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We Answer Your Latest Vaccine Questions

More Americans are becoming vaccinated against COVID-19 every day. We understand some people, though, still have questions as we learn more about vaccines. It’s understandable to be cautious, but it is also important to know the facts.

Q: Should I be worried about the Johnson & Johnson recall vaccine if I received the vaccine?

No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine resume in the United States, after the temporary pause.

The pause occurred so the CDC and FDA could review a few cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in women younger than 50 years old after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The CDC and FDA reviewed the data from those cases and noted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s “known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.”

Still, they caution that women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event. If women are hesitant to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC recommends one of the other two vaccines that are available — Pfizer or Moderna.

The FDA has recommended men, too, watch for any unusual symptoms following vaccination with a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Anyone with concerns should contact their healthcare provider with any concerns with questions.

Q: Do I have to get vaccinated again if I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before the pause?

No. If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you have been vaccinated. The vaccine is 100% effective at stopping hospitalization 28 days after vaccination, compared with 85% at 14 days. Do not get vaccinated again with a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Q: Should I be concerned about COVID-19 vaccine side effects, especially after the second dose?

Two vaccines require a second dose – Pfizer and Moderna.

Short-lived side effects with all three vaccines are common. These include possible arm pain near the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and fever. Some people describe the second dose as having a “bad flu” for a couple of days. Vaccine studies state that people receiving second shots may want to schedule a few days off in case they need to rest.

Some people wonder if the side effects may be “just in patients’ heads.” No. Data collected from v-safe, the app you are encouraged to use to track side effects after vaccination, do show an increase in side effects after the second dose.

But don’t let these side effects stop you from getting your second shot. A day or two of chills, muscle pain and fever may not be pleasant, but they are a sign your immune system is responding to the vaccine.

Q: I didn’t have any side effects. Does that mean the vaccine isn’t working?

Many people have very few side effects beyond a sore arm like with many vaccines. Everyone is different and individual immune responses may vary. No side effects does not mean your vaccine isn’t going to protect. Research shows that all three vaccines approved in the United States — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are effective against severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Q: I took Tylenol before my COVID-19 vaccine shots. I had very little reaction to the shots. Was that a mistake?

Don’t chase potential vaccine pain by taking a pain reliever before getting the shot.

It’s possible that taking a pain reliever before your shots might have dampened your body’s immune response, but unlikely, say vaccine experts.

They say you shouldn’t worry and don’t try to get another shot. Studies of other vaccines suggest that while premedicating can dull the body’s immune response to a vaccine, your immune system can still create a strong enough defense to fight infection. Scientists also say that all COVID vaccines have a high efficacy against the virus. Your body should have a strong enough immune response to protect you.

Q: Is it true that women are more likely to get worse side effects from the vaccine than men?

Safety data from the first 13.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses given to Americans did find that women had more side effects. Still, severe COVID-19 vaccine reactions are rare. Women, too, are more likely to report side effects.

Still, higher rates of side effects in women also has a biological explanation. Estrogen can stimulate an immune response. Testosterone can blunt it.

Q: What can I do differently once I get the vaccine?

You are fully vaccinated two weeks after your last dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and the only dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine. If you don’t meet these requirements, you are NOT fully vaccinated.

After the two weeks, you can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or social distancing. You can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19.

The CDC recently said you can travel domestically without a pre- or post-travel COVID-19 test.

Q: What shouldn’t I do once I get the vaccine and my two weeks is over?

The CDC recommends you should not visit indoors without a mask with people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. You also should not attend medium or large events without a mask.

Q: Can I still get COVID-19 after I have been vaccinated?

While the chance is slim, no vaccine is 100 percent foolproof. You could still get COVID-19. The vaccine may allow for a much milder case of the virus. If you have been around someone who is sick, you should get tested and stay home until you know for sure.

Q: Are vaccine side effects worse if you have had COVID-19?

After the first dose, you may have stronger side effects if you have had COVID-19. Your side effects may mimic mild COVID-19. It may be a good idea to plan to stay at home for a day or two after a vaccination.

Q: Does the vaccine infertility or change my DNA?

No, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot cause infertility or change your DNA.

Q: Can the vaccine affect a woman’s mammogram?

Coronavirus vaccinations can enlarge lymph nodes in the armpits. This could show up as white masses on mammograms. This type of swelling is a normal reaction to the vaccine, and it can occur on the same side as the arm where you received the shot. It usually only lasts for a few weeks, medical experts say. The Society of Breast Imaging recommends scheduling a routine mammogram before you first COVID-19 vaccination or at least one month after your second vaccination.

Q: Could I have an allergic reaction to the vaccine?

Allergic reactions to any vaccines can occur. If you had allergic reactions in the past to vaccines and other shots, talk to your doctor. If you are allergic to eggs, good news. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain eggs. You will stay 15 minutes after receiving your vaccine, and medical personnel will ask how you are feeling. If you have had allergic reactions previously, you may be asked to stay longer.

Q: Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?

Women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding can receive the vaccine. Pregnant women are at risk of severe COVID-19 and complications from the virus. If you are concerned, discuss vaccinations with your doctor.

Q: Can children get the vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for ages 16 and older. The Moderna is approved for ages 18 and older. Pediatric clinical trials are underway.

Q: What if I have diabetes, high blood pressure, or another condition?

People with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or other chronic conditions should get vaccinated. Vaccinations are important for adults with certain underlying medical conditions because of their increased risk for severe illness.

Q: How long does vaccine protection last?

We don’t have a crystal ball to look into the future. It appears the vaccine may last longer than natural immunity after getting COVID-19. Researchers are learning more every day.

Q: I haven’t gotten COVID-19. Maybe I’m immune. Why should I get vaccinated?

No one is immune to this virus. It is possible that you had COVID-19 and were asymptomatic. That means you had the virus, but no symptoms. You may not have gotten tested. Some people can also catch it twice and be asymptomatic both times. Vaccines appear to be better at protecting than natural immunity. It is important to protect the people around you, and vaccines protect you and others.

Q: What is community or herd immunity?

Viruses like COVID-19 need hosts to thrive. If they can’t find enough hosts, the virus dies out. If enough people are vaccinated, or have antibodies, they become the “herd” and can protect those who can’t get the vaccine. For most viruses, we need 80% to 95% immunity for herd immunity to work. We don’t know the percentage yet for COVID-19, but we do know your vaccination protects people you don’t even know.

Q: Can I get vaccinated if I currently have COVID-19?

No. You need to stay at home and quarantine. You can spread COVID-19 to others. Limit your exposure to other people. Talk to your doctor when you can get the vaccine.

Q: Should I get vaccinated if I have recovered from COVID-19?

If you have already had COVID-19, you may have some natural immunity from the virus. It is unclear how long natural immunity lasts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who had COVID-19 get vaccinated.

Q: What are variants? Does the vaccine protect me from them?

Viruses constantly change by mutating. So far, COVID-19 vaccines appear to protect against the current variants. That could change. If so, vaccines may need to be adapted future, meaning if you have been vaccinated, you may need a booster.

Q: I see ads to buy vaccine. Is it real?

No. Do not fall for scams. You should never pay to get the vaccine. It is free to you. You should not have to pay to put your name on a vaccine waiting list or pay to get early access. Do not answer vaccine ads from unknown marketers through social media, email, phone calls or online.

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