COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

The Department of Health and Welfare receives many questions from the public related to the COVID-19 vaccine. On this page, you will find the most common questions and the answers. This page is updated regularly, so check back if you can’t find the answer you need.

General questions can be sent to communications@dhw.idaho.gov.

For more information on when and where to get a COVID-19 vaccination, visit the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccination Information web page. For more information about Idaho's response to coronavirus, visit the Idaho Coronavirus web page

 (Updated 2-11-2021)

Where and when to get the COVID-19 vaccination

How can I get a COVID-19 vaccination?

COVID-19 vaccination in Idaho is occurring in phases. COVID-19 vaccine for the general public is expected to be available in spring or summer.

When the vaccine is available to their priority group, Idahoans will be able to get the vaccine through normal vaccination locations such as their employer, physician’s office, local public health district, or local pharmacy.

Who gets the COVID-19 vaccination first?

Healthcare workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities started getting vaccinated first in December. First responders (including law enforcement officers and dispatchers), pre-K-12th grade school teachers and staff, child care staff, correctional and detention facility staff, and Idahoans 65 years of age and older can get vaccinated right now.

Additional types of frontline critical infrastructure workers can get vaccinated starting in late February or early March.

Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (CVAC)

Who decides the priority groups for the vaccine?

Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (CVAC) discusses recommendations for sub-priority tiers in each phase of COVID-19 vaccination to advise the governor. Sub-prioritization in Idaho for each phase is voted on by CVAC and a final decision is made by the governor. As final approval is given to the priority populations, the determinations will be released to the public. The committee is accepting public comments in email about the vaccine in Idaho at covid19vaccinepubliccomment@dhw.idaho.gov.

What is the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee?

The Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee advises the Governor and assists state and local entities with the prioritization of vaccines when they are in limited supply, on the implementation of the vaccination plan, and on communication and delivery of the vaccine.

The committee was formed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare at the direction of Gov. Brad Little in October and its members represent stakeholders from across Idaho, including the tribes, priority populations, healthcare systems and providers, and immunization organizations.

How Idaho’s vaccination process is determined

What is the process to prioritize groups for the vaccine?

An explanation of this complex process is available on the coronavirus website

When will we have more information about the other priority groups, phases?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet and vote on further recommendations on priority groups. Idaho CVAC follows the recommendations of ACIP and votes on sub-prioritization of priority groups recommended by ACIP. The final decisions are made by the Governor.

When are the meetings of Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee?

ACIP and Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting dates are posted on the coronavirus website.

How you’ll be notified when it’s your turn to get vaccinated

How will Idaho notify residents when it’s their turn to receive the vaccine?

Providers, DHW, and Idaho’s local public health districts will make announcements when we transition to each phase of vaccination in Idaho. Social media, press releases and other typical forms of communication will be used to make those announcements.

What to expect at a vaccine appointment

Do residents need to make an appointment?

It will depend on the vaccine provider. We want to ensure physical distancing and vaccine supply on site is adequate for demand.

How and where can I get vaccinated if I don’t have a primary care physician?

For people without a primary care physician, access to vaccines may be through places such as your employer, local public health agencies, federally qualified health centers, and pharmacies.

What do I need to bring to my vaccine appointment?

You should take your identification card and your insurance card, as well as proof of your employment if your priority group is based on where you work.

What should I expect at my vaccine appointment?

After you receive your vaccination, you will receive a vaccination card that says which COVID-19 vaccine you were given as well as the date and location it was administered. You should also receive a fact sheet with additional information about the COVID-19 vaccine you are getting. There are fact sheets for each COVID-19 vaccine with information about the risks and benefits of that particular vaccine.

You will also be given information about v-safe, a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

You should expect to stay at the vaccine site for 15-30 minutes after getting vaccinated to make sure you don’t have a reaction that needs medical attention. For more information see the new Idaho COVID-19 Vaccination Information web page.

Vaccine safety and efficacy

How did COVID-19 vaccines get approved so quickly?

Production of the COVID-19 vaccines began sooner than is typical. Normally, production starts after a pharmaceutical company completes the development stage for a vaccine, which includes rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. Every vaccine goes through a series of reviews and approvals by the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), among others. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government invested taxpayer dollars to encourage pharmaceutical companies to start production before the development stage completed.

The vaccines are still going through the same rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness, review, and approval process. However, because pharmaceutical companies began manufacturing the vaccine during the clinical trials, they were able to make the vaccines available as soon as they were authorized.

Is there a benefit to getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccination can help keep you from getting COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines are being carefully evaluated in clinical trials and will be authorized or approved only if they are shown to be safe and effective in reducing your chances of getting COVID-19. Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are difficult to maintain for long periods of time. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.

I have a medical condition -- how will I know if the vaccine is safe for me?

You should discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider to determine what is best for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers clinical guidance on the first (Pfizer) vaccine.

What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?

Herd immunity, also called community immunity, is a term used to describe the point at which enough people in a community have protection so that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, the entire community has some protection even if some individuals do not have any protection themselves (for example, those who cannot be vaccinated because of health reasons). The percentage of people who need to have protection to achieve herd immunity varies by disease. Experts do not yet know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19.

Does an mRNA vaccine alter your DNA?

mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work

Can the COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID-19?

COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development. However, the goal for each of them is to teach our immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Some people will get fever, chills, fatigues or body aches 1-2 days after vaccination.  These symptoms are a sign that your body is building immunity. They are not a sign that the vaccine caused COVID-19.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine cause me to test positive on viral tests?

COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current COVID-19 infection. If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, you could test positive on some COVID-19 antibody tests which indicate either past infection or immune response to a COVID-19 vaccine.

Side effects/reactions to COVID-19 vaccine

What are the side effects of the vaccine? Will the vaccine hurt?

Early data suggests that everyone should be prepared for mild to moderate reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine. These side effects – such as injection site pain or swelling, muscle pain, headaches, or mild to moderate fevers – are a sign that the body is producing an immune response, just like when a bug bite makes our skin feel itchy or dust makes us sneeze. Because the vaccine efficacy is higher after the second dose, some of these symptoms may be more pronounced after the second vaccine.

It is important to be prepared and know what to expect. You can try over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to minimize side effects. If you can, plan to rest and take it easy following vaccination. Your body will be working hard to produce an immune response and get you protected against the virus.

Some people have reported severe reactions to the vaccine. Do we have more information about that or are we concerned?

There have been reports of people who experienced anaphylaxis after the administration of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. These reactions have been few and people were immediately treated and recovered quickly; many had a significant history of severe allergic reactions. Appropriate medical treatment for severe reactions must be immediately available at all vaccination sites.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine includes a warning not to administer the vaccine to individuals with a known history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable therapy (intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous) not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at this time.

Federal, state, and local public health agencies will be monitoring reports of adverse events. The Department of Health and Welfare will be reviewing data from multiple systems where providers who vaccinate and individuals who receive the vaccine can report any reaction they think is related to vaccination. The data from clinical trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine indicate there is very little risk to the vast majority of people who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, there are side effects to the vaccine because it stimulates the body’s immune system. It is important to consider the balance between the risk of side effects and the benefit of a vaccinated community. The infection and death rates from COVID-19 in Idaho and the U.S. are rising, and severe complications from COVID-19 can occur in people of any age.

Vaccinating long-term care facilities

What’s the plan for getting COVID-19 vaccine to Idaho’s long-term care facilities?

The federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program started in Idaho in December with Walgreens and CVS administering vaccines in many of Idaho’s long-term care facilities. About 66,000 doses, including both first and second doses, were transferred from Idaho’s total allocation of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, per CDC Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program guidelines. The companies have since indicated they were not going to use all of the doses. The state worked with CVS to transfer 12,600 doses (6,300 first doses) and with Walgreens to transfer 13,650 doses (6,825 first doses) to other enrolled providers in Idaho.

The pharmacy partners anticipate having LTC facility staff and residents fully vaccinated in February. There are many variables that might change that timeline, including how many doses of vaccine Idaho is allocated each week and the number of people who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Long-term care facilities that did not choose to participate in the federal program will receive their vaccines through other providers such as local public health districts, independent pharmacies, and healthcare providers in their communities.

When will they start administering the Moderna vaccine in LTCFs?

Idaho selected Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use by Walgreens and CVS for administration in LTCFs. They will not receive any of Idaho’s Moderna doses.

What is the approval process for administering the vaccine in a long-term care facility? Does the family or person approve?

Vaccine consent is obtained per the facility’s policy. The Immunization Program does not regulate how a vaccine provider obtains consent.

Who should people contact if they have questions about the vaccine for themselves or a family member who lives in a long-term care facility?

If they have vaccine scheduling questions about a family member who lives in a long-term care facility, call the facility. If they are a member of the general public or a member of a prioritized group for vaccination, check coronavirus.idaho.gov and DHW’s website and social media channels for the most current information.

Gov. Brad Little’s vaccine-related actions

What is being done lately to speed up the pace of vaccination in Idaho?

Under Gov. Brad Little’s direction, DHW teams are working on a vaccine pre-registration solution.

On Jan. 28, Gov. Little signed an executive order aimed at speeding up safe vaccine rollout and promoting transparency in vaccine administration. The order requires local public health districts and healthcare providers to regularly report the number of vaccine doses they have been allocated, how many shots they have been given, and how many doses they have in inventory. That data is compiled on the new COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Transparency Data dashboard that went live on Feb. 8.

On Jan. 19, Gov. Brad Little announced he will seek to increase the number of available Idaho National Guard personnel from 250 to 400 guardsmen that week to aid in Idaho’s pandemic response.

Gov. Little also announced that day the state of Idaho will offer healthcare providers new grants to more quickly administer COVID-19 vaccine across the state. The new COVID-19 Vaccine Capacity, Safety, and Reporting Grants can be used by enrolled vaccine provider organizations to increase staffing to administer shots, purchase needed equipment and supplies, and improve vaccine access for hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations. The amount each enrolled healthcare vaccine provider will receive is based on the number of doses they administer.

Vaccine distribution pace

How is Idaho making sure the vaccines are distributed as quickly and as efficiently as possible? Why have we not vaccinated more people?

There are a few reasons why vaccine uptake documented in Idaho’s Immunization Reminder Information System (IRIS) may be, in some cases, lagging behind vaccine distribution.

  • COVID-19 vaccine administration data must be submitted to IRIS within 72 hours of administration. Data are being provided by facilities familiar with IRIS, as well as some that are new to the system. The immunization program is working closely with these facilities to ensure they are able to report vaccine information in a timely manner.
  • A large portion of Idaho’s allocation was transferred to the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program. This federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens required CDC to hold these doses back BEFORE vaccination in long-term care facilities could start.
  • Vaccinators must be trained, and healthcare personnel require detailed information about the vaccine.
  • Hospitals are stretched thin right now; we are asking for a lot of their time, resources, space, energy, and effort to coordinate and execute vaccine clinics during a time they are also managing an extraordinary caseload of patients.

Logistics are probably the easiest part of vaccine distribution, even with vaccine as complicated as the ultra-cold Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Public health officials have maintained that the challenge is not just getting vaccine to the hospital loading dock; getting vaccine administered is much more complicated. Vaccination campaigns that are targeted to specific populations can be unpredictable. There is a balance between controlling the vaccine to avoid waste and vaccinating those who are in priority groups, and rapidly getting the vaccine administered.

The bottom line is that vaccines are being administered safely and successfully in Idaho. We will get faster and more efficient as we move forward and gain experience with these new vaccines. We want to make sure we continue to do it safely and correctly. Now is not the time to rush through the process, but to be deliberate and develop a sustainable cadence of vaccination.

Is Idaho going to open large-scale vaccination sites?

These events are intended for high-volume vaccine administration over a condensed period of time, but they must be by appointment rather than first-come, first-served because of the physical distancing and observation needs for these vaccines. They’re currently happening across the state at the local level in a variety of ways. Some health districts are working with partners to host events in places such as fairgrounds or conference facilities. We’ve also seen private providers host these events at hospitals, for example.

The state could potentially be engaged in this type of event in the future, but we haven’t made any decisions yet due to limitations of vaccine supply. For the latest and contact information for providers and health districts, visit https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/covid-19-vaccination.

Idaho’s vaccine allocation

How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is Idaho getting?

Idaho is receiving about 40,000 doses each week. That includes the state’s allocation plus an additional 10,000 doses that are sent to the state each week as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, which began Feb. 11. Watch DHW’s social media and blog, the Department of Health and Welfare’s website, the coronavirus website, and your local public health districts for the latest information about COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho.

Vaccine wastage

Has any vaccine been wasted in Idaho?

As of Feb. 25, providers have informed DHW that just over 200 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been wasted out of the 328,578 doses that have been administered to date. There are many storage and handling complexities associated with this vaccine, and providers have been doing a great job of ensuring doses aren’t wasted.

Vaccine data

How are we sharing data securely to the federal government about vaccine recipients?

We are committed to honoring Idahoan’s privacy and protecting the medical information of individuals who receive a COVID-19 vaccine. No information that can identify a person, such as their name, address, or date of birth, will be provided to the federal government. De-identified data will be shared through a secure data collection site at the federal level where it will be combined with information from other states to monitor vaccine efforts nationwide.

Where can I find vaccine-related data in Idaho?

There are three data dashboards on the coronavirus website.

Launched on Feb. 8, Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Administration Transparency Data dashboard shows the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses that individual providers and local public health districts have been allocated and the number of doses that remain for them to administer. It will also soon show race/ethnicity data for vaccinations.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard includes data on COVID-19 vaccinations by county and public health district, cumulative doses administered, trend data and more.

The COVID-19 Case, Laboratory, and Hospital Data Dashboard includes data on COVID-19 cases statewide, by public health district, and by county. It also includes data on COVID-19-related deaths, hospitalizations, laboratory testing, and more.

Vaccine providers

Who is authorized to administer the vaccines? How many providers are enrolled?

Any Idaho facility, organization, or healthcare provider licensed to possess or administer vaccine or provide vaccination services is eligible to enroll in Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program. The enrollment process consists of completion of the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement, Supplemental COVID-19 Vaccine Redistribution Agreement, and completing provider training.

In late February, there were more than 420 enrolled vaccine providers and that number continues to grow. Provider enrollment numbers will be available soon on a public vaccine dashboard on the coronavirus website.

How can I volunteer to help during the pandemic?

You can register to join the Medical Reserve Corps in your area. Training is free and medical training is not required. To register or access more information visit the Medical Reserve Corps website or contact your local public health district coordinator.

Recommended precautions

Do I need to wear a mask and practice physical distancing after I've received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue with the behaviors necessary  to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and limiting the number of people in group gatherings.

When can I stop wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing after I've been vaccinated?

There is not enough information currently available to say with certainty. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

If I’m exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 after I’m vaccinated, do I still need to quarantine?

You are considered immune 2 weeks after you receive your 2nd dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. You do not need to self-quarantine if you are exposed AND it has been at least 2 weeks since your 2nd shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. If you are exposed before this time, you need to self-quarantine.

If I test positive for COVID-19 after I get vaccinated, do I still need to isolate?

You should isolate if you test positive for COVID-19 even after you have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

If I get symptoms of COVID-19 after I get vaccinated, do I still need to get tested?

If you have not received 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested.

Talk to a doctor or a healthcare provider if you have COVID-like symptoms after getting 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. It is likely that something other than the virus that causes COVID-19 is causing your symptoms. However, your doctor may want you to get tested. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines do not interfere with the accuracy of COVID-19 viral tests.

Vaccine requirements

Will employers require the COVID-19 vaccine?

Employers considering requiring vaccination of employees should consider relevant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state guidance, including exemptions. However, public health officials recommend private employers consider encouraging employees to take the vaccine rather than requiring employees to take the vaccine.

Will airlines require the COVID-19 vaccine for travel?

Currently, one airline company, Qantas (Australia), has declared that the airline is looking into changing its terms and conditions to include proof of COVID-19 vaccination before entering the country. These requirements may expand to other airlines around the globe, including major U.S. airlines. A recent Harris Poll indicated two of three Americans (66%) say that, once vaccinations are available, passengers should be required to show proof of vaccination to fly.

Is there a residency requirement for getting vaccinated in Idaho?

Starting Feb. 23, the state of Idaho requires those seeking COVID-19 vaccines in the state to live or work in Idaho because of the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine that is available at this time and Idaho’s commitment to equitable and fair access to vaccine.23, the state of Idaho requires those seeking COVID-19 vaccines in the state to live or work in Idaho because of the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine that is available at this time and Idaho’s commitment to equitable and fair access to vaccine.

Regardless of citizenship or immigration status, all eligible people with a primary residence or who work in Idaho should get vaccinated when it is their turn.

People who do not live in a primary residence or work in Idaho should make vaccine appointments in the states in which they have a primary residence.

People who register for vaccines with any vaccine provider in Idaho will be asked to provide one of the following:

  • A driver's license or work or school ID
  • A letter with the person’s name and address 
  • A utility bill with the person’s name
  • A voucher from an employer, faith-based institution, healthcare provider, school, or other registered organization or agency that the person lives or works in Idaho

Some vaccine providers may scan photo identification to add to a person’s confidential medical record as part of their existing process, but copies of letters, utility bills, or vouchers will not be copied or kept.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

The vaccine is absolutely not mandated by local, state, or federal government, though private companies may impose vaccine requirements.

Employers considering requiring vaccination of employees should consider relevant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state guidance, including exemptions. However, public health officials recommend private employers consider encouraging employees to take the vaccine rather than requiring employees to take the vaccine.

Costs associated with COVID-19 vaccine

Will I have to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. Providers that participate in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program contractually agree to administer a COVID-19 vaccine regardless of an individual’s ability to pay for the administration and regardless of their coverage status, and also may not seek any reimbursement, including through balance billing, from a vaccine recipient.

People without health insurance or whose insurance does not provide coverage of the vaccine administration cost can also receive COVID-19 vaccine for free. Providers administering the vaccine to people without health insurance or whose insurance does not provide coverage of the vaccine administration can request reimbursement through theProvider Relief Fund

Providers who have questions about billing or reimbursement of vaccine administration for patients covered by private insurance or Medicaid should contact the respective health plan or state Medicaid agency.  

Who is paying for COVID-19 vaccine and administration?

The U.S. Government purchased millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses through Operation Warp Speed, as part of the effort to ensure vaccine would be available as soon as clinical trials and safety and efficacy data indicated it would be effective and safe to administer to Americans. This means that no one in the U.S. should have out of pocket cost for vaccine.

Vaccination providers may charge an administration fee, which can be reimbursed by a patient’s public or private health insurance or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

 

How long does it take to build immunity after I get the vaccine?

How long will it take to build immunity after I get the vaccine?

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination with the recommended two doses of vaccine. That means it is possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and become infected. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection against the virus.

However, because only prevention of infection by the virus through vaccination was studied, there is not enough information currently available to say if or when public health officials will stop recommending that vaccinated people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

Do I need the vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?

I’ve already had COVID-19, so do I need the vaccine?

People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated but may want to consider waiting to allow others to get vaccinated first.

New COVID-19 variants

What is known about the new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 and are they in Idaho?

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) and Central District Health (CDH) have confirmed the first known infection with the UK (B.1.1.7) variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. The individual infected is an adult female who lives in Ada County. The woman had traveled out of state earlier this month, and it is believed that she was exposed during her travels.

Through the disease investigation process, epidemiologists with CDH will identify any close contacts of the individual who were possibly exposed. If other people are found to have possibly been exposed, health officials will provide guidance to them and will monitor them closely for symptoms.

The UK variant is known to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of December 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 1,881 cases of the UK variant among 45 states to-date. Idahoans are encouraged to choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because there is evidence the authorized COVID-19 vaccines will protect individuals from virus variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are under way.

On February 17, 2021, Central District Health reported the presence of the UK variant among wastewater samples submitted from the Boise area in late January. The tested wastewater samples also detected the presence of the California variant; however, this variant is not currently receiving national surveillance.

Last week, laboratory testing identified the South African variant (B.1.351) of SARS-CoV-2, in a southwestern Idaho resident. It was the first official discovery of a variant of concern in Idaho. A second case with the South African variant has just been identified in the state, and an investigation is ongoing. With variants of public health concern emerging in Idaho, DHW will begin reporting variant counts on its data dashboard later this week.

Idaho Public Health officials are actively investigating infections suspected to be caused by SARS-CoV-2 variants. The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (IBL) continues to expand the number of Idaho samples being sequenced to identify emerging strains and better understand how the virus is spreading in the state. The UK variant was identified at IBL. 

For information on the variants of public health concern in Idaho, please visit the COVID-19 data dashboard for cases, and select the Laboratory Testing tab.

COVID-19 vaccine and children

What about kids, since there is no vaccine for them?

There may not be a COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 16 until middle or late 2021. Researchers will need to examine the dosages, interval between doses, and the number of doses that work best for children. This process could take several months, according to pediatric infectious disease experts.

In November 2020 , the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a statement calling for drug manufacturers to include children in their trials soon. ACIP voted unanimously to recommend Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for people 16 years and older; however, children are not currently in priority groups for receipt of initial COVID-19 vaccine.

Answers to COVID-19-related myths

Can COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility in men and women?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest the vaccine causes infertility. In addition, infertility is not known to occur from natural COVID-19 infection, further indicating that immune responses to the virus, whether induced by infection or a vaccine, are not a cause of infertility.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause Bell’s palsy?

Four people participating in the Pfizer BioNTech and 3 people participating in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials developed Bell’s palsy, according to safety data released by the manufacturers. The rate of the condition among clinical trial participants over 3 months is lower than the annual rate in the general population. Every year, about 40,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. In large trials involving tens of thousands of people like these, experts say it is not uncommon for some participants to get sick with conditions unrelated to the vaccine.

Bell’s palsy is a condition marked by a sudden weakness in facial muscles. According to the Mayo Clinic, the exact cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown, and the condition can occur at any age. It’s believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face. It can also be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection. For most people, the condition is temporary, and symptoms improve within a few weeks. Bell’s palsy occurs more often in people who are pregnant, especially during the third trimester or who are in the first week after giving birth; who have an upper respiratory infection such as influenza; and people with diabetes.

Seek immediate medical help if you experience any type of paralysis because you may be having a stroke. Bell's palsy is not caused by a stroke, but it can cause similar symptoms.

See your doctor if you experience facial weakness or drooping to find out the underlying cause and severity of the illness.

Any adverse event following vaccination should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Have people died from the COVID-19 vaccine?

No deaths have been attributed to the COVID-19 vaccines to date, but there is an ongoing process of investigating any reported deaths after vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no one in the United States, who experienced anaphylaxis, has died after receiving the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine between Dec. 14–23, 2020. An event following receipt of vaccine does not mean that the vaccine caused it. There have been reports of death following receipt of vaccine in Norway and Germany in elderly populations, including those who were terminally ill when vaccinated. Those reports indicate the deaths were likely from underlying diseases including carcinomas, kidney deficiencies, and Alzheimer’s disease, and not from the vaccine.

mRNA vaccine information

What is an mRNA vaccine?

Like all vaccines, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety before being authorized for use in the U.S. The mRNA technology is new but not unknown and has been studied for more than a decade. mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person. mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.

The mRNA vaccine can most easily be described as instructions for the cell on how to make a piece of the spike protein that is unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This is like a genetic identification card. Since only part of the protein is made, it does not do any harm to the person vaccinated. After the piece of the spike protein is made, the cell breaks down the mRNA strand and disposes of it using enzymes in the cell. It is important to note that the mRNA strand never enters the cell’s nucleus, where our DNA is, or affects genetic material.

Once the spike proteins are displayed on the cell surface, the SARS-CoV-2 “identification card” causes the immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. These antibodies are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which means the immune system is primed to protect against future infection.

What is in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

The ingredients in currently available COVID-19 vaccines include mRNA, lipids, salts, sugars, and buffers. Buffers help maintain the stability of the pH solution. See a list of ingredients: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html

Breakthrough cases

Is DHW seeing what are called breakthrough cases in which people are testing positive for COVID-19 at least 14 days after receiving their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine?

As of Feb. 18, DHW is investigating 6 reports of possible vaccine breakthrough cases.

No COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective and we anticipated people would be reported to us who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Among the cases currently under investigation, symptoms reported have been extremely mild or they have reported no symptoms and were tested after exposure to a confirmed case.