COVID-19 Vaccination

Vaccination: Why Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine will greatly reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 and will ensure that if you do get the virus, you will have only mild symptoms or none at all.

We don’t know yet why some healthy people become seriously ill or die from COVID-19, while other people with COVID-19 only become mildly sick. There’s no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. Once vaccinated, your body will build immunity to the virus so you are less likely to get sick.

Experts continue to conduct more studies about the effect of COVID-19 vaccination on severity of illness from COVID-19, as well as its ability to keep people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

No. The vaccine will not give you COVID-19 because the vaccine is not made from the live virus. The vaccine just teaches your body to build a protein that fights the virus. However, it can take a few weeks for the body to build immunity after any vaccination, so it’s possible to get COVID-19 from another person just before or just after being vaccinated, while your immunity is still developing.

Sometimes the immune response from a vaccine can cause soreness at the injection site, a fever, headache or tiredness. This is normal and should go away after a few days.

No. Vaccines currently being developed in the United States will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 PCR and antigen tests. These types of tests detect active infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

After vaccination, you might test positive on a COVID-19 antibody test. This type of test shows previous exposure of your immune system to the virus that causes COVID-19, not current infection. We’re still learning about how COVID-19 vaccination might influence the interpretation of antibody test results.

While the vaccine will help keep you from getting sick from COVID-19, scientists are not yet sure if a person who has been vaccinated can still give the virus to other people. That means it is important for everyone to get vaccinated and to continue wearing masks and following physical distancing recommendations.

When you get vaccinated for COVID-19, you will be provided a card that contains the name of the vaccine manufacturer, the vaccine lot number, the date and the location of where you were immunized.

You should also receive a fact sheet with information specific to the vaccine that you received.

All people receiving a COVID-19 shot should be monitored on site for some time, after receiving the shot.

Remember to ask your healthcare provider about how to register for v-safe. V-safe allows you to use your smartphone to tell CDC about any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. You’ll also get reminders if you need a second vaccine dose.

Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from an infectious disease that occurs when the majority of a population has become immune to infection, either through vaccination or previous infections. Once herd immunity is achieved, the infectious disease is less likely to spread. Those who did not get vaccinated will still be protected because the population in which they live is protected. This is especially important for people with certain medical conditions who might not be able to receive a vaccine.

Herd immunity only works in very large groups -- tens of thousands of people -- because it keeps the virus from being able to find new hosts within the population. A small group, like a family or a school, cannot have herd immunity because there are still too many other people in the community who can spread the virus. That’s why a country can only have herd immunity when most of the population has been vaccinated.

With COVID-19 and many other diseases, if you become sick, your body builds up antibodies that keep you from getting sick again from the same virus -- at least for a while. This is called “natural immunity.” A vaccine gives you the same type of natural immunity -- at least for a while. How much immunity and how long it lasts depends on the disease and on the person. For instance, most people who had measles as a child -- or who got the vaccine -- have immunity for life. COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine are similar. However, we do not know for sure how long the immunity will last.

After the immunity runs out, you will need another dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In some other types of vaccines, a second shot or “booster” gives immunity for a much longer time than the first dose. In others, like the flu vaccine, you need to get the vaccine every year.

Yes, regardless of history (symptomatic or asymptomatic), they should get the vaccine.  In the clinical trial, there were patients with serologic evidence of previous infection.   Patients should be out of the isolation period and out of the active stage of infection when they get vaccinated.

The one exception for vaccination might be for those people who had COVID-19 earlier but who have not recovered completely and are still having long-term effects. If you are still having long-term effects after COVID-19, you should discuss COVID-19 vaccination with your healthcare provider.

While there is otherwise no recommended minimum interval between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Thus, persons with documented COVID-19 in the preceding 90 days may delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if desired.

COVID-19 Vaccine Development & Safety

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is being developed and tested the same way as every other vaccine used in the United States. Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines have gone through a careful trial process with several phases. For every vaccine in the United States (including COVID-19), trials start with Phases 1 and 2, when small groups of people are vaccinated and then monitored. In Phase 3, tens of thousands of people are vaccinated to be sure the vaccine is both safe and effective for all types of people. After a vaccine is authorized or approved, it enters Phase 4, where long-term effects are studied. These trials, which include people at high risk for COVID-19, will help identify any common side effects or other safety concerns and will help clarify how long protection lasts after vaccination.

All Phase 3 vaccine trials had at least 30,000 participants each and included people from various races, ethnicities, age groups, and genders. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the companies currently making COVID-19 vaccines, report that at least 30% of their trial participants are Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.

The effectiveness of a vaccine (how well it works) is determined through a clinical trial that compares the proportion (fraction) of people who got the vaccine (vaccine group) and developed COVID-19 with the proportion of people who didn’t get the vaccine (control group) and developed COVID-19. If significantly fewer people in the vaccine group develop disease compared to the control group, the vaccine is determined to be effective.

In order to show effectiveness, a vaccine trial also looks at many factors, including age, race and ethnicity, gender, degree of exposure to COVID-19, and other risk factors. For example, healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus and are more likely to be exposed to large amounts of it. People with chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma may be less likely to come into contact with the virus, but are more likely to become seriously ill if they do get it.

mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid. mRNA does NOT get into the nucleus of your cells and it does not put germs into your body. Instead, it teaches your cells to make a protein that creates an immune response. That immune response produces antibodies that help keep you from becoming infected if the virus enters your body.  Like other types of vaccines, vaccines that use mRNA will not change your DNA or cause any permanent alteration of your body’s genetic material.

Basic Cell-Bio Lesson: DNA lives in the nucleus of your cells, which has a double layer of protection. mRNA cannot enter your nucleus -- it stays in the cytoplasm, which surrounds the nucleus.

Public health officials have been preparing for this vaccine before the virus was first discovered in 2019. Two previous coronaviruses, SARS, that emerged in China in 2002 and MERS, that emerged in the Middle East in 2012 taught us a lot about developing a safe and effective vaccine for a coronavirus. The COVID-19 vaccines have been produced faster than any other vaccine, but they have followed the very same process as any other vaccine, including studying tens of thousands of participants of different ages, races and ethnicities.

Development of vaccines in the United States is strictly controlled by the FDA. After the FDA authorizes or approves a vaccine, an independent immunization committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will decide whether to recommend it and for whom. In all stages of the process, the most important factor is safety. Vaccines must meet the highest standards of safety and have minimal side effects, because they are given to healthy people to prevent disease. And in fact, the United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccines in its history

The CDC, FDA and other federal agencies are committed to assuring the safety of vaccines. Even after a vaccine is created and studied and is believed to be safe and effective, it must still go through three phases of trials with tens of thousands of participants before it can be authorized by FDA for emergency use and licensed. The CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of vaccines after authorization and approval to be sure they are safe and effective in the long term.

Montgomery Twp. Health Dept. (MTHD) shares the goal of ensuring safe vaccines. MTHD has the safety of the our residents and community members as its number one priority. MTHD works closely with the New Jersey Department of Health and the CDC to review all vaccines to be sure its recommendations are based on sound science.

Because COVID-19 vaccines are so new, information on long term side-effects is still incomplete.

While we do not yet know all of the side effects of the vaccination, some people in the trials have had arm pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache or other body aches and some had a fever for a few days. This short term discomfort is the effect of your body developing immunity, and is normal. This discomfort does not mean that the vaccine has given you COVID-19. Even if you experience discomfort after the first dose of vaccine, it is very important that you still receive the second dose a few weeks later for the vaccine to be effective.

In some cases, a person may already be getting infected with COVID-19 when they get the vaccine but are not showing symptoms of COVID-19. If they later have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for it, it does not mean they got COVID-19 from the vaccine.

If you have an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, asthma or obesity, you may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19. When COVID-19 vaccine is available, you are encouraged to get vaccinated to protect yourself from serious COVID-19 illness.

Three particular groups of people have special COVID-19 vaccine concerns:

  • People with weakened immune systems due to HIV or other illnesses or medications can receive COVID-19 vaccine but they should be aware that there is only limited safety data available and that they may have a lower immune response to the vaccine.
  • People with some autoimmune conditions are also able to be vaccinated but also need to be aware of the limited safety data for people in their category.
  • People with a neurologic disease history of having previously had either Guillain-Barre syndrome or Bell’s palsy can receive COVID-19  vaccine but need to be closely monitored for the re-development of one of those conditions.

Additional information on COVID-19 vaccination for people with these conditions can be found on the CDC website here.

Finally, if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, CDC recommends that you should not get that specific vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction in the past to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

Additional information on allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines can be found at COVID-19 Vaccines and Severe Allergic Reactions on the CDC web site.

Starting the COVID-19 vaccination series as soon as it becomes available to you is an important step. Given the lack of data on the safety and efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, the vaccine series should be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration with any other vaccines. If mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are inadvertently administered within 14 days of another vaccine, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine.

If you have concerns about close spacing of vaccines, you should discuss this issue with your doctor or other health care provider.

If you have concerns about taking a COVID-19 vaccine, talk to a healthcare provider.

There have been rare reports of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, who suffered severe allergic reactions, also known as anaphylaxis. An allergic reaction is considered severe if it requires hospitalization, or the use of an EpiPen (epinephrine) injection for treatment.

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.

There have also been reports of non-severe allergic reactions within 4 hours after getting vaccinated such as hives, swelling, and wheezing.

People who have an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe, should not receive the second dose of the currently available mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist in allergies and immunology to provide more care or advice. If you have ever had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get that specific vaccine. If you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe— to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

People with a history of allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as allergies to food, pet dander, venom, pollen, or latex—may still get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reaction may also still get vaccinated.

If you have had an allergic reaction to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate you should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

For the most up to date information, see COVID-19 Vaccines and Severe Allergic Reactions on the CDC web site.

If you have ever had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe— to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get that specific vaccine. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist in allergies and immunology to provide more care or advice.

If you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe— to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

Information on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine can be found here and information about the Moderna vaccine can be found here.

Information on the Pfizer -BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine can be found here.

Type of vaccine: mRNA

Number of shots: 2 shots, 21 days apart

How given: Shot in the muscle of the upper arm

Does not contain: Eggs, preservatives, Latex

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is recommended for people aged 16 years and older.

Information on the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine can be found here.

Type of vaccine: mRNA

Number of shots: 2 shots, 28 days apart

How given: Shot in the muscle of the upper arm

Does not contain: Eggs, preservatives, Latex

The Moderna COVID-19  vaccine is recommended for people aged 18 years and older.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) recommend that COVID-19 vaccines should NOT be withheld from pregnant or breast-feeding women or from other women who intend to get pregnant and who otherwise meet the priority criteria for COVID-19 vaccination based on the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations

While safety data on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy are not yet available (and are now being collected), there are also no data suggesting that these COVID-19 vaccines should be withheld from people in these groups.

In fact, available data suggest that some pregnant women who get infected with COVID-19 are at greater risk of having a severe form of COVID-19 than non-pregnant women. Pregnant women with some underlying conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, are at even greater risk, as is true in the non-pregnant population.

Pregnant or breast-feeding women who are considering a COVID-19 vaccination should discuss the potential risk and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines with their doctor or nurse-midwife.

Vaccines must meet the highest standards of safety and have minimal side effects because they generally are given to healthy people to prevent disease. Vaccines undergo strict regulatory control by the FDA. The CDC and FDA are committed to assuring the safety of vaccines through rigorous pre‑licensure trials, as well as post-licensing monitoring. The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccines in its history.

And in fact all people now getting COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be monitored for long-term side effects and to be sure the vaccine continues to be effective in the coming months and years.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) shares the goal of ensuring safe vaccines. NJDOH has the safety of all residents as its number one priority. NJDOH works closely with CDC to conduct active surveillance and review of vaccines to ensure the recommendations the agency follows are of sound science. CDC and FDA continuously monitor the safety of vaccines after approval.

If the CDC and FDA identify a problem with a vaccine, the agencies inform health officials, health care providers, and the public. CDC uses several systems to monitor vaccine safety:

  • The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): an early warning system that helps CDC and FDA monitor problems following vaccination. Anyone can report possible vaccine side effects to VAERS. However, most of the VAERS monitoring is done by U.S. healthcare providers providing anonymous vaccine-related data from millions of patients. This system, which is already used to monitor all other current U.S. vaccines, alerts the CDC and FDA if healthcare systems begin recording complications that should not have been occurring after vaccines. VAERS cannot determine whether a vaccine caused the side effect. VDH participates in VAERS.
  • The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD): a collaboration between CDC and nine health care organizations, which allows ongoing monitoring and proactive searches of vaccine-related data.
  • The Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Project: a partnership between CDC and several medical centers that conducts clinical research on vaccine-associated health risks.

Additional vaccine safety monitoring systems, such as v-safe, the use of National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) data, and continued monitoring through clinical trials will also be utilized to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccine experts are in agreement that the kinds of genetic change mutations seen in the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 are unlikely to impact vaccine effectiveness. This means that COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be just as effective at protecting people from the new variant.

Additional information on this new virus variant is available from CDC here.

Vaccination: After I Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine

While we do not yet know all of the possible side effects of the vaccine, some of the people in studies have had arm pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache or other body aches, or fever for a few days. These side effects are also experienced after receiving other types of vaccines, such as the flu shot. These side effects do not mean that the vaccine has given you COVID-19. Rather, this means that the vaccine is causing your body’s immune system to react and create antibodies to fight off the virus in the future.

COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you from getting COVID-19. You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection.

Common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine include pain and swelling where you got the shot, fever, chills, tiredness, and headache.

These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.

Remember to sign up for v-safe, where you can use your smartphone to tell CDC about any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. You’ll also get reminders from v-safe about if you need a second vaccine dose.

If you have persistent pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:

  • Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area
  • Use or exercise your arm.

To reduce discomfort from fever:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Dress lightly.

When to call the doctor:

In most cases, discomfort from fever or arm pain or swelling where you got the shot is normal after a COVID-19 dose. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours
  • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days

Healthcare personnel, experiencing certain symptoms may need to remain out of work, as outlined here.

Residents of long term care facilities, experiencing certain symptoms may need to take additional precautions or measures as outlined here.

The current COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna both require two doses. When you get your first dose, your vaccine provider will let you know about the second dose and will help provide a way to remind you when it’s time to return for that second dose. It is important to complete the vaccination series for complete protection against COVID-19.

Yes. Currently, there is limited information on how well the COVID-19 vaccine can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and how long a person's protection lasts. If you received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or you received both doses, you should continue to follow prevention measures to protect yourself and others. This means wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands often.

Yes. Currently, there is limited information on how well the COVID-19 vaccine can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and how long a person's protection lasts. Even if you received one or both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should still follow the quarantine guidance available here after having close contact with someone with COVID-19. This means staying home and away from others, especially those who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

You will need your smartphone and information about the COVID-19 vaccine you received. This information can be found on the vaccination record card you received during your vaccination; if you cannot find your card, please contact your healthcare provider.

For instructions on how to register for v-safe, please click here.

This depends on what signs and symptoms you are experiencing.

  • If you had an immediate hypersensitivity reaction (e.g., urticaria, anaphylaxis) or localized symptoms (e.g., pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site) alone but it has now resolved completely, then you may go to work following normal protocols.
  • If you have signs and symptoms unlikely to be from the COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, rhinorrhea, sore throat, loss of taste or smell), you should not go to work until you are evaluated for possible causes, including SARS-CoV-2 infection, as appropriate. Criteria for returning to work will depend on the suspected or confirmed diagnosis.
  • If you have signs and symptoms that may be from either COVID-19 vaccination, SARS-CoV-2 infection, or another infection (e.g., fever, fatigue, headache, chills, myalgia, arthralgia), you should consult your provider or occupational health office.
  • You can return to work if you are afebrile and signs and symptoms are limited only to those observed following COVID-19 vaccination (i.e., do not have other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell). If symptoms persist for more than 2 days, you should not work, should be further evaluated, and a viral test for SARS-CoV-2 should be considered.

For more information see here.

No, your travel will probably not be affected. Once the expected short-term side effects of COVID-19 vaccination have worn off, most vaccine recipients should feel well enough to travel.

In fact, even after receiving both doses of a two dose vaccine series, it is still important to remember to continue prevention behaviors such as wearing a mask, physical distancing, avoidance of crowded and other high risk indoor situations, and routine hand washing or use of hand sanitizer.

Finally, COVID-19 testing is sometimes required for pre-travel screening. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will NOT affect the results of any future viral testing (either PCR or rapid antigen testing) you may need to rule out a current or recent COVID-19 infection.

No, you will not. The vaccine will not give you a COVID-19 infection or make you spread it to others. However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after a vaccination so during that time, you could still get the virus from another person and spread it to those around you. That is why you should continue to practice safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, staying at least six feet away from others and avoiding crowded indoor spaces.

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTec and from Moderna that are now being used are expected to protect more than 90% of people who get both doses.

And in fact there are some early data that suggest that even if you do get infected with COVID-19 after getting both doses of the vaccine, the disease might be milder than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

We do not yet know how long the protection lasts after a two-dose series. With other vaccines, most people do not get the disease at all and those who do, have only mild cases. It is possible that you might need to get a booster dose of this vaccine at some time in the future. More information on the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available as scientists learn more about the long-term protective effects.

And finally, a single dose of one of the current two-dose COVID-19 vaccines will not provide full protection.

It is possible that some people who are vaccinated will still get a COVID-19 infection from other people. If this happens, they may have symptoms, but the symptoms will probably be milder than if they had not been vaccinated. This partial protection issue is true of many vaccines, particularly the flu vaccine, which keeps most people from getting the flu at all and ensures that those who do get it only have mild symptoms.

Vaccines can stop working well if a virus changes a lot. This is why we need new flu vaccines every year - because the flu virus changes so quickly that the vaccines need to be changed to keep up with it. The COVID-19 virus, however, does not change as quickly, so it is not likely a new strain will develop and cause another pandemic. The COVID-19 virus shows little variability, which is good news for a viable vaccine.

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