Here are the answers to the most pressing questions we have received from our patients regarding COVID-19 vaccination. If you still have reservations about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, we strongly recommend that you rely on fact-based and science-based resources.
In addition to our frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, there is more information in Spanish here and on the website of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The NCDHHS also offers special resources for people over 65 and a number to call for information on the COVID-19 vaccine: 888-675-4567.
We are confident that once you know the facts, you will get the vax.
Why people should get vaccinated
It seems that vaccine production has been rushed, how can it be safe?
The fact is, scientists had already been working on vaccine strategies for viruses like coronavirus for several years before the emergence of COVID-19. Additionally, the companies that produced the COVID mRNA vaccines have been studying mRNA technology for more than a decade. However, the speed came about because a global pandemic occurred and governments quickly funded vaccine trials and then invested large amounts of money into vaccine manufacturing at a rapid pace. NO steps were skipped in the vaccine trials.
Does the vaccine change my DNA?
Absolutely not. All vaccines introduce a small part of the virus into your body, which is not enough to make you sick. Your immune system then makes antibodies against that little piece so that when the real virus enters your body, the antibodies are ready to fight the virus.
The mRNA vaccines provide the genetic “code” for the surface pieces of the coronavirus. Once your cells have the genetic code, your body makes parts of the virus protein, and your immune system makes antibodies against the coronavirus. The mRNA NEVER enters the cell nucleus where all your DNA is stored.
Why do I need to get vaccinated if I can practice other things like social distancing to prevent the COVID-19 virus to spread?
Vaccines are used to prepare your body to fight the virus if you are exposed to it. Other steps, like 3Ws (wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet, and washing your hands) help reduce the chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and following the 3W is the best protection for everyone to contract and spread COVID-19.
I’d rather wait and see how the others do first …
Hundreds of thousands of people were immunized through all vaccine trials around the world. If there had been serious side effects or safety concerns, the vaccines would not have been approved.
Was the vaccine tested in people of diverse ethnic backgrounds? Was everyone in the vaccine trials healthy? How do I know it is safe for me?
Participants in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine trial included 20-25% Hispanic volunteers, 10% Black and 5% Asian volunteers. Both vaccine trials had 20-25% of participants over 65 years of age and 30-35% of patients were obese. 5-10% of the participants had diabetes, COPD, or heart disease.
Are there any concerns about getting the vaccine during pregnancy or could it affect my fertility?
Talk to your OB / GYN about vaccination if you are pregnant. Although the number of pregnant women in the trials was small, there were no adverse events with the vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recommended withholding COVID-19 vaccines from pregnant women unless they are at high risk of exposure, however we still believe the benefits outweigh any risks. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility.
Will we stop using masks after vaccination?
The vaccines are 94-95% effective after receiving both doses, which is great news. However, we will have to continue wearing masks until enough people are vaccinated to protect the general population.
Questions about getting the vaccine
Will I need to sign a consent form to get vaccinated?
You can give your verbal consent. Written consent is generally not required, but some providers may require or request written consent.
Does the state require or order vaccination?
No. North Carolina does not have a plan to require that people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Some employers or schools may require vaccinations for their employees or students.
Can non-US citizens get vaccinated?
The COVID-19 vaccine will be available to everyone for free, whether they have health insurance or not, and regardless of their immigration status. The information is kept confidential and will not be shared with ICE for immigration enforcement. Receiving the vaccine does not have a negative impact on people’s chances of adjusting their immigration status. The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites (read more).
Can you get vaccinated in a county you don’t live in?
Yes. The CDC has instructed states that this is a federal vaccine purchased with federal funds. Therefore, jurisdictions cannot place restrictions on the administration of vaccines to non-residents, as long as those individuals meet current eligibility criteria. This applies to both state and county residence
How much will the vaccines cost?
It has no cost. They are free for everyone, even if you don’t have health insurance. T
Can I get COVID-19 from getting the vaccine?
You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. You may have temporary reactions like arm pain, headache, or feeling tired and sore for a day or two after you get the vaccine.
Does my doctor think I should get the vaccine?
Yes, in general, we highly recommend receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when and where possible. If you are receiving chemotherapy now, consult with your oncologist for guidance.
If I was diagnosed with COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine? If so, when?
If you’ve had COVID-19, you can get the vaccine at least 30 days after diagnosis. You could possibly wait up to 90 days after COVID-19 before getting the vaccine, but waiting 30 days is the minimum
Can I get COVID-19 after getting my first dose of the vaccine?
Yes, you can get COVID-19, but not from the vaccine itself. That’s why it’s incredibly important to keep washing your hands, putting on your mask, and practicing social distancing. You only get partial immune protection after the first COVID-19 vaccine, and therefore you can still get COVID-19 disease.
If I get COVID-19 after getting my first shot, should I delay getting my second?
If you contract COVID-19 after your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you may receive your second dose as scheduled or as soon as your quarantine is complete.
Will the vaccine against new variants of the COVID-19 virus work?
All viruses change over time and these changes (or variants) are expected. Scientists are currently working to learn more about the new variants of COVID-19 and their effects in vaccines. We know that some of the newer variants spread more easily. So it’s important to keep practicing the 3 Ws: washing your hands, waiting six feet away, and wearing a mask around people you don’t live with. More information can be found on the CDC website.
What can I do to protect myself from COVID-19 while I wait to be vaccinated?
North Carolinians should continue to practice the 3 Ws: wear a mask, wait 6 feet, and wash their hands, while waiting to be vaccinated and after they have been vaccinated to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.
How long does it take for the vaccine to work?
The vaccines provide your complete protection against COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose.
Special Circumstances and Populations
Can children get the vaccine?
Children will not receive vaccines until clinical trials are completed to ensure that the vaccines are safe and work to prevent COVID-19 disease in children. The Pfizer vaccine can be given to adolescents 16 years of age and older, and they are conducting additional studies with children 12 years and older.
I am allergic to many medications, should I get vaccinated?
Even if you have a history of anaphylaxis, it’s okay to get the COVID-19 vaccine. You will be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving your COVID-19 vaccine. If you have a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, consult your doctor before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and my shingles vaccine at almost the same time?
Receiving the shingles vaccine shortly before or after receiving any of the COVID-19 vaccine doses will not affect the effectiveness of either vaccine. We recommend spacing the vaccines by at least 14 days because they both cause similar side effects and can be harmful to your body. Prioritize Your COVID-19 Vaccine First!
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am currently taking a blood thinning medication (including Plavix and warfarin)?
If you can. When you go to get your vaccination, let the person giving you the injection know so they can apply extra pressure to prevent bleeding after your vaccination.
If I am undergoing cancer treatment or taking immunosuppressive medications, is it safe for me to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you are undergoing cancer treatment, be sure to speak with your oncologist. If you are not in active treatment, you should continue with the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are taking immunosuppressants, talk to your doctor about vaccination and timing.
- FDA Information Documents, Modern Covid 19 Vaccine, 12/17/20
- FDA Information Documents, Pfizer-BioNTech Covid 19 Vaccine, 12/10/20
- “The Race to Save the World,” Walter Iaacson, Time Magazine, 1/18/21
- MRNA Vaccine: Facts vs. Fiction, Toks Falarin, MD
- Graphic from Nature magazine
- ACOG and SMFM Joint Statement on WHO Recommendations Regarding COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnant Women
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19
- North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, COVID-19 Vaccine Update 12/2/21