Connecticut has taken a lead role for vaccination and distribution of the new COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. As we finally have a vaccine readily available, as we roll it out, there are many questions circulating about the vaccine itself, its effectiveness, who can get it and if it’s safe for the public.
With new and evolving information, AFC Urgent Care West Hartford has created a guide about frequently asked questions and answers about the new COVID-19 vaccines on the market. As the CDC and experts continue to provide new information about the vaccines, here is what is known so far.
What are the COVID-19 vaccines available today?
The first COVID-19 vaccines available on the market are Pifizer/BioNtech and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines. Both have been authorized by the Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
At this time, the mRNA vaccines offered by Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna require two shots to prevent infection from COVID-19. The good news about both vaccines is that they are 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.
***There are 3 other COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in phase 3 clinical trials. Many other vaccines are still being developed and tested. As new information is available, we will update any changes in the future.
What’s in the new COVID-19 mRNA vaccine?
Instead of a deadened or weakened virus used in a standard vaccine, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein and then build immunity by triggering an immune response. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give special instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called a “spike protein” that is normally found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. As a result, our immune systems respond and destroy the protein creating antibodies like as if you had COVID-19.
Does it matter which COVID-19 vaccine I get?
Both vaccines are 95% effective at preventing COVID-19. But, there are some differences you should know about each vaccine. Pifizer’s vaccine requires it to be stored at very low, sub zero temperatures, while Moderna’s vaccine, although required to be refrigerated, does not require it to be kept as frigid. It’s more likely that Pifizer’s vaccines would be found in a hospital that has the storage capabilities for it versus a stand alone medical office, urgent care center or clinic. In addition to their storage, Pifizer’s second vaccine is required after 3 weeks versus Modernas vaccine, which requires a second shot after 4 weeks.
What is the Connecticut vaccine schedule and when can I expect mine?
Over the next few months, the distribution schedule will continue to move a lot of us up the line for COVID-19 vaccination. According to Connecticut’s vaccination phases, we are currently in transition from phase 1a into phase 1b. Phase 1a is wrapping up vaccinations for health care workers, first responders and long term facility care residents.
Once we complete this phase, we will be able to move onto phase 1b, which will allow front line essential workers, individuals and staff in congregate settings and the elderly ages 75 and older. Phase 1b is currently allowing anyone over the age of 75 to schedule their vaccinations. We highly suggest following along the vaccine schedule and phases here for more information: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccination—Phases
***As more information is presented we will continuously update this blog with new guidance about the vaccine schedule and future phases.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine help prevent the new COVID-19 strain?
At this time, the CDC is monitoring the situation closely and working to characterize and isolate emerging variants. But, just so you know the new COVID-19 variant is in the U.S in select states. Here is a map of U.S COVID-19 Variant Cases.
Scientists and experts from the CDC are working to learn more about these new variants and will continue to update information on:
- Where these new variants have spread
- How new variants may differ
- Whether the current vaccines are effective against the new COVID-19 variants
Will the COVID-19 vaccine give me an allergic reaction?
Just like any other vaccine, there is always a small chance that an allergic reaction may occur.
The FDA and The CDC are closely monitoring possible side effects with people who may have allergic reactions associated with anaphylaxis. And for this reason, anyone who gets vaccinated will be monitored 30 minutes after to ensure there isn’t an allergic reaction.
The CDC has reported that there are two categories of allergic reactions; severe and not so severe.
If you do happen to have a severe reaction to the mRNA molecules found in the COVID-19 vaccine, the hospital or center you receive your vaccine will have an epi pen readily available. The CDC also suggests that you do NOT proceed with the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if you are highly allergic and had an allergic reaction during the first dose.
If you have a less severe reaction and already had the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC also advises that you refrain from getting the second dose, as well.
Symptoms to look out for if you have an allergic reaction within 4 hours after getting vaccinated are:
The CDC also advises that if you are allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate to avoid getting the vaccine.
***Should you have any questions about allergies to any vaccine, we highly suggest you consult with your primary care doctor.
Are there any long term side effects from the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine?
The majority of those vaccinated in the trial phases of both vaccines have not experienced allergic reactions or reported any long term health effect. Experts also suggest that it would be highly unusual, or uncommon for a vaccine to show side effects after 8 weeks. In addition to this, the federal government and the Science Subcommittee of Governor Lamont’s Vaccine Advisory Group both had to approve the vaccine to be administered in Connecticut after a series of clinical trials and research.
The Pifizer vaccine alone had over 40,000 people in their trial phase without any serious side effects. Their trial phase took place over a period of months and they gathered at least 8 weeks worth of safety data. At this time there are no reported long term health effects from the vaccines.
If I had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
We recommend it. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, it is too soon to tell how long this protection will last. According to The CDC, and our Medical Director, COVID-19 vaccination should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection.
***And, if you are currently infected with the active COVID-19 virus, the CDC advises that you wait until your illness is over to receive the vaccine.
Can I still get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated?
Yes, you can still get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated. The vaccine can take up to 10-14 days after the second dose to build full immunity. Any time in between you can still get it if you’re not wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing or taking any other precautions during that time frame.
Just like the flu, or any other vaccine, there is a period of time that the vaccine needs in order to help you build immunity. The same concept applies to the new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
And DON’T skip the second shot! The first shot alone is not enough to build immunity. You need to get the second dose to reap the benefits of immunity.
If I get COVID-19 vaccinated, can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing?
You still need to wear a mask and social distance. The same concept also applies to those who already had COVID-19. Not everyone you come into contact with has been vaccinated yet or have had COVID-19. The best safeguard to flatten the curve is to keep following social distancing protocols, wearing a mask and waiting for your turn to be vaccinated next.
Stay healthy, keep testing and stay COVID-19 free with AFC Urgent Care West Hartford
AFC Urgent Care West Hartford is open 7 days a week and is located on 1030 Boulevard with convenient weekday hours (8a-8p) and weekend hours (8a-5p).
AFC Urgent Care West Hartford offers both COVID-19 rapid testing with results in 30 minutes (by appointment only) Mondays through Saturdays, and regular standard COVID-19 testing with results available in 3-5 business days depending on lab capacity.
We also offer flu vaccines, routine lab work, pre-employment physicals, X-rays, and treatment for any other acute illness. Always here for you!