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Answers to Frequently
Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccines

As Vermont continues to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to more and more people, Rutland Regional has compiled a quick list of questions and answers about the vaccine. We have included notes at the end of the FAQ containing links to the sources where we obtained the information.

How serious is COVID-19?

Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, the US tallied more than 800,000 deaths from COVID-19. That is more than all US combat deaths from all wars since the American Revolution.[1]

COVID-19 poses a serious risk to us all, the most recent evidence shows the following:

  • With more than 800,000 dead in a single year, the virus is more deadly than the flu. In 2017, the CDC estimated that more than 60,000 Americans died from the flu, more than any year since 2009.[2]
  • According to Johns Hopkins University, 20 percent of COVID infections are severe: 15 percent require hospital care, and 5 percent require intensive care.[3]
  • The risk of hospitalization or death from COVID increases with age. For example, according to the CDC, the risk of death for someone age 65 is 1100 times that of someone ages 10-17. [4]

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

If you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has recently tested positive, please get tested. Appointments can be made through the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) website or through your primary care provider. Learn more about how to get tested in our community>>>

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

There are several good reasons:[5] But the most important is that the vaccine is safe, and it is the best to protect yourself from hospitalization or death from COVID-19.

How many vaccines are approved for use in the US?

The US FDA has given emergency use authorization for three vaccines: one from Pfizer, one from Moderna, and one from Johnson & Johnson. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines; the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine.[6] [7]

How effective are the approved COVID-19 vaccines?

The Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines all provide protection. The protection varies depending on which variant of the virus you are exposed to. For the original variant, protection exceeded 94 percent. For the most recent, omicron variant, people who have a booster dose, the vaccine provides more than 80 percent protection. [8] This article from the Yale School of Medicine provides an excellent comparison of the vaccines.

Are the vaccines safe?

Yes, all three vaccines have undergone extensive testing to ensure safety, including testing in tens of thousands of people. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have now been given to millions of Americans. Typically, people report having a sore arm or feeling tired for a day or two after one or both shots. As with many vaccines and other drugs, on rare occasions, people can have an allergic reaction that needs emergency treatment. According to the CDC in February, this is about 11 people out of every one million vaccinated, a risk of .005 percent. [10] [11] [12]

How is Vaccine Safety Continuing to be Monitored?

All major adverse side effects of the vaccine are reported to the FDA to ensure safety is closely monitored. In addition, the CDC has created a new smartphone app that asks vaccine recipients to report their health routinely after vaccination. [13]

What are the side effects of vaccination?

The most common side effects are pain or swelling at the injection side. Some people also report fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, or headache. Rarely (0.0011 percent of the time [14]) people have an allergic reaction that requires emergency treatment, such as an epi-pen injection.[15]

If I am vaccinated, can I catch or spread COVID-19?

The vaccines are very good at keeping people from becoming so ill that they need to be hospitalized. However, they are less able to keep people from being infected with the new Omicron variant. So vaccinated people can catch and spread Omicron but likely will have milder cases than people who are not vaccinated. This is likely because our immune system may not have antibodies that can catch Omicron, but vaccinated people will have other cells that recognize and kill the virus once it infects them. [16] [17]

What are mRNA and adenovirus vaccines?

The COVID-19 virus has a spike protein on its surface that acts like a key, letting the virus infect cells. When a cell is infected, it creates more viruses with more of these spike protein keys that can infect more and more cells. Eventually, the immune system catches up and recognizes the spike protein, neutralizes it, and kills the virus. But it takes time for the immune system to recognize the spike protein and fight it.

Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a snippet of DNA that tells cells how to make one kind of protein. Scientists figured out the mRNA code for the COVID-19 spike protein, which alone is harmless. An mRNA vaccine, such as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, injects this mRNA into the body and our cells respond by making the COVID-19 spike protein. The immune system then recognizes the spike protein and remembers how to fight it. When confronted with the real virus, the immune system is ready to identify the spike protein and the virus.

An adenovirus vaccine is similar only it uses DNA and weakened virus to create the spike proteins for the immune system to recognize.

Both are good approaches; however, the mRNA vaccine is much more difficult to store and transport than the adenovirus vaccine. [20] [21] [22] Here is an explanation of how both work:

Can I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant?

You can receive the vaccine if you are pregnant. Because each pregnancy is unique, it’s important for pregnant women to talk with their Ob/Gyn providers. Visit our COVID-19 & Pregnancy page to learn more. There you'll find videos from two of Rutland Regional's Ob/Gyn physicians, Drs. Kira Wozmak and Robin Leight, talking about why they chose to get vaccinated. [23] [24] [25]

Why do I still need to wear a mask after being vaccinated?

Masks are a first line of defense against the virus. Omicron is much more infectious than prior variants and is causing infection even among people who are fully vaccinated. Science shows that wearing a mask helps slow the spread.  [25]

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

Yes, because the virus is relatively new to science, we do not know how much protection having COVID provides against catching it again. Because people have been re-infected, the CDC encourages people who have recovered from COVID to get the vaccine, too. [26]

I have COVID now, can I get the vaccine?

No, you should wait until your doctor tells you it is safe to receive the vaccine. This also applies to second doses. [27]

I missed my second vaccine shot because of an emergency, can I still get it?

Yes, there is no maximum waiting time between shots. It’s good to get it as soon as possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, so reschedule it as soon as you are able.

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