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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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COVID-19 Vaccine: The Latest Answers from Lee Health

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Author name: Lee Health

This blog was updated Feb. 8, 2021

Many Southwest Florida residents have questions about COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized to prevent COVID-19 in the U.S.

Dr. Stephanie Stovall, Interim Chief of Quality and Patient Safety for Lee Health System, shares the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Florida Department of Health about vaccines and why practicing other preventative measures remains vital in stopping the pandemic.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

All COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted Emergency Use Authorizations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have met rigorous safety criteria and are effective, as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials.

COVID-19 vaccines continue to be tested in large clinical trials for safety and efficacy especially as new variants of the virus are found. However, it does take time and more people getting vaccinated before we learn about extremely rare effects. That is why safety monitoring will continue.

The CDC has an independent group of experts that reviews all the safety data as it comes in and provides regular safety updates. In addition, the CDC has monitoring systems in place that allow it to watch for safety issues across the entire country.

Learn more about how federal partners are ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

After I get vaccinated, how long will it be effective?

It can take 1-2 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine to have adequate protection.

Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

If you are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, you may choose to be vaccinated. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, a talk with your healthcare provider may help you make an informed decision. While breastfeeding is an important consideration, it is rarely a safety concern with vaccines.

As of yet, there’s no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on breastfed infants or on milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants.

I have an underlying medical condition. Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

If you have an underlying medical condition, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t had an allergic reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or any of its ingredients. But there is limited information about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in people who have weakened immune systems or autoimmune conditions. 

If you have had a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) to an injected medicine in the past, you should talk to your healthcare provider prior to getting the vaccine.

Learn more about vaccination considerations for persons with underlying medical conditions.

Which lasts longer, immunity after getting COVID-19 or protection from COVID-19 vaccines?

The protection someone gains from having an infection (called “natural immunity”) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Because this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. Current evidence suggests that getting the virus again (reinfection) is uncommon in the 90 days after the first infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

We won’t know how long immunity lasts after vaccination until we have more data on how well COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions.

Experts are working to learn more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity. The CDC and FDOH will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.

If I’ve already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, you should get vaccinated regardless of whether you already had a COVID-19 infection.

If you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that national and state health experts are working to learn more about and make available to the public as new information develops.

Are there side effects to COVID-19 vaccines?

You can expect normal side effects after you are vaccinated. Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and typically last only one to two days.

Learn more about what to expect at your appointment to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Is there a risk of severe allergic reaction if I receive the vaccine?

Serious problems from vaccination can happen, but rarely. According to the CDC, there have been some reports of people experiencing severe allergic reactions—also known as anaphylaxis—after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and allergies.

Do I still need to wear a mask and practice established safety recommendations, like avoiding crowds?

Yes. Experts want to learn more about the protection that a COVID-19 vaccine provides and how long immunity lasts before changing safety recommendations. Factors such as how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will also affect these recommendations

Until then, it’s important for all of us to continue using every tool available to help stop this pandemic. Experts recommend that we should continue to practice the following safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact (within about 6 feet) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.
  • Wear cloth face coverings in public places. Cloth face coverings offer extra protection in places such as the grocery store, where it's difficult to avoid close contact with others.
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue.
  • Stay home if you're sick. Stay home from work, school and public areas if you're sick, unless you're going to get medical care.