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COVID-19 VACCINE FAQs

Q: How do COVID-19 vaccines work? 

A: The first COVID-19 vaccines to reach the market are messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines. Messenger RNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.  The mRNA is NOT a live or attenuated live virus so it cannot make you sick with COVID-19.  Injecting messenger RNA into your body will not interact or do anything to the DNA of your cells. Human cells break down and get rid of the messenger RNA soon after they have finished using the instructions.

Q:  Are COVID-19 vaccines safe? 

A:  Red tape may have been cut, but no corners were cut.  Safety protocols were still followed and adequate testing was still completed.  The emergency situation of the worldwide pandemic warranted an emergency response. 

The vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTecH and Moderna have been studied in approximately 70,000 people.  To receive emergency use authorization, biopharmaceutical manufacturers must have followed at least half of the participants in their vaccine trials for at least two months after completing the vaccination series, and the vaccine must be proven safe and effective in that population.  The safety of COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be closely monitored by the CDC and the FDA as we start vaccinating and continue with more trials.

Q: If I already had COVID-19 and I have recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated for COVID-19?

A: Natural immunity develops after an actual infection and can protect someone from getting that infection again.  Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.  It is recommended to get the COVID-19 vaccine even if you've had COVID-19 previously. However, those who have had COVID-19 can consider delaying vaccination until about 90 days from diagnosis. 

Q: Do the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have severe side effects?

A: COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to have short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury.

Early-phase studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines show that they are safe. The most common symptoms included pain at the injection site, headache, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or fever lasting for a day or two.

Keep in mind that these side effects indicate that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. These side effects are common with all vaccinations.

Q: Are there any concerns with those with a history of severe allergic reactions?

A:  If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that you should not get that specific vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.  Specifically, those with KNOWN allergic reaction to PEG (polyethylene glycol) or polysorbate should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.  (Polysorbate is not in the vaccine, but is closely related to PEG).

The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as allergies to food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex—may still get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions, or who might have an milder allergy to vaccines (no anaphylaxis)—may also still get vaccinated.  If you have a history of anaphylaxis, it is recommended you wait 30 minutes after the vaccination.

If you have a severe allergic reaction after getting the first shot, you should not get the second shot. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist in allergies and immunology to provide more care or advice.

Q: Should the COVID-19 vaccine be given with other vaccines?

A:  There are no restrictions on when to give COVID vaccine with other vaccines.  If your child is due for regular vaccinations or catching up on vaccinations, there are no longer restrictions with COVID vaccine administration.  COVID vaccine can be co-administered with other vaccines and can be given at any time interval related to other vaccines.  If you have further concerns, please discuss with your provider.

Q: If I am breastfeeding, can I get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine?

A:  There is no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or on milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are NOT thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Fetal Maternal Medicine, and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine all state that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the theoretical small safety concerns.  There is no need to avoid initiation or discontinue breastfeeding in patients who receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Q: What if my child tests positive for COVID and they are due for a COVID vaccine dose?

A:  They may still receive their dose AFTER completing their 10 day isolation and are feeling well enough to receive the vaccine.  They do NOT have to wait 90 days.

Q: What about boosters for our children?

A:  Even if they have had COVID illness, we do recommend that all patients 5 years old and up receive a booster when they are eligible.  All patients 5 - 17 yo are eligible to receive a booster of the Pfizer COVID vaccine 5 months from their 2nd dose of their primary series.  All patients 18 yo+ are eligible to receive a booster of either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID vaccine 5 months from their 2nd dose of their primary series.  We do not yet know about boosters for the < 5yo population.

Q: Will CAP offer the COVID vaccine to patients? If so, what ages?

A:  Capital Area Pediatrics continues to offer vaccination at our sites, based upon supply give to us by the health department as well as availability of staff to administer while we are still seeing patients in the office.  Appointments can be self-scheduled on our website.  At this time, we are not administering at well or sick visits due to allotment from the health department and prepartion of doses from a vial.  Please choose the correct age of your child to ensure we have the correct dose available.

We will be adding clinics for our youngest patients after FDA and CDC approval, and all supplies are received from the health department.  Please check your email as well as on our appointment page to see how to self-schedule.

Multiple sites in the community continue to have supply and appointments that may also be convenient for you.  Please check your local pharmacies and grocery stores,Vaccinate Virginia,vaccines.gov, CDC VAMS, and Fairfax County Government for other available appointments.

Questions about COVID vaccine for 5-11 year olds? Read FAQs here.

Q: What are your thoughts about Pfizer and Moderna for the 6 month to 5 year olds?

A:  We cannot predict which children will get very sick or die from COVID.  50% of patients hospitalized had NO risk factors.

A child's health status changes over time - your child could get diagnoses a serious illness (diabetes, cancer, etc) that then puts them at risk for complications.

COVID is a leading cause of death among all children, all groups - now in the top 5. 

The data for both Pfizer and Moderna are great.  In the long run, either is good choice to protect your child.  Capital Area Pediatrics will be offering Pfizer for all ages for now, to avoid confusion and reduce errors.  Of note, there is more reactogenicity (fever, site pain, bodyaches, chills, headache) with Moderna (especially dose 2) than Pfizer.

For those of you with children "close to age 5", some suggestions:  

  • If your child is < 1 month away from turning five years old, get Moderna or wait and get the Pfizer dose for 5 year olds.  
  • If your child is 1-2 months away from turning five years old, get Moderna if you can.  If your child gets 2 dose of Pfizer and then turns 5 year old, it is likely they will still need a 3rd dose of the 5 year old dose, but we are waiting to hear from the FDA and CDC what is recommend in this situation.  
  • If your child is >2 months away from turning five years old, get either Moderna or Pfizer.

Q: What if my child recently had COVID, should we still get them vaccinated or boosted?

A:  Yes!  The data shows that likely the combination of natural immunity + vaccine induced immunity will give the best long term protection.  In addition, recent mild infection likely does not correlate with a strong immune response alone.  Reinfection occurs more often with those that are unvaccinated.  Vaccinating children with prior infection is crucial.