(A Cleveland Clinic doctor answers common COVID-19 vaccine questions in the video player above)
CLEVELAND (WJW)– It’s been a little more than a month since distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines began in the United States and a lot of questions remain.
As of Jan. 26, more than 23 million doses have been administered in the U.S., according to the CDC. In Ohio, the vaccine has been started in more than 650,000 people, the state health department said.
Is the vaccine safe?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorizations to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which met rigorous safety criteria. The Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies continue to monitor the safety of the vaccine.
Common side effects are pain and swelling at the injection site, and fever, chills tiredness and headache.
The CDC said some people have experienced severe allergic reactions after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, there were 11.1 cases of anaphylaxis per 1 million doses during one week of monitoring.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
No. The CDC said the vaccines approved in the United States do not contain the live virus. That means the COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
Instead, the vaccine teaches our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus.
Does the vaccine work?
According to the CDC, all COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are highly effective at preventing COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine was 95 percent effective and the Moderna vaccine was 94 effective in phase 3 clinical trials, which had more than 70,000 participants between the two studies.
Getting vaccinated may also protect those around you, the CDC said.
Who can get the vaccine?
The state of Ohio has a phased approach to who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, based on CDC recommendations. Phase 1A, which started when shipments of the vaccine reached Ohio, included health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients, first responders, and staff and residents at long-term care facilities.
Phase 1B is as follows:
- Jan. 19: Ohioans 80 years of age and older.
- Jan. 25: Ohioans 75 years of age and older; those with severe congenital or developmental disorders.
- Feb. 1: Ohioans 70 years of age and older; employees of K-12 schools that wish to remain or return to in-person or hybrid models.
- Feb. 8: Ohioans 65 years of age and older.
“When a new age group begins, vaccinations may not be complete for the previous age group. It will take a number of weeks to distribute all of the vaccine given the limited doses available. Someone in the first age group, for example, will still be able to be vaccinated once the next group begins,” the Ohio Department of Health said.
The Pfizer vaccine is not recommended for those 16 and under, and the Moderna vaccine is recommended for those 18 and older.
Where can I get the vaccine?
Vaccines are available through hospitals and select pharmacies. Each provider manages its own schedule and appointments.
Do I need the vaccine if I already had COVID and recovered?
The CDC said people who already had COVID-19 still need to be vaccinated because of the severe health risks and risk of reinfection. Experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again and natural immunity varies from person to person.
“We’re recommending that even if you are infected, have had COVID-19, we still recommend you get vaccine,” said Dr. Rachel Scheraga, critical care medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Patients currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get the vaccination until after they’ve recovered, the Ohio Department of Health said.
Do I still need to wear a mask after I get the vaccine?
Yes. The CDC said experts still need to understand more about the vaccine protections in real-world conditions. It is important for everyone to continue to use all the tools available to stop the pandemic: wear a mask over your nose and mouth, stay 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds, avoid poorly ventilated spaces, and wash your hands often.
How long does protection from the vaccine last?
The CDC said it does not know how long immunity lasts after vaccination. More data is needed.
How do I protect myself until I can get the vaccine?
The Ohio Department of Health and the CDC both said people should continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash hands often and avoid crowds.
Will I be required to get the vaccine?
The federal government does not mandate vaccines for individuals and the state of Ohio will not require anyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some employers, like health care facilities, may require it.
Since the current vaccines are not recommended for children, there are no COVID-19 vaccinations requirements for Ohio schools.