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Frequently Asked Questions

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrived in December of 2020. Below are responses to frequently asked questions with the best information we have at this time.

Vaccine FAQs

Why Vaccinate?

  • Natural immunity from infection can decay within about 90 days. Immunity from COVID-19 vaccines has been shown to last longer and be more effective against reinfection, hospitalization and death.
  • Herd immunity will not eradicate the infection. This is clearly shown by the examples of polio and smallpox, which caused devastating illnesses for centuries until vaccines were developed.
  • Surges lead to unsustainable bed/nursing ratios at our hospitals, creating crisis situations on top of the ongoing pandemic.
  • Viruses are known for their ability to adapt to environmental change in order to survive and thrive. Tiny changes are often insignificant, but our experience with this coronavirus has not been typical. Many small changes in the original coronavirus have occurred since the pandemic began, and it is clear that the pandemic is not over as more variants emerge.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines stimulate the human body’s protective immune responses so that, if a person is infected with a pathogen, the immune system can quickly prevent the infection from spreading within the body and causing disease. In this way, vaccines mimic natural infection but without causing the person to become sick.

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes, as well as B-lymphocytes (defensive white blood cells) that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination. Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then gets sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection.

Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity

Learn more from the CDC about how vaccines work.

How did the process of approving the vaccine move so quickly?

Traditionally, it has taken many years to develop a vaccine, confirm its safety and efficacy, and manufacture the vaccine in sufficient quantities for public use. This timeline has been shortened for the COVID-19 vaccine. There are several ways this has been made possible.

Some clinical trials have combined Phases 1 and 2 to assess the safety and immune responses.

Due to the high number of new cases of COVID-19 in many places, differences in disease risk between those who received the viral vaccine and those who received the placebo or comparison vaccine can be measured more quickly than in the absence of a pandemic.

The United States government and others have heavily invested in building the manufacturing capacity to produce large numbers of vaccine doses before the findings of the Phase 3 trials are available. Vaccine manufacturers typically wait until the Phase 3 trial is completed and shows safety and efficacy before making such a large investment in manufacturing capacity.

None of the factors listed above that contribute to the accelerated development of a vaccine for COVID-19 imply that safety, scientific or ethical integrity is compromised, or that short-cuts have been made.

What is an emergency use authorization?

According to the FDA, an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allows the FDA to make a product or drug – whether new or not yet proven for a given use – available during an emergency, provided there are data to suggest that it is reasonably safe and effective. The basic requirements for a EUA are:

  • a public health threat exists;
  • there is reason to believe that the product will be effective in diagnosing, preventing, or treating the illness;
  • the known or potential benefits outweigh the risks; and
  • there are no adequate, approved, available alternatives

Is the Vaccine Safe?

  • It might appear that vaccine development has been rushed, but it’s important to know that many new scientific developments over several decades have led to this moment. The healthcare community is confident in this scientific process.

When developing the vaccine, the following were accelerated:

  • Review and approval to begin development
  • Funding for development
  • Prioritizing development of the vaccine
  • Identification and selection of candidate vaccine targets that produced immunity

What wasn’t accelerated:

  • Execution of clinical trials
  • Interpretation of clinical trial results
  • Review of safety

Clinical trials have NOT compromised safety and each has included tens of thousands of volunteers.

In early January 2022, the CDC release a very large study of 1.2 million people who had completed the primary COVID vaccination series between December 2020 and October 2021. Findings expanded on what we already knew about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against COVID-19–associated hospitalization and death.

  • Fully vaccinated people were protected from most complications:
    • Risk of severe COVID 19 associated outcomes 0.015%
    • Risk of death 0.0033%
  • All persons with severe outcomes had at least one underlying risk factor for poor outcomes
  • Of those who died, 78% had four or more risk factors.

Source: The content above came from a presentation from OU Health Chief Quality Officer & OU Chief COVID Officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler, on Jan. 7, 2022

Can you get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines.

Are There Side Effects?

  • You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that the body is building protection.

  • On the arm where you got the shot:
    • Pain
    • Redness
    • Swelling
  • Throughout the rest of the body:
    • Tiredness
    • Headache
    • Muscle pain
    • Chills
    • Fever
    • Nausea
  • Side effects may be a bit stronger after the second dose or booster shot, which isn’t uncommon.

What if Someone has Already had COVID-19? Are They Immune or Should They Get the Vaccine?

Yes, studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Once I’m Vaccinated, Will I Still Need to Wear a Mask?

  • Yes, the CDC recommends that everyone age 2 years and older, vaccinated and unvaccinated, should continue wearing masks indoors when in public places, especially if in a high COVID-19 transmission area, to help prevent spreading the disease to others.

Who is paying for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Will the flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?

A flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19, but it can prevent you from getting the flu at the same time as COVID-19. This can keep you from having a more severe illness. That means that getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever.

What percentage of the public need to be vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?

Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. The percentage of people who need to have protection to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.

What’s in the COVID-19 vaccine?

According to Pfizer and BioNTech, the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine includes the following ingredients: mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.

What is mRNA?

According to the CDC, messenger RNA, or mRNA vaccines, teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

mRNA Facts:

  • They cannot give someone COVID-19.
    • mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
    • They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.
  • mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept.
    • The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.
    • Learn more from the CDC about mRNA vaccines.

Vaccines & Children FAQs

Are the COVID-19 Vaccines Effective in Children?

Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-17 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.

Does it matter how much my child weighs?

There are no patient weight requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine. Dosage does NOT vary by patient.