among experts from around the world.

Are there side effects?
With any vaccine, it's common to have symptoms like fatigue or a headache after you get it. This is your immune system reacting (in a good way!) to the shot. The side effects with the COVID vaccine are very similar to what we see with other vaccines.

In the COVID vaccine studies, up to half of people reported mild symptoms like fatigue or headache after getting the shot. Fewer than 5 of every 100 people reported things like low grade fevers or swelling and redness where they received the shot. These side effects typically go away on their own after a day or two. Be sure to call your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that bother you or do not go away.

Can I choose which vaccine to get?
No, not right now. That's up to the state where you live. We suggest you get whichever one you can receive first.

After I get the vaccine, can my life go back to normal? 
Not quite. Even with the vaccine, it may still be possible to get the virus and pass it to someone else. From the vaccine studies, we know that it can keep you from getting sick. But we're not sure if it will keep you from spreading the virus even if you don't have symptoms.

That's why it’s important to continue with masks and social distancing in the months ahead. We can go back to normal once the vaccine is widespread and things are under control. 

Should I get the vaccine if I already had COVID?
We think so. Some of the people in the studies had already had COVID and the vaccine was safe for them. Experts also think the boost of extra immunity from the vaccine will be helpful. Always check with your healthcare provider if you have any questions based on your health conditions and history. 

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