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 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. That is more than all US combat deaths from all wars since 1900.
COVID-19 poses a serious risk to us all, the most recent evidence shows the following:
- With more than 500,000 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.
- According to Johns Hopkins University, 20 percent of COVID infections are severe: 15 percent require hospital care, and 5 percent require intensive care.
- 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. 
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
There are several good reasons:
- It’s the safest and fastest way to get life back to normal.
- The vaccine is safe, and it has an excellent chance of protecting you from COVID-19.
- The vaccine likely will prevent you from COVID-19 to your family and love ones.
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. 
How effective are the approved COVID-19 vaccines?
The Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines provide protection to more than 94 percent of people from developing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. To be fully effective each requires two injections given at least three or four weeks apart.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85 percent effective at preventing severe disease, and 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe disease.
Although the vaccines differ, each is effective a preventing the death and disability associated with COVID.  
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 per million vaccinated, a risk of .005 percent.   
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. 
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 ) people have an allergic reaction that requires emergency treatment, such as an epi-pen injection.
If I am vaccinated, can I catch or spread COVID-19?
The vaccines are very good at keeping people from getting sick from COVID-19. This is outstanding because it prevents death and disability from this virus. Although unlikely, scientists are still studying the vaccines to determine if someone who is vaccinated can still spread the virus. 
What is Herd Immunity?
“Herd immunity” is a term used to describe a situation in which a disease can no longer spread because a majority of people are immune to it. Immunity to diseases uncommon in our area, such as rubella, measles, mumps, diphtheria, and polio, are examples of this concept. Herd immunity for COVID-19 is difficult to achieve without a highly effective vaccine that is given to a very high percentage of a population. Why? Because it is so easily spread, and to achieve herd immunity we need to prevent person to person spread. Also, if the vaccine is not given rapidly the virus will have time to mutate and decrease the efficacy of the vaccine. By quickly vaccinating everyone against COVID-19, we can end the pandemic and potentially keep the virus in check. 
What happens if we don’t vaccinate enough people to reach herd immunity?
If we do not vaccinate enough people to stop community spread, the COVID-19 virus and its far-reaching impacts will continue to be part of everyday life. COVID may then become cyclic like the flu with an ongoing need to revaccinate against new variants.
Will the Vaccine Protect Against COVID variants?
According to the CDC, vaccination protects against several variants, including the British and South African variants that make the virus more transmissible.  However, the longer the pandemic continues, the greater the chances are that a variant emerges that is not covered by vaccines. 
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.    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.   
How long does the vaccine’s protection last?
Scientists are still studying how long vaccine protection (and immunity from the virus itself) lasts, but we do know that it significantly reduces the risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19. We also know that by getting vaccinated now, we can do our part to stop COVID. 
Why do I still need to wear a mask after being vaccinated?
It is very likely that vaccination will eventually allow us to stop wearing masks, but this research is still ongoing. Until we have more scientific evidence that people cannot spread the virus, it’s prudent to continue to wear masks even if you are vaccinated or have had COVID yourself. 
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. 
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. 
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.