At long last, it’s time for some good news about COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a terrible toll. Since March of 2020, more than 550,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 – that’s more than were killed in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. In Texas, more than 47,000 people have lost their lives due to the pandemic. The novel coronavirus has infected tens of millions, at points causing hospitals to be overwhelmed. It has wreaked havoc on our economy and education system and caused tremendous strain on all Americans.
Despite the dark and challenging times we have all experienced, hope is here and the opportunity to defeat the virus is close at hand. That is because highly effective and safe vaccines are now available. In Texas, as in most other places around the country, every adult is now eligible to receive the vaccine.
“We are strongly encouraging all of our patients to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest opportunity,” says Dr. Lynne Tilkin, a primary care physician. “These safe and effective vaccines are the single best way to protect yourself from this dangerous virus. The more people who are vaccinated, the sooner we will be able to stop the spread of COVID-19 and have the return to normalcy that we all want.”
Below are some frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines:
Q: What vaccines are currently available for COVID-19?
A: There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States: Pfizer/BioN-Tech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. All three are highly effective at preventing people from getting sick from COVID-19.
- The Pfizer vaccine is administered in two doses, a minimum of 21 days apart.
- The Moderna vaccine is administered in two doses, a minimum of 28 days apart.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered in just one dose.
Q: Which is the best vaccine for me?
A: Doctors agree that the best vaccine is the one you can get as quickly as possible. All three vaccines have been demonstrated to be safe and effective. You should get the first one you can find an appointment for.
Q: How much does the vaccine cost?
A: Nothing. The vaccines are 100% paid for by the federal government. If you have insurance, the vaccine provider will take your insurance information, but there is no cost to you either way.
Q: Where do I go to get a vaccine?
A: The best thing to do is to sign up online. You can sign up for a vaccine in multiple places, and you can sign up as many places that you are willing to drive to get the vaccine. Here are some useful vaccine signup links:
Remember, you can sign up multiple places to increase your chances of getting an appointment sooner. You do not have to be a resident of the county you sign up in (in other words, Tarrant County residents may register in Denton County and vice-versa).
In addition to the public vaccine hubs that you can access from the links above, you may also register at retail pharmacies that are offering the vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains the list of participating retail pharmacies:
For people who are unable to sign up online or are unable to get themselves to a vaccination hub, there may be resources in their county that will bring the vaccine to them. This will vary county to county, so it is best to check with the county public health department for more information.
Q: What should I expect at my vaccine appointment?
A: Wear a mask and keep it on throughout your appointment. Wear a short sleeve shirt, so that it is easy for you to receive the shot in your arm.
If you are going to one of the large vaccination hubs, they may ask you to remain in your car while you get the shot.
You’ll be asked to stick around for about 15 minutes to ensure you have no adverse side effects.
You’ll be give a vaccination card indicating the date of your dose, the type of vaccine you received and your return date for the second dose, if applicable.
Q: Does the vaccine cause side effects?
A: Some people report experiencing no side effects following their vaccine, while others do. For those who do experience side effects, they tend to occur after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and can include feeling tired, headache, chills and fever. These side effects are simply a result of your immune system revving up to protect you from COVID-19. Again, not everyone will experience these side effects. If you do, they will pass in a day or two.
Q: Can I take ibuprofen or aspirin to help reduce side effects?
A: It is not recommended that you take anything before the vaccine (unless you already take the medicine on a regular basis for something else). If you develop side effects after the vaccination, such as a headache, it is OK to take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Q: Does the vaccine contain the COVID-19 virus? Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
A: No, the vaccine does not contain any virus and it is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Q: Should I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?
A: You may choose to receive the vaccine if you are pregnant; however, it is a good idea to first discuss this with your OB/GYN.
Q: Can children get the COVID-19 vaccine?
A: No; however, young adults who are 16 and 17 may receive the Pfizer vaccine. The other two vaccines are only authorized for adults 18 and older at this time. Vaccine makers are currently conducting research on vaccines for children and those may be available later this year.
Q: I am not sure I want to get the vaccine yet. How do we know the vaccines are really safe?
A: Vaccines go through extensive trials to determine effectiveness and safety. For example, the Pfizer Phase 3 study involved 43,000 people. Half were given the vaccine, while the other half received a placebo, a harmless injection of saline. In the placebo group, 162 people ended up contracting COVID-19, while only eight people in the vaccine group got the illness. Even for the few people who did get COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine, virtually all of the cases were mild. The makers of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines indicate they found high levels of effectiveness with minimal, mild side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed these findings.
Q: How are vaccines approved to be given to the public?
A: The FDA is responsible for approving medication, including vaccines, for use by the American people. Before the FDA approves any new medication, it carefully evaluates it for both efficacy and safety. The FDA reviewed the results of the three vaccine studies and has granted emergency use authorization for these vaccines to be administered immediately.
Q: I have already had COVID-19. Do I still need to get the vaccine?
A: Yes, people who have COVID-19 and are fully recovered should still get vaccinated. While those who have had the virus may have antibodies that will provide some protection, it is not believed that protection will last as long as the protection from the vaccine. However, if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before receiving the vaccine.
Q: How long does it take for the vaccine to protect me from COVID-19?
A: You are considered fully protected two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and two weeks after the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Q: How long will the vaccine protect me for?
A: Doctors are still learning about the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine.
Q: What changes once I get the vaccine? What can I do differently?
A: Once you are fully vaccinated, the CDC advises you can safely do the following:
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks
- Visit with unvaccinated people who are not at high risk; i.e., children and grandchildren, inside a home or private setting without masks
- Travel within the U.S. without taking a COVID test before or after travel
- Travel within the U.S. without quarantining
- Travel internationally without quarantining upon your return
Q: Are there precautions I should still take even though I am fully vaccinated?
A: Yes. You should still wear a mask when in public. You should avoid indoor, mask-less contact with people who are at increased risk from severe illness from COVID-19 and you should continue to avoid medium-sized and large gatherings.
Q: What about the COVID-19 variants? Will the vaccines protect me from those?
A: It is believed that the vaccines are effective against all the known variants, but more research is still needed to know for certain.
Q: After I am vaccinated, can I still spread COVID-19 to someone who is unvaccinated?
A: Early research is promising that the vaccines prevent someone from carrying the virus and transmitting it to others, but more research is needed to know for sure. That’s one of the reasons it is important for fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks in public.
Get Your Shot ASAP!
“The COVID-19 vaccines represent an amazing advancement in medicine that will allow us to protect ourselves, end the pandemic and get back to a more normal way of life,” says Dr. James Harvey, a primary care physician. “Take advantage of this miracle of medicine and sign up to get your shot today – you’ll be glad you did!”
This article contains information sourced from: