COVID-19 Vaccine 101

The following Q & A was addressed on the December 10, 2020 QC COVID-19 press briefing with local media. The full briefing can be viewed here:

Links to COVID-19 vaccine resources, including the CDC, Iowa and Illinois Health Departments, and Scott and Rock Island County Health Departments are located on the vaccination page:

It seems like the process for approving the vaccine moved really quickly. Did it?

  • Traditionally, it has taken many years to develop a vaccine, confirm its safety and efficacy, and manufacture the vaccine in sufficient quantities for public use. This timeline was shortened for the COVID-19 vaccines in development. Many of the steps taken in any clinical trial were allowed to take place at the same time instead of one after another.  Also, due to the pandemic the United States government and others t ‘
  • The United States government has heavily invested in building the manufacturing capacity to produce large numbers of vaccine doses before the findings of the phase 3 trials were available.  This ensures that vaccine is available once the authorization is given.  None of the ways in which this vaccine development and production was sped up mean that short cuts were taken or safety was compromised.

What will the COVID-19 vaccine protect me from and for how long?

  • Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine trials have shown about a 95 percent success in protecting people from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. 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 don’t have any protection themselves. The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.

How does the community deal with the ultra-cold storage of the Pfizer vaccine?

  • The Pfizer vaccine is required to be shipped at up to 100 degrees below zero. However, it is stable for five days outside of that ultra-cold temperature. The Moderna vaccine does not need the ultra-cold storage.
  • The State of Iowa is only shipping the Pfizer vaccine to facilities and providers that have ultra-cold storage.  Certain facilities in Scott County are able to store vaccine in this type of storage.

How many doses of the vaccine will I need?

  • Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are expected to arrive in our community in the next two weeks, require two doses.
  • Individuals will receive the second dose of the vaccines after at least a 21 day wait for the Pfizer vaccine and after at least a 28 day wait for the Moderna vaccine.

Do both doses of the vaccine have to come from the same vaccine?

  • Yes, both doses must be of the same vaccine.  The vaccines cannot be interchanged.  As individuals are given their first dose of vaccine, the vaccine manufacturer and other information is recorded in the state’s immunization registry for future use. 

Will I be able to choose which of the COVID-19 vaccines I want?

  • Right now, with limited vaccine in the community being provided to priority groups, individuals in the priority groups are being provided the vaccine that is available at the time based on supply and distribution factors.
  • When enough vaccine is available in our community for everyone who would like to receive it, it is likely that individuals will have greater choice in which vaccine they receive and where they receive it.

How do we know if the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

  • Vaccine safety is a priority – new vaccines undergo serious reviews in a lab and through trials.  Early results from trials show the COVID-19 vaccine has worked as it is supposed to with no serious side effects.  These results include the more than 2-3 months of follow-up of individuals involved in the vaccine trials.
  • There is solid medical and scientific evidence that tell us the benefits of approved vaccines far outweigh the risks.  This is also true for the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The FDA advises manufacturers that at least 3,000 participants are required to assess safety. The current Phase 3 of trials have included 30,000-50,000 participants.
  • Vaccine approval normally includes four phases. Once the vaccine is approved after Phase 3, Phase 4 will continue and will include continued monitoring and gathering of safety data.

What reaction should I expect after getting the vaccine?

  • The vaccine does not cause someone to get sick with COVID-19.  Vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as a sore arm, headache, fatigue, chills or fever. These symptoms are normal and are signs the body is building immunity.
  • You can expect side effects to go away without complication or injury within about a day or two. Remember, these are signs that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and building immunity.

I already had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?

  • Not enough is known about how long natural immunity lasts for those that have recovered from the virus. The CDC is still learning more about natural immunity to COVID-19.  The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will make recommendations to CDC on who should get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The vaccine can increase your protection from the virus.

I’m healthy.  Why do I need to be vaccinated?

  • While you may be healthy, many individuals in our community have risk factors for getting serious complications from COVID-19 infection. Getting a COVID-19 vaccination protects you so you may protect others around you as well.

I’m nervous about getting the vaccine.  What should I do?

  • It’s normal to be nervous about something new and to have questions.  We encourage you to ask questions and get answers to your questions from reliable sources.  We recommend looking for information from the CDC, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), both state health departments, and our local health departments. 
  • As it gets closer to the time when the vaccine may be available for you, your healthcare provider will also be a great resource to talk with about the COVID-19 vaccine.

How will I know it’s my turn to get the vaccine?

  • We have a team in place working hard to communicate this important information to our community.  You can expect to get information from our departments, through avenues such as social media, our website, our local media partners, and also local healthcare providers.
  • There is no “list” that any first responder, healthcare worker or member of the public needs to get on at this point.
  • The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program can be compared with the rollout of new software for phones – we expect some challenges, and we’ll work quickly to meet them.

Where will I get the vaccine when it’s my turn?

  • As more vaccine becomes available, there is a good chance it will be available through private healthcare providers and retail pharmacies.

Once I receive the vaccine, will I still need to wear a mask and social distance?

  • We will still need to wear masks and practice physical distancing until a large proportion of the population is vaccinated and we are sure the vaccine provides long-term protection. Initially, we will not have enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine and the virus still will be transmitted.

Will I have to pay for the vaccine?

  • The federal government is committed to providing free or low-cost COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine doses purchased with taxpayer dollars will be given to those who choose to receive them at no cost.  There may be an administration cost that is covered by insurance or other sources for individuals without insurance.  Cost will not be a barrier.

What can you tell us about the new method of vaccine being used, called mRNA vaccines?

  • They cannot give someone COVID-19.
  • mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
  • They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.
  • mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept.
  • The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.

When will children be given the vaccine?

  • The Moderna vaccine has included children in its clinical trials. We expect more information about results when the Moderna vaccine receives emergency use authorization from the FDA. This could be as early as next week.
  • If a pediatric vaccine is approved, children will be prioritized along with all of other groups.  Some may fit in with other groups, including those with chronic disease, essential workers, etc.
December 11, 2020