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Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Updated 2/2/21

Availability

Q. When will I be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. Learn about the COVID-19 Vaccine at St. Luke's.

Q. Why isn’t the vaccine available to everyone?
A. Eventually, the vaccine will be available to everyone. In order to get to that point, St. Luke’s must follow strict guidance from the State of Minnesota regarding who we are able to give the vaccine to. This is directly related to the current supply of vaccine available. To learn more about vaccine distribution in our region, visit:

Q. Who prioritized who is eligible?
A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) determined the priority groups that will be getting vaccine first. Then, the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Advisory Group reviewed the guidelines and made detailed recommendations for how to apply the guidelines in Minnesota.

Vaccine Specifics

Q. How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
A. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have been approved for emergency use, are mRNA vaccines, a relatively new type of vaccine that was first used in the 1990s. Itcontains instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus, but which can help train our immune systems to combat COVID-19. Your body recognizes that this protein should not be there and builds antibodies, which will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if you are exposed to it in the future. More information about COVID-19 vaccines can be found here: cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/

Q. Which vaccine is St. Luke’s using?
A. St. Luke’s is using the Pfizer vaccine, which is a 2-dose regimen, with the second vaccine to be administered 21 days later. The second dose is critical for long-term effectiveness.

Q: Are there any reasons I should wait to have the vaccine?
A. There are a few reasons why you may need to wait to receive a vaccine:

  • If you currently have COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms
  • If you are quarantined because of an exposure to COVID-19
  • If you have received a live virus vaccine in the past 4 weeks (i.e. MMR, varicella)
  • If you have received Monoclonal Antibody Therapy or Convalescent Plasma in the past 90 days

Q. Can the COVID-19 vaccine be given to pregnant or breastfeeding women?
A. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consult with your doctor. The Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommends that those who are prioritized for vaccination be offered the current mRNA vaccine if pregnant. Additionally, the Academy for Immunization Practices (ACIP) stated that those who are recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and are pregnant or breastfeeding may choose to be vaccinated.

While there are no data yet on the safety of mRNA vaccines on pregnant or breastfeeding women and infants, mRNA vaccines are not considered live virus vaccines and are not thought to be a risk to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Q. What are the Pfizer vaccine ingredients?
A. The vaccine contains the following ingredients:

  • Nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike glycoprotein (S) of SARS-CoV-2
  • Lipids: ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol)
  • Salts: potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate
  • Sucrose

Q. If I have access to both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines, which one should I choose?
A. Both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine are very similar in terms of side effects and efficacy. St. Luke’s is using Pfizer.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Q. When will I have protection from COVID-19 after the vaccines?
A. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until 1-2 weeks after the second shot.

Q. Can the COVID-19 vaccine give me a COVID-19 infection?
A. No, neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines use a live COVID-19 virus.

Q. What are the risks of not getting vaccinated?
A. While many people who get COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness or they may even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you are not at increased risk of severe complications. If you get sick, you also may spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you.

Q. How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19 before I can receive the vaccine?
A. You should continue to follow recommendations to decrease your risk of acquiring COVID-19 by covering your nose and mouth with a mask when around others outside of your household, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds and washing your hands frequently.

Vaccine Side Effects

Q. What are the common responses to the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. You may have some minor side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. The common responses are: pain or swelling in the arm where you got your shot, fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and joint aches. These are typically mild to moderate and generally resolve within 1-2 days. Responses are more common after the 2nd dose, and are more frequent and severe in 18-55 year olds than those greater than 55 years.

Cough, shortness of breath, a runny nose, sore throat, loss of taste or smell are NOT consistent with post-vaccination symptoms.

Q. Is it safe to get the second shot if I had a reaction to the first dose?
A. Yes, you should get the second dose even if you had side effects from the first dose, unless a vaccine provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second shot. When you go in for your second dose, be sure to let the vaccinator know what side affects you had.

Q. Will the vaccine cause sterility or infertility?
A. Social media articles have circulated regarding the vaccine’s potential impact on infertility. However, the claims are not based on any reliable scientific evidence. There is no scientific evidence from the current studies that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine causes infertility in men or women.

Vaccine for those who had COVID-19 or are feeling ill

Q. If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
A. Yes. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again (called natural immunity). Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Since natural immunity is known to be good for at least 3 months after contracting COVID-19, those who were previously infected with COVID-19 can elect to delay their vaccine up to 90 days from their positive test if they so choose.

You should be well, fever-free and not in an isolation or quarantine period when you get your COVID-19 vaccine. Those who received Monoclonal Antibody Therapy or Convalescent Plasma treatment will have to wait 90 days to receive the vaccine.

Q. Do I have to be symptom-free to get the vaccine?
A. Like any other vaccine, you don’t want to have a fever or obvious illness – otherwise you won’t know what side effects you’re having and your immune system is already working to fight something off. You should defer your date until you’re feeling better.

Q. If I get the COVID-19 vaccine and take a COVID-19 test, will it come back positive?
A. No, the vaccine will not cause you to test positive on a COVID-19 test.
If/when your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on an antibody blood test.

Reasons to get the vaccine

Q. Why is a vaccine needed if we can do other things, like social distancing and wearing masks, to prevent the virus from spreading?
A. Stopping a pandemic requires using all available tools. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations on how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Q. Should I continue to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received 2 doses of the vaccine?
A. Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all available tools to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and wearing appropriate PPE while at work. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following current recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people are able to be vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect these decisions.

Q. What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to have herd immunity
to COVID-19?

A. 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. Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. Herd immunity is generally thought to be achieved when 60-70% of a population is immune. However, the percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.

Q. Will it cost anything to receive the vaccine?
A. No. There are no out-of-pocket costs for those receiving the vaccines. Private insurance companies and government insurance programs like Medicare will fully cover the cost of the vaccine. For those who are uninsured, the cost will be fully covered.

Q. Does immunity after getting COVID-19 last longer than protection from the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. 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.

Regarding vaccination, we won’t know how long immunity lasts until we have more data on how well it works under real-life conditions in a broader population.

Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about.