Here are the answers to the most pressing questions we have received from our patients in regards to COVID-19 vaccination. If you still have reservations about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, we strongly urge you to rely on factual, science-based resources like ours. We are confident that once you get the facts, you’ll get the vax.
Why People Should Be Vaccinated
It seems that vaccine production was rushed, how can that be safe?
The fact is that scientists had already been working on vaccine strategies for viruses just like coronavirus for several years prior to the appearance of COVID-19. In addition, the companies that produced the mRNA COVID vaccines have been studying mRNA technology for over a decade. However, the speed occurred because a global pandemic struck and governments rapidly funded vaccine trials and then put large amounts of money into manufacturing vaccines at a rapid rate. NO steps were skipped in the vaccine trials.
Does the vaccine change my DNA?
Absolutely not. All vaccines introduce a little piece of the virus into your body, which is not enough to make you sick. Your immune system then makes antibodies against that little piece so that when the real virus enters your body, the antibodies are ready to fight off the virus.
The mRNA vaccines provide the genetic “code” for surface pieces of the coronavirus. Once your cells have the genetic code, your body produces pieces of the virus protein and your immune system then makes coronavirus antibodies. The mRNA NEVER enters the cell nucleus where all your DNA is stored.
Why do I need to get a vaccine if I can practice other things like social distancing to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading?
Vaccines work to prepare your body to fight the virus if you are exposed to it. Other steps, like the 3Ws – wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart and wash your hands – help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine and following the 3Ws is everyone’s best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.
I’d rather wait to see how others do first…
Hundreds of thousands of people were immunized through all the vaccine trials across the world. If there had been any serious side effects or safety concerns, the vaccines would not have been approved.
Was the vaccine tested on people of diverse ethnic backgrounds? Was everyone in the vaccine trials healthy? How do I know it’s safe for me?
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine trial participants included 20-25% Hispanic, 10% Black and 5% Asian volunteers. Both vaccine trials had 20-25% of participants over age 65, and 30-35% of patients were obese. 5-10% of participants had diabetes, COPD or heart disease.
Is there a concern about getting the vaccine while pregnant or could it impact my fertility?
Talk to your OB/GYN about getting the vaccine if you are pregnant. While numbers of pregnant individuals in the trials were small, there were no adverse events with the vaccine. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) recently recommended withholding COVID-19 vaccines from pregnant individuals unless they are at high risk of exposure, however we still believe the benefits outweigh any risk. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility.
Will we get to stop wearing masks after vaccination?
The vaccines are 94-95% effective after getting both doses, which is great news. However, we will need to keep wearing masks until enough people get vaccinated to protect the bigger population.
Questions About Receiving the Vaccine
Will I need to sign a consent form to get vaccinated?
You can provide verbal consent. Written consent is not generally required, but some providers may require or request written consent.
Does the state require or mandate vaccination?
No. North Carolina has no plan to require people to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It is possible that some employers or schools will require vaccines for their employees or students.
Can Non-US Citizens get the vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine will be available to everyone for free, whether or not they have health insurance and regardless of their immigration status. Information is kept confidential and won’t be shared with ICE for immigration enforcement. Getting the vaccine does not have a negative impact on people’s chances of adjusting their immigration status. The Department of Homeland Security released a statement on equal access to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites (read more).
Can you get a vaccine in a county you don’t live in?
Yes. The CDC has instructed states that this is a federal vaccine bought with federal funding. Thus, jurisdictions may not put restrictions on administering vaccinations to non-residents, as long as those persons meet the current eligibility criteria. This applies to both county and state residency.
How much will the vaccines cost?
There is no cost. They are free to everyone, even if you don’t have health insurance. T
Can I get COVID-19 by taking the vaccine?
You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. You may have temporary reactions like a sore arm, headache or feeling tired and achy for a day or two after receiving the vaccine.
Does my doctor think I should get the vaccine?
Yes, in general, we strongly recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccine when and where possible. If you are undergoing chemotherapy now, check with your oncologist for guidance.
If I was diagnosed with COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine? If so, when?
If you have had COVID-19, you can get the vaccine at least 30 days after diagnosis. You could possibly wait up to 90 days after the COVID-19 illness before getting the vaccine, but waiting 30 days is the minimum.
Can I contract COVID-19 after getting my first dose of the vaccine?
Yes, you can contract the COVID-19 illness, but not from the vaccine itself. This is why it is incredibly important to continue to wash your hands, wear your face mask and practice social distancing. You only obtain partial immune protection after the first COVID-19 vaccine and thus are still able to contract the COVID-19 illness.
If I contract COVID-19 after receiving my first vaccine shot should I delay getting the second shot?
If you contract COVID-19 after your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you can receive your second dose as scheduled, or as soon as your quarantine is complete.
Will the vaccine work against new variants of the COVID-19 virus?
All viruses change over time and these changes (or variants) are expected. Scientists are currently working to learn more about new COVID-19 variants and their effects on vaccines. We do know that some of the new variants spread more easily. Therefore, it is important to keep practicing the 3Ws—washing your hands, waiting six feet apart and wearing a mask around people you don’t live with. More information can be found on the CDC website.
What can I do to protect myself from COVID-19 while I am waiting to be vaccinated?
North Carolinians should continue to practice the 3Ws – wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart and wash your hands – while they wait to get vaccinated and after they have been vaccinated to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.
How long does it take for the vaccine to work?
The vaccines provide their full protection from COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose.
Are children able to get the vaccine?
Children will not receive vaccines until clinical trials are completed to ensure the vaccines are safe and work to prevent COVID-19 illness in children. The Pfizer vaccine can be given to teenagers aged 16 and up, and they are doing additional studies with children aged 12 and over.
I am allergic to many medications, should I get the vaccine?
Even if you have a history of anaphylaxis, it is OK to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You will be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving your COVID-19 vaccine. If you have a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, please consult your physician before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and my shingles vaccine near the same time?
Getting the shingles vaccine shortly before or after getting either dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will not impact the effectiveness of either vaccine. We do recommend spacing the vaccines out by at least 14 days because they both cause similar side effects and may be hard on your body. Prioritize your COVID-19 vaccine first!
Can l get the COVID-19 vaccine if l am currently taking a blood thinner medication (including Plavix and Warfarin)?
Yes, you can. When you go to get your vaccine, let the person giving you the shot know so they can apply extra pressure to prevent bleeding after your vaccination.
If I am undergoing cancer treatment, or am on immunosuppressant drugs, is it safe for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you are undergoing cancer treatment, be sure to speak with your oncologist. If you are not in active treatment, you should proceed with getting the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are on immunosuppressants, speak with your doctor about vaccination and timing.
I have a rheumatic condition. Should I stop taking my prescription drugs (DMARDs or biologics) before or after I get the vaccine?
Tryon Medical Partners rheumatology team has received recommendations from the American College of Rheumatology about how patients with rheumatic conditions should handle their medications when getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here for an alphabetical listing of common rheumatology prescription drugs, and whether or not patients should stop taking them immediately before or after getting their COVID-19 vaccine.
- FDA Briefing Documents, Moderna Covid 19 Vaccine, 12/17/20
- FDA Briefing Documents, Pfizer-BioNTech Covid 19 Vaccine, 12/10/20
- “The Race to Save the World,” Walter Iaacson, Time Magazine, 1//18/21
- mRNA Vaccine: Facts vs Fiction, Toks Falarin, MD
- Graphic from Nature magazine
- ACOG and SMFM Joint Statement on WHO Recommendations Regarding COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnant Individuals
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19
- NC Department of Health and Human Services, COVID-19 Vaccine Update 2/12/21
- American College of Rheumatology