COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ Series - What you need to know about the COVID-19 Vaccine

Midwest Allergy Sinus Asthma, SC

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ Series
By Tamara Reeter, NP and Dareen Siri, MD
*created 1/7/21 and subject to change.

Many of our patients are asking us about details regarding COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines. Given MASA, the Food Allergy Center, and SWIA’s expertise in allergy, immunology, medicine and clinical research, we have collected and digested information from validated sources as we begin a Q&A series which will address the majority of questions that our patients have. These documents are intended for general information and should not be taken as specific advice to your particular situation since good care for all patients should be individualized.

Announcement to Patients about COVID-19 (March 2020)
Q&A 1. Background on COVID-19
Q&A 2. What you need to know about the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Q&A 3. Questions about efficacy and safety.
Q&A 4. Questions about allergies, advice, and special circumstances.

Here are some facts that you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Many questions have arisen about the COVID-19 vaccine. We have taken information from the Centers for Disease Control and medical literature to help answer these questions for our patients.

1. How will a COVID-19 vaccine help me and others?

Vaccination is one of the strategies to staying healthy and well. However it is also essential to practice good hygiene and precautionary practices, particularly if your immune system is weak. Such precautions, as well as social distancing measures, are not likely to disappear anytime soon, but we will all be able to get back to more normal activities once the majority of people are vaccinated. The primary reason to vaccinate are the following:

  1. Less severe infections or asymptomatic infections
  2. Reduced time of viral shedding when a person does get infected, due to a primed and more efficient immune system in the particular vaccinated individual
  3. Less circulation of the virus in the community at large, which means less chance of getting infected. This is what is called HERD IMMUNITY. Since the virus is not able to infect many people due to immunity, the virus has less opportunity to survive. Herd immunity is extremely important to protect those who cannot get the vaccination (severe allergic reaction, age, etc) or who cannot mount an appropriate immune response (immunosuppressed, going through cancer treatment, etc).

2. What are the steps to getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

Two COVID-19 vaccinations are available at the time of writing this informative document: the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Both are lipid nanoparticle (LNP)-encapsulated mRNA vaccines.

There is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, but supply will increase in the weeks and months to come. The CDC is making recommendations for who should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine first when supplies are limited. Individual states and their public health departments have taken on the responsibility of applying the guidelines and providing the vaccinations to the public. In Illinois, each local health department is coordinating such efforts. Once available, public health departments will be offering administration to selected groups either through a healthcare facility or directly through the public health department. As more vaccines become available, it is likely that your doctor, clinic, pharmacy, and even dentist may be able to administer the vaccination. Again, this will vary state by state

and region by region. If you are in a prioritized group (see below), please check the website of your local health department for updates.

  1. What ages are eligible?
    • ●  Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: 16 or older
    • ●  Moderna COVID-19 vaccine: 18 or older
    • ●  It is likely during phase 1, individuals 18 and older will be given priority, although there may be exceptions.
  2. Who is prioritized to get the COVID-19 vaccine first?

In phase 1 of the mass vaccination campaign, the following persons are prioritized:
1a: Healthcare personnel and Long-term care facility residents
1b: Frontline essential workers and People age 75 years and older
1c: People aged 65 through 74 years and People aged 16 through 64 years with underlying medical conditions and Other essential workers

5. Who should get the vaccine when eligible?

All those who are eligible in the general population to get the COVID-19 vaccine should do so, including those with a history of COVID-19 infection. The list of those who should get the COVID-19 vaccine includes those with asthma, autoimmune disease, environmental allergies, and those on immunotherapy. Having these conditions are not contraindications to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. (More information on this below.) People who are considered to be a high risk for severe disease and hospitalization are being prioritized to get the vaccine. This group may include not just those who have advanced age, but also people who have chronic comorbid disease such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, COPD, cancer, etc.

6. Will it be costly for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. Cost is not an obstacle to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine is funded with taxpayer money and is provided by our government. Facilities that are administering the vaccine to the general public may charge an administration fee for the labor, materials, refrigeration, and supplies. This may also include a fee for using PPE (personal protective equipment) to enable them to safely give vaccines to a large number of people. These fees are likely to be covered by private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

7. What do I need to know once I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Below are some key points:
1. Again, the COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you from getting COVID-19. It is

important to know that the immune system takes about 10-14 daysin most people to

start developing protection (these are called protective antibodies). You can still catch

COVID-19 and get sick while your body is working on making protective antibodies.

  1. Two doses are needed. The second dose is important for the persistence of immunity. Some people, depending on their immune system, do not make a very strong response the first time s/he gets vaccinated. Others may have a decent immune response but it is not long lasting. In the clinical trials, the majority (>90%) of people who participated in the trials received 2 doses about 3-4 weeks apart. The majority of those individuals demonstrated robust antibodies afterwards.
    1. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine – the interval is 21 days between the first and second dose.
    2. Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the interval is 28 days between the first and second dose.
  2. You will receive the injection in the muscle, which is likely to be a large muscle group such as your deltoid. Most people experience some swelling and tenderness so most people prefer to get the shot in the non-dominant arm.
  3. After you get the shot, you should wait in the healthcare facility for at least 15 minutes.
  4. You will be given a vaccine information sheet, which will include instructions on how to register with v-safe(with your smartphone). V-safe is the CDC’s vaccine safety reporting app, also known as the “after vaccine safety checker” app. This was created to facilitate the report of vaccine reactions.
  5. You will be scheduled to return for the second dose of the vaccine to the same facility at the specified interval.
  6. If you miss the general window of vaccines given, there will still be additional vaccines available. However, you may need to wait a short period so that you can get it administered with a group of others. The current vaccines are manufactured in multiple doses and must be kept refrigerated. Once a vaccine bottle is opened, it must all be used, thus some healthcare facilities will schedule people in groups so as not to waste any vaccine.