Frequently asked questions
Is the vaccine safe?
Safety has been the top priority as federal agencies work with developers to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Despite the rapid development, large clinical trials have shown the vaccines to be safe and highly effective. Data from these studies have shown that the known and potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of COVID-19 infection.
Several safety-monitoring systems are in place to watch for public side effects and these measures will help ensure that any side effect trends will be evaluated and reported upon effectively.
The Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Drug Administration have added additional layers of monitoring such as the Vsafe smart phone tool (https://vsafe.cdc.gov/). Vsafe provides personal check-ins after you received the vaccine. It monitors how you feel and sends reminders of your second dose.
In participating in this optional program, you can help the CDC track side effects which may help them identify any trends more efficiently.
What if I have been very cautious during the quarantine, do I still need the vaccine?
Since the pandemic started, the importance of following safety guidelines like masking and maintaining physical distancing have been stressed. While they have demonstrated to be effective in decreasing the risk of spread, these measures are not always guaranteed to prevent against infection and spreading the virus to others. This is especially important as we are learning about variations of the virus that seem to have a higher transmission rate, or are spread more easily from one person to the next.
Getting the vaccine creates an antibody response in your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus. The vaccine helps to prevent you from getting COVID-19 or, if you do get the virus, being vaccinated should protect you from getting seriously ill.
In a recent study of over 500,000 patients in Israel, there were only four patients who were verified to have COVID-19 after full vaccination and there were no reported deaths due to COVID-19 in any of the vaccinated patients.
Why is it so hard to get an appointment to be vaccinated?
At this point, there has been delays in rollout of the vaccine at the federal government level. The federal government has been sending doses to the individual states who then distribute them to the individual counties. As you can imagine, there is some lag with so many levels of handling. In recent weeks, the state of California has collaborated with a third party vendor to assist the roll out. It is our hopes that this will make for a more efficient streamlined delivery process. In that respect, Borrego Health would be able to anticipate how many vaccines that we may be receiving and more easily plan for vaccination events.
The vaccines come in vials that have 10 doses per vial. The vial first needs to be thawed prior to vaccination. Once thawed, we can start using. Once we puncture the first vial, all doses must be used within 6 hours or we are forced to dispose of any remaining doses.
For this reason, we are scheduling all appointments so we ensure we open enough vials for the number of patients that we anticipate. It is important that if you are unable to make your scheduled appointment that you call the clinic. Doing so will allow us to quickly call another patient to receive that dose.
I am happy to report that in the weeks that we have been vaccinating, we have not needed to dispose of any wasted doses.
What can I expect on the day of vaccination?
On the day of vaccination, you will fill out a screen form about your past medical history and any prior history of allergies.
Once the vaccinator has addressed any concerns, you will then get vaccinated in your arm, as most common vaccines are administered.
After vaccination, depending on any allergy history or medication history, you will be evaluated anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to ensure there are no immediate reactions.
If you do start to have any reactions, our employees are trained to recognize and treat them on site. For more severe reactions, we may need to call for additional help. This would be very rare.
Will getting the vaccine give me COVID-19?
This question may stem from a common misconception that the flu vaccine can give the person receiving the vaccine an active case of the flu. In reality, just like getting a flu vaccine, getting a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you sick with the virus. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the live virus or any active infection material.
The current vaccine offered at Borrego Health is the Moderna vaccine. This vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. It works by giving your cells the instructions that it needs to make a harmless piece of a protein. For this vaccine in particular, the protein created is the protein that spikes out of the virus. After vaccination, the cells begin making the protein pieces and display them on cell surfaces. This helps your immune system recognize the foreign protein and begin making antibodies.
After vaccination, it is common to feel some side effects (see response to next question).
Keep in mind that after receiving the vaccine, your body needs a few weeks to fully build its immunity. It is still possible to become infected with the virus even after vaccination. If you are exposed to COVID-19 and you develop symptoms more than 3 days after vaccination, it is recommended that you self-isolate and are tested.
What might I expect after getting the vaccine?
According to the FDA, the most common side effects of the vaccine are pain or tenderness at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue, headaches and muscle and joint pain.
The side effects are a sign that your body is developing the antibodies it needs to fight COVID-19 and increase your immunity. Most side effects may start about 11 hours after vaccination and may last for 24 to 48 hours. If the symptoms last more than 2 days, it would be important to contact your medical provider as further testing and evaluation may be needed.
What if I have already had COVID 19, do I still need to be vaccinated?
If you have already been infected with and recovered from COVID-19, it is still currently recommended that you be vaccinated. The reason for this is that everyone’s immune system is different and will respond to the virus differently. Being vaccinated will hopefully level out the different variations in the responses and provide for a more consistent protection.
In addition, it has already been demonstrated that people can be re-infected with COVID-19 after an initial infection. It is unclear at this point, how long someone may be protected by their own immune system after recovering from the illness.
The current recommendation for people who have had COVID-19 in the past, is to obtain the vaccine at least 90 days after your diagnosis.
How long do I have to wait after vaccination to be considered safe?
The Moderna vaccine that we are offering requires two doses given 28 days apart. The data from the clinical trials show that it is 94% effective 2 weeks after the second dose.
Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialists (high-risk pregnancy doctors) all agree that vaccination should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination based on prioritization groups outlined by the state.
Pregnant women should have access to all available information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. A conversation between the patient and their clinical team may help with decisions regarding vaccination.
The mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines. These vaccines do not enter the nucleus of the cell and therefore cannot alter human DNA. As a result, they cannot cause any genetic changes.
Available evidence suggests that pregnant women with COVID-19 are at increased risk of more severe illness when compared with non-pregnant women.
Because of this risk of more severe disease, the benefits of protective vaccination seem to outweigh the risks of the vaccine.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology also recommends that COVID-19 vaccines be offered to lactating individuals similar to non-lactating individuals when they meet criteria for receipt of vaccine.
What if I have allergies, can I still get the vaccine?
If you have experienced severe allergic reactions in the past unrelated to vaccines or injectable medications, you can still receive the vaccine. Make sure you let your provider know of any allergies, as you may need to be monitored longer after vaccination to watch for any adverse reactions.
If you have had an immediate allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable medications, you should speak with your provider prior to vaccination to ensure vaccination is safe in your case in particular.
If you are allergic to polyethylene glycol or polysorbates, you should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. These substances are found in laxatives such as miralax. If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any laxative medication, speak with your provider prior to vaccination.
If I am on blood thinners like Coumadin, can I still get the vaccine?
You may still get the vaccine, even if on blood thinners. It is important to check with your provider to ensure that you are on the correct dose of the medication prior to vaccination. It is also important to let the vaccinator know that you are on blood thinners as they may want to evaluate you immediately after vaccination for a time longer than others. If you start to have large swelling around the injection site after vaccination, it would be important to call your provider and let them know.
Once I am vaccinated, can I stop wearing my mask?
After vaccination, you should continue to follow all of the guidelines, including mask wearing, that you have been following during the pandemic.
While the vaccination has been proven to protect the vaccinated person from developing severe illness, it is still uncertain if the vaccine protects from transmitting the virus to someone else. What that means is that you may still contract the virus, your body mounts an immune response so you do not become ill. However, you may still have the possibility of transmitting the virus to someone who may not yet be vaccinated.
Therefore, in order to keep those around you safe as well, for now, it is recommended that we avoid close contact and continue wearing our masks.