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Now that there is an authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, accurate vaccine information is critical. The COVID-19 vaccine, along with continued masking, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, offers the best protection from COVID-19.
Arkansas Children’s is now pleased to offer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. Outpatients can schedule through their clinic's patient access representative, and established patients who are 16 or older and do not have an upcoming appointment can schedule through MyChart.Learn more
How do we know if a COVID-19 vaccine is safe?
All the steps of a clinical trial have been covered in the development of the vaccines along with rigorous safety monitoring of participants. For Pfizer, the study included 18,556 individuals who received the vaccine as compared to 20,000 individuals who received the placebo. The individuals in the study are still being followed. Data released at 14 weeks shows that there were no serious safety concerns among the vaccine group. Some people had some symptoms of headache, fatigue and muscle soreness that made them feel sick for a day but then the symptoms were gone. Similar results were seen in the Moderna trials, which included over 27,000 participants. Both vaccines’ safety and effectiveness data were extensively and publicly reviewed by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before the vaccines were distributed. Additionally, continued monitoring of trial participants will take place over the next 12-24 months.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals?
The CDC has said that pregnant and breastfeeding women who are at high-risk of exposure should be allowed to receive the vaccine if they choose. While pregnant or breastfeeding women were not included in the clinical trials, this recommendation was based on the data we have so far on the vaccine in pregnant women and animals, as well as the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnant women.
The mRNA only affects your muscle cells in your arm. It does not go any further before it gets degraded. It is very short lived. There is no reason to think it would have a systemic effect that impacts fertility, a developing baby or breastmilk. Both the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women be allowed to get the vaccine as well. Any women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, or breastfeeding should also reach out to their physician about any individual risk factors or concerns.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for children?
The Pfizer clinical trials have had participants as young as 12, but the vaccines are only approved for individuals 16 years of age or older. The Moderna vaccine is only currently approved for individuals 18 years of age and older. Future studies will help us determine the effects of vaccines in children.
How many shots of COVID-19 vaccine will I need?
The only COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized by the FDA needs two shots to be effective. If your first shot was from Pfizer, your second shot must be from Pfizer. The same is true if you received the Moderna vaccine as your first shot. Your second shot must be from Moderna. Keep your vaccine card or take a photo of it so you remember which one you received.
How many days apart will the two vaccine shots need to be?
The number of days between the doses will depend on which initial vaccine you got. Within 3-4 weeks, you will need to get your second dose. When you get vaccinated, you will receive a card that tells you which vaccine you got and when to return. Be sure to keep this card and take a photo of the card for your records.
How long will I be protected for with a vaccine?
It is uncertain at the moment how long immunity will last, but studies are being done to learn more. We should have more information on this soon. It is important to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. This is because we don’t know yet how long vaccine protection will last or how long it will take to vaccinate enough people for our communities to be protected.
If I had a documented, confirmed case COVID-19, do I still need the vaccination?
If you previously had COVID-19, you can and should still get vaccinated as long as you are not in an isolation or quarantine period for a current positive COVID-19 test or exposure.
If I have had an antibody test that shows COVID-19 antibodies, do I still need the vaccination?
Yes. You can and should still get vaccinated.
What are the ingredients? Are there different options like with flu vaccines (egg-free, high dose)?
What are the potential side effects from the vaccine?
Possible side effects of the vaccine include fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle/joint aches, diarrhea and pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.
When does my protection start after the vaccine?
People in the studies had 95% protection from COVID-19 infection beginning 1-2 weeks after their second dose of the vaccine.
Does immunity after getting COVID-19 last longer than protection from COVID-19 vaccines?
The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. Some early evidence seems to suggest that natural immunity may not last very long. We do not know how long immunity is going to last after the vaccine, but those studies are on-going. The information we have so far shows that most people get a bigger immune response, if we look at how much antibody they make, from the vaccine than they do from natural infection.
Will a COVID-19 vaccine need to be given annually?
We don’t know yet. The vaccine manufacturer will continue to monitor vaccine recipients for several months or more, so that over time, we will continue to get a better picture of how long the vaccine’s protection lasts. With this information, we will be better able to understand whether vaccines against COVID-19 will require annual dosing like influenza.
What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?
Experts do not know what percentage of people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. It depends on how effective the vaccine is, how well it protects against spreading the virus even when you do not feel sick (asymptomatic spread), and which groups of people get the vaccine. We will continue to study this as the vaccines are being given around the country.
Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, everyone within the community is protected even if some people do not have any protection themselves.
Do I need to wear a mask after I receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. It is important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.