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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.

Who will get the vaccine first?
We’re all part of the most important, complex public health effort in our nation's history. We’re eager to protect you from the virus but remain at the mercy of production and distribution schedules of the vaccine. The vaccine is in scarce supply and distribution takes time.
Gundersen experts followed federal and state guidance to map out how to ethically vaccinate our community as soon as possible.
We wish we could give everyone an exact eligibility date, but we can’t. We are working on plans to identify candidates within priority groups who live in our communities. Help us prepare for community vaccination by establishing a MyChart account now, if you haven’t already.

Can children get the vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines will be used first in adults or possibly older teens. The Pfizer vaccine was studied in adults to age 16. Clinical trials are beginning to examine safety and effectiveness in younger children.

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?
Yes. No vaccine is 100%. Until we have effectively reduced our risk for exposure, we should continue to protect ourselves through social distancing, wearing a mask and hand hygiene.

Can I receive the initial dose from one manufacturer and the second dose from the other?
No. You should receive both doses from the same manufacturer.

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.

Is the vaccine safe for transplant patients?
There isn’t enough data available to definitively address safety and effectiveness in transplant patients or others with immunocompromising conditions or medications. The CDC advises that immunocompromised individuals may still receive COVID-19 vaccine if they have no other contraindication to vaccination.

If I receive the vaccine, will I need to quarantine if I am exposed to a positive case? Example; I receive the vaccine and my child tests positive. Would I need to quarantine for 14 days after last exposure?
Our control measures will not change until the prevalence of COVID-19 is at a very low level. A vaccine that is 95% effective still leaves 5% exposed and susceptible to disease and subsequent spread to others.

When can educators receive the vaccine?
Educators will have access to the vaccine in the coming months. The ACIP just recommended that teachers be included in phase 1B. While vaccine availability continues to be scarce, the decision about which groups will be eligible for vaccination are informed by the balance of scientific evidence, ethics, and the ability to implement and follow federal and state guidance. “Gating” criteria on when to transition between phases are also being developed at the federal and state level.

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.

Are patients able to take Ibuprofen AND/OR acetaminophen for vaccine side effects following the administration of the vaccine or is there a recommended timeframe to deter related to the immune response?
If there are significant side effects afterwards, it is acceptable to use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat them.

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.

I have patients eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are home bound (ex. Hospice patient). How can they get their vaccine?
Currently, we can only vaccinate patients who are able to come to our clinics. We are working with our local county health departments to assist us in getting the vaccine to patients in their home.

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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