COVID-19 vaccine FAQs
With two COVID-19 vaccines on the market and more to arrive, people have lots of questions about their safety and efficacy are circulating. Kirsten Schutte, MD, an infectious disease physician and medical director of Asante Infection Prevention, answers some of the most common.
How long does immunity last after vaccination?
We are still collecting information to determine exactly how long immunity lasts after infection and after vaccination. But we know that immunity in both cases lasts for at least several months. Stay tuned!
Isn’t developing natural immunity better than immunity from vaccines?
No! Many vaccines produce more reliable immunity than the infection they were developed to prevent, and people infected with COVID-19 can have symptoms that last weeks or months. Although the risk is higher for older adults and people with other medical issues, even young and healthy people can die from COVID-19 and its complications. Unless you have a contraindication to vaccination, the risk associated with COVID-19 is much higher than the potential risks of vaccination.
Should I get the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?
As long as you have recovered and been released from isolation, you can get the vaccine. But you may be asked to wait 90 days, since we know most people are protected against becoming infected again for at least this long.
I just had a high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19. Should I get the vaccine?
Wait until your 14-day quarantine is over, unless you live in a congregate setting or are due for your second dose.
Can I get the vaccine if I had COVID-19 and was treated with antibodies?
Yes, but if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, wait at least 90 days. These antibodies may make vaccination during this period less effective.
Should I get the vaccine if I was in a vaccine clinical trial?
Vaccination is still recommended because you may have received a placebo instead of the actual vaccine.
Will the vaccine protect against the new virus variants I’ve heard about?
Studies are being done now; so far it looks like most of the vaccines will provide at least partial protection. Partial protection against developing severe COVID-19 is still much safer than having no protection against COVID-19. The more people who have at least partial protection the safer we all will be.
What if I’m pregnant or lactating?
Studies are ongoing; there are no obvious risks based on how the vaccine works, or in studies of these vaccines in pregnant animal models, but a discussion with your personal doctor is recommended.
Pregnancy is a risk factor for developing more severe COVID-19. For those who are at higher risk of exposure (such as health care workers), the benefit likely outweighs the risk associated with a lack of explicit data. Of note, there is also no evidence suggesting that these (or any other vaccines, for that matter) cause or will cause problems with fertility. It is important that pregnant women who experience fever as a side effect after vaccination treat it.
When can I throw a mask-burning party?
Not yet. We don’t yet know if vaccination prevents infection completely enough to also prevent further transmission of the virus to others, or if it just prevents vaccine recipients from developing illness and symptoms if they become infected.
Until we can determine this, you should assume you can still become asymptomatically infected and go on to infect others. As a health care worker, you have priority access to the vaccine, but it will take longer before your family, friends and everyone in our community will have access to it, too.
Are you vaccine savvy?
You will be after watching Dr. Kirsten Schutte’s webinar, “Mythbusting COVID-19 Vaccines,” and an explanatory video by Dr. Carl Seger, who participated in the Moderna clinical trial.
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