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Houston Methodist answers questions about the vaccine

Question: Are the vaccines safe?

Answer: Yes, the current studies show the vaccines are safe and they work. The safety and results of the vaccines were reviewed by the FDA’s independent panel of experts. Our experts at Houston Methodist have also reviewed the safety and effectiveness results before the vaccine was given. There are no reported serious safety concerns from the vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the FDA will continue to monitor vaccine recipients for two years.

COVID-19 can be a fatal or critical disease, even in young, healthy people. The harm from contracting the virus is greater than the possible harm from receiving the vaccine.

Question: I got a message that I was eligible for the vaccine, but my significant other or child didn’t. Why?

Answer: There are not enough vaccines for everyone right now. To be fair in the distribution of vaccines, we developed a tiered system; the patients and community members who are most in need and could benefit the most from the vaccine have the opportunity to receive it first.

To create this tiered approach, we used guidelines from the National Academy of Medicine, the State governor, the CDC and Health and Human Services, and published studies. We will expand the pool of eligible patients and community members who can receive the vaccine as soon as more vaccines become available.

Question: Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

Answer: No. You cannot get the virus from the vaccine. None of the vaccines can cause COVID-19.

Question: How many doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will I need?

Answer: The vaccines require two doses, given one month apart. The second dose (called a booster) must be completed with the same vaccine brand as the first dose. Both doses are important to ensure full protection, and you cannot skip the booster (second vaccine) for it to be effective. You will schedule your booster at the hospital shot during your first vaccination.

Question: The vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). What does that mean?

Answer: In an emergency, like a pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can make a judgment that it’s worth releasing a product for use even without the typical timeline for a new vaccine or drug. If there’s evidence that strongly suggests that people have benefited from the vaccine in clinical trials, the FDA can issue an EUA to make it available to the public. Current studies indicate that the vaccines are safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms. These vaccines will continue to be studied.

Question: What are the side effects or issues we might experience from the vaccine?

Answer: The shots may cause mild flu-like side effects, including sore arms, muscle aches, and fever. Therefore, we are recommending that you take ibuprofen or acetaminophen (if you can safely take them) before you get the vaccine. This may help significantly alleviate the side effects. Some of the side effects that have been reported with the vaccine include:

  • injection site pain
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • injection site swelling
  • injection site redness
  • nausea
  • feeling unwell
  • swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)

Question: If I have already had COVID-19 should I still get the vaccine?

Answer: Yes. Getting the vaccine may offer you additional protection, because we know of cases of COVID-19 reinfection several months AFTER contracting COVID-19.

Question: Do I have to continue wearing a mask after I get the vaccine?

Answer: Yes. We should continue wearing masks. Wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing should be continued until scientists say it’s OK to stop.

Question: How does the vaccine for COVID-19 work?

Answer: The vaccine stimulates your own immune system to protect you from the virus. Tens of thousands of patients have been studied. Trials cast a wide net, capturing a true spectrum of America’s melting pot. This suggests the vaccine will work for everyone.

A board of experts looked at the studies and reported that the vaccine is 95% effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19. We do not know if you can still get a COVID-19 infection without symptoms and then spread it to others. See this story to learn more about mRNA vaccines. This story from Time Magazine also gives a great overview.

Question: Will the vaccine keep me from getting COVID-19?

Answer: Studies show that the vaccines are 95% effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19.

Question: How long will it take for the vaccine to begin protecting me?

Answer: It normally takes about two to three weeks for the vaccine to take effect in protecting you.

Question: Will getting the flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?

Answer: A flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19, but it can prevent you from getting influenza (flu) at the same time as COVID-19. This can keep you from having a more severe illness. We encourage you to get your flu shot, just like we have at Houston Methodist.

Question: Will COVID-19 vaccines cause me to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests?

Answer: No. You should not test positive for active infection with any form of testing we currently use to detect COVID-19.

Question: What are the odds I’ll still catch COVID-19?

Answer: The vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms, but there is still a chance you might catch COVID-19. We do not know yet how long the vaccines protect individuals.

Question: Do the new vaccine trial results mean the end to the pandemic?

Answer: In the short term, no. The soonest that coronavirus vaccines could become widely available to the public would be in the spring. When effective vaccines become available — and if most people get them — the pandemic could drastically shrink. This means we are one giant step closer to getting our lives back to normal.

Question: What would be signs that should be concerning? When should I call a primary care physician (PCP)?

Answer: Call your primary care physician if you experience:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness and/or weakness
  • A rash on your body
  • Swelling of the face and/or throat
  • Fever between 99.5-101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Sore throat, congestion, or runny nose
  • Chills

 

Call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Department if you experience:

  • Fever greater than 101
  • Worsening, severe difficulty breathing, or unusually fast heartbeat
  • Trouble waking (or becoming confused in a way that’s new)
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

Question: I’d like to make an appointment with a primary care physician. How do I find one and make an appointment?

Answer: To identify a primary care physician or if you have any questions, please click here or call us at 713-790-3333. Or, if you prefer, you can schedule a virtual appointment here from the comfort of your home.

Question: Does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Food & Drug Administration monitor my health in any way?

Answer: Yes! V-safe is a smartphone-based app tool that uses text messages and web surveys where you can quickly tell the CDC if you experience any side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Please go to https://vsafe.cdc.gov/ to learn more.

Question: Are there any reasons why I should not get the vaccine?

Answer: Yes. If you have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past, you should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. If you have experienced any of the following, you should talk with your primary care physician before vaccinating:

  • You are pregnant or may become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
  • You are immunocompromised or are on a medicine that affects your immune system.
  • You have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners.

Question: Where do I find proof of my vaccine?

Answer: After you receive your initial and booster doses of the vaccine, it will be recorded in MyChart, located here. If you do not have a MyChart account, you can register as a new user here.

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