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Published on January 04, 2021

a syringe in a vaccine bottle

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Developing the COVID-19 vaccine is the most important, complex public health effort in our nation's history. Federal, state and local healthcare experts and public health officials unified to make sure it's safe.

You should also know:

  • Getting the vaccine and following fact-based measures proven by science, like masking, distancing and washing your hands, will help us reduce the burden of COVID-19.
  • You may have questions or be hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine. However, know that ANY vaccine that has been scientifically reviewed, and FDA-approved and distributed, is better than receiving no vaccine at all.
  • The vaccine is being monitored closely to ensure safety.
  • The vaccine is 95% effective against COVID-19.

Gundersen experts are working hard to plan the vaccine's distribution and answer questions from our patients, including:

How does it protect me from COVID-19?
Vaccines work by training our immune systems to recognize viruses without making us sick. The immune response that develops after a vaccine protects us from future infections. Research is underway to understand long term COVID-19 immunity. None of the COVID-19 vaccines developed contain the live virus and cannot give you COVID-19.

I understand the mRNA vaccines work by carrying a "message" to our cells that instructs them how to produce spike proteins. I am wondering where they get the mRNA? How is the mRNA made or obtained for these vaccines?
mRNA are genetic messages that all living organisms produce because it is needed to make proteins. Think of mRNA as a recipe and protein, the meal. mRNA can be made easily and artificially in a lab once we know what the message needs to say. This is a common practice utilized daily in research across the world. Any mRNA message (viral, human, bacterial) can be made this way without ever needing to use the virus itself. The COVID mRNA vaccines contain multiple different mRNA messages (recipes) for numerous COVID-19 surface proteins to help our immune system recognize the virus fast. Having multiple messages also protects us in case the virus makes changes to its surface proteins.  Once protein is made from the mRNA, the mRNA falls apart.

Can children get the vaccine?
Currently, children as young as 12 can receive the vaccine.

Should I get the vaccine if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
Being pregnant or breastfeeding is not a contraindication to receiving COVID-19 vaccine and the increased risk of COVID infection in pregnancy should be weighed against the relative lack of data for COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy and lactation. Several of our pregnant clinicians have already received the vaccine.

Does the vaccine affect fertility?
There is no evidence the vaccine impacts fertility.

The vaccine was created in a shorter amount of time than usual. Can we trust the vaccine?
While these vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, all routine steps (clinical trials) were followed to ensure the safety of any vaccine approved for use. Scientists have been working on strategies for coronavirus vaccines since the 2003 coronavirus outbreak (SARS).

Are there any known side effects of the vaccine?
During clinical trials, none of the vaccines reported any serious side effects. Most people did not experience any side effects. For participants that reported side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, the symptoms are like other vaccines - fever, headache, muscle aches and nausea.

Will I still need to wear a mask after being immunized?
No, except in certain places, like hospitals and clinics.

What if I miss the scheduled date for my second dose?
While it is important to keep your scheduled appointment, it is not necessary to start the vaccination series over. Reschedule your appointment to the next opening as soon as possible.

How can I tell the difference between a reaction to the vaccine and COVID-19 infection?
Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine and early symptoms of COVID-19 infection may be similar. Side effects associated with a vaccine usually start within hours of the dose and will dissipate after a day or two. Symptoms from COVID-19 may vary but can last longer than one to two days and may progress or be associated with other symptoms. Cough, shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell are not associated with the vaccine.

If I had COVID-19, is there a wait period until I can be vaccinated?
Those who had COVID-19 will be deferred until 90 days after the positive test.

what to expect

We've taken steps at all our locations to keep you and our staff healthy and safe. Here's what to expect when you visit us.

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