As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, the largest vaccination program in the history of the United States is now underway. With this development comes the inevitable questions of what this means for individuals, families and organizations. On this page, the Kansas Health Foundation has attempted to outline some of the most common information and provide answers to the most pressing questions facing Kansans.
WHAT IS A VACCINE?
At its most basic, a vaccine is a shot given to prevent illnesses before they occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a vaccine “stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease, without having to get the disease first.”
IS THERE A VACCINE FOR COVID-19?
On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This authorization allowed for the domestic distribution of a vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. One week later, a similar authorization was given for the distribution of a second COVID-19 vaccine option, this one developed by Moderna.
HOW MUCH WILL THE VACCINE COST?
The shot is free, but some health care providers might charge an administration fee, which likely will be covered by insurance. Health officials say no one will be turned away because of inability to pay.
WHERE WILL I GET THE VACCINE?
States will decided that, but you’ll probably have access through pharmacies, health clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices and mobile clinics. Federal and state governments will soon provide direction.
DO I HAVE TO GET TWO SHOTS?
You will have full protection only if you get two doses.
The two Pfizer shots are given 21 days apart. Moderna is 28 days apart.
WHEN DOES THE VACCINE START WORKING, AND FOR HOW LONG?
Generally, the vaccine becomes effective six to eight weeks after the first dose. It’s unclear how long the protection lasts, but it could become an annual vaccination like the flu shot.
Because it could take a few weeks for your body to build up immunity to the virus, it is possible to get infected right before or after getting the shot, the Mayo Clinic says.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?
The most common side effects in clinical trials were like the flu shot: pain or redness at the injection site, fever, headache, chills, muscle and joint pain. Most happened after the second dose. And most last no more than three days.
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE THE VACCINES?
Early data shows that one week after the second dose, the Pfizer vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%. That means most people will be protected from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.
Data about Moderna gives it a 94.1% rate, according to Mayo.
WHICH SHOULD I GET, PFIZER OR MODERNA?
Both appear to be equally effective, health officials say, though more data may come later that some vaccines are better suited for some people than others. But chances are, you won’t get a choice, for now.
CAN I STOP WEARING A MASK AND, SOCIAL DISTANCING AND WASHING MY HANDS IF I GET THE VACCINE?
No, no, and no.
The last thing health experts want everyone to do is to stop using COVID-19 preventative measures after they get inoculated. The CDC says experts need to learn more about the protection the vaccines deliver and how long that immunity lasts before it changes those safety recommendations.
WHAT DO KANSAS AND MISSOURI SAY?
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment provides weekly vaccine updates on its website, coronavirus.kdheks.gov.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has a fact sheet at MOStopsCovid.com.
Want to know/read more about the COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution? Please see the articles below for additional information and perspective.
Learn more about the latest Foundation news, grant opportunities, stories and health articles by signing up for KHF’s e-newsletters. Join today!