COVID-19: Vaccine update

UPDATED on 12/22: Thank you for your interest in the COVID-19 vaccine. We currently haven’t received information on the timeline and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for the general public. We will continue to keep you updated.

We encourage you to talk to your ICHS doctor about the vaccine’s benefits

ICHS is working closely with Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health on a distribution plan in accordance with state and local guidelines. Initially, supplies will be limited and given to specific groups at highest risk, such as health care workers and people in nursing homes. The next priority groups are likely to be essential workers with higher risk of exposure, adults with underlying health conditions and adults 65 years and older. Eventually there will be enough for everyone who wants a vaccination.

We each have a responsibility to ensure that those around us are protected and we help reduce COVID-19 transmission by being vaccinated. This is the only way we can halt the pandemic and ensure the health of our family members, friends and neighbors.

FAQs

Currently, the vaccine is not yet available to the general public. We encourage you to talk with your doctor to understand where your age, occupation, health condition and other factors place you among prioritized groups. The first priority is to give the vaccine to the most vulnerable. This includes those above age 65, individuals with hypertension, heart disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes, or people who live in congregate settings such as group homes.

Not getting a vaccination is more than an individual choice, it has a much wider impact on everyone’s health and wellbeing. It will make it harder to achieve herd immunity, a level of immunity that will prevent the virus from circulating in the community, and protect us all. Without immunization, you place yourself at greater risk of severe illness or long-term health issues from COVID-19. When you get the vaccine, you also help protect people in high-risk groups that might not be able to get vaccinated themselves.

The COVID-19 vaccine will be covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance, and will be free if you are uninsured.

The two vaccines approved by the FDA work similarly. They cause the body to develop fighter cells called antibodies. A genetic code of a small part of the virus (the spike protein) is injected into the body; this is taken up by cells, which reproduce the protein. These are then recognized by the body as foreign proteins. The fighter cells work to get rid of the proteins, while creating a memory bank of these proteins to defend against future infection.

Nearly all COVID-19 vaccines being studied in the United States require two shots. The first shot starts building protection, but everyone has to come back a few weeks later for the second one to get the most protection the vaccine can offer.

Vaccine safety is a priority. All COVID-19 vaccines must go through a rigorous and multi-step testing and approval process before they can be used. They will only be approved if they pass safety and effectiveness standards. Many people took part in this testing to see how the vaccines offer protection to people of different ages, races and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions. Vaccines will also be monitored for safety once they are given.

Your arm may be sore, red or warm to the touch. These symptoms usually go away on their own within a week. Some people report getting a fever, fatigue, headache, chills, or muscle and joint pain. This is a natural response and a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is expected to do. It is working to build protection to disease. Vaccines will also be monitored for safety once they are given.

No, the vaccine will not cause the COVID-19 illness. The vaccine is made up of only a part of the virus (the spike protein), just enough for the body to recognize is as a foreign material to produce antibodies.

Some people feel sick after vaccination. These symptoms are the same symptoms we get when we have the infection and are a sign of the body working hard to fight the infection and develop antibodies.

COVID-19 vaccines are being tested in large clinical trials to assess their safety. However, it does take time, and more people need to be vaccinated before we learn about very rare or long-term side effects. That is why safety monitoring will continue by an independent group of experts with the CDC. They will provide regular safety updates for our immediate action.

We don’t know how long protection lasts for those who get infected or those who are vaccinated. What we do know is that COVID-19 has caused very serious illness and death for a lot of people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer choice.

Both the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and from Moderna have two doses. After only one dose your protection might be around 50%. The second dose provides a boost that gives strong, long-lasting immunity. After both doses, both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have 94% and 95% efficacy, respectively.

It will take about a week after the second dose for you to have the vaccine’s full protection.

No, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, while using the same approach, are different from each other. So the second dose should be the same vaccine.

You will still need to practice precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing, handwashing and other hygiene measures until many more people are vaccinated. This is because there’s still a chance you could pass the virus to someone else even though you don’t get sick yourself.

If you’ve had COVID-19, you have natural immunity that may last months to years but is not indefinite. People who have had COVID-19 may be advised to get the vaccine because they could still be reinfected and could still possibly infect someone else.

Yes, you can receive COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding. Even though pregnant and breastfeeding women were not included in the clinical trials, experts support vaccination to prevent infection.

Children below age 16 have not been included in current trials and are not considered a priority.

No, while the vaccine is made of a genetic material, it does not interact with the genome. It encodes for specific proteins (in this case the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus), which then gets decoded by the ribosome (protein making organelle/part of a cell) located outside of the nucleus where our genome is housed. mRNA in the cell is also degraded relatively quickly limiting long-lasting impact.

For more information

Visit the Public Health – Seattle & King County website for the latest information and updates about vaccine development and distribution.