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 Nov. 3, 2021)

Vaccine appointments

How can I make a vaccine appointment?

DHW encourages Idahoans to visit https://covidvaccine.idaho.gov/. On that website, Idahoans can locate a mobile clinic, schedule an appointment through their local public health district, or use the vaccine finder to find a walk-in location.

Another great, easy-to-use tool for finding vaccine is vaccines.gov.

 

What do I need to bring to my vaccine appointment?

You should take your identification card and your insurance card and be sure to wear a mask. If you’re getting a two-dose vaccine, bring your vaccination card to your second appointment.

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.

Can I request a specific vaccine at my appointment?

If you have a vaccine preference you should discuss that with the provider when you make an appointment or ask at a mobile clinic.

Alternatively, appointments for specific vaccine brands can be found with this tool: https://www.vaccines.gov/search/.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho?

Everyone age 5+ is now eligible for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho. Everyone 18+ is eligible for Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. There are no residency requirements to get vaccinated in Idaho.

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.

COVID-19 vaccine and children

Do minors need parental consent to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

So far, only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has emergency use authorization to be given to anyone 5 years of age or older.

In Idaho, minors must have consent from a parent or guardian to receive a vaccination unless the minor meets a statutory exemption or obtains court approval to provide their own consent. Vaccine providers should consult with their legal counsel if they do not intend to require parental consent from minors. The bottom line is it's up to healthcare providers to determine if the minor has the ability to consent to their own care.

When can a 12-15 year-old receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Adolescents 12-15 years old can now receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are given in the same dosage as for adults: two 0.3 mL doses of vaccine 21 days apart.

Children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for adolescents 12-15?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to over 1,000 adolescents during clinical trials. None of the adolescents in the phase 3 clinical trials had severe reactions to the vaccine. Of those in the trial who received the vaccine, zero adolescents contracted COVID-19, while 18 adolescents in the placebo group contracted COVID-19.

What are the most likely side effects for adolescents?

The most common side effects of the vaccine among adolescents were similar to those for older adolescents and adults: sore arm at the injection site, swollen lymph nodes, headache, chills, mild fever, and fatigue. Pain medications can be given to adolescents after their vaccine to alleviate these symptoms.

Can COVID-19 vaccine be given during the same appointment as other vaccines?

COVID-19 and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing of other vaccinations. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 and other vaccines on the same day (referred to as co-administration), as well as co-administration within 14 days.

Adolescents are routinely recommended to receive vaccines such as meningococcal, human papillomavirus, influenza, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccines. It is unknown whether the expected side effects of COVID-19 vaccine may increase when co-administering COVID-19 vaccine and other routine vaccines, however there is abundant data regarding the safety of co-administration of other routinely recommended vaccines. When deciding to co-administer COVID-19 vaccine and routinely recommended vaccines, healthcare providers, parents, and adolescents should consider the risks and benefits of catching up on all vaccinations at the time of an appointment.

Why should adolescents be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they don’t get COVID as often?

While children and adolescents are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 illness compared with adults, they can become seriously ill from COVID-19 and spread the virus when infected. Currently 14% of total COVID-19 cases in the US have been reported in children and adolescents, however due to under-reporting, CDC estimates the rate could be as high as 19%.

COVID-19 infection is also linked to a serious condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Different systems in the body become inflamed and the inflammation seriously affects different organs and systems including the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, and brain.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine

What is known about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccine: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose recombinant (combined genetic material) vector (vehicle) vaccine. Recombinant vaccines use one virus to carry a small piece of genetic material from another virus to trigger an immune response in the body. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified adenovirus to carry the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) spike protein genetic material. The virus can enter cells but can’t replicate inside them or cause illness.  The body’s immune system detects the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and generates antibodies. 

It was approved under Emergency Use Authorization on Feb. 27, 2021. On Feb. 28, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended use of the vaccine in people 18 years and older.

Efficacy: During clinical trials, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was 85 percent effective in preventing severe disease 28 days after vaccination in all adults 18 years and older, across all regions studied (United States, Central and South America, and South Africa). Efficacy against severe disease increased over time with no severe cases reported among vaccinated participants after day 49. The vaccine also demonstrated complete protection against COVID-related hospitalization and death, 28 days post-vaccination. Protection was generally consistent across race, age groups, and SARS-CoV-2  variants. The vaccine has a reported 66% efficacy against preventing moderate disease.

Safety: During the studies, there were no significant safety concerns reported. Overall, serious adverse events reported were similar in study participants who received the placebo when compared with participants who received the vaccine.

Guillain-Barré syndrome: People should be aware that a rare condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been reported following vaccination with the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. As of June 30, 2021, just over 100 cases had been reported when over 21 million people had received the vaccine. GBS is a rare neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system damages nerve cells which can result in pain, numbness and muscle weakness, progressing to paralysis in the most severe cases. Most people fully recover from the disorder. Individuals receiving Janssen COVID-19 vaccines should be alert to signs and symptoms of GBS and should seek immediate medical attention if they develop weakness/tingling and paralysis in the extremities that may progress to other parts of the body including the chest and face. Symptoms may include difficulty in walking, difficulty with facial movements, double vision or inability to move eyes, or difficulty controlling bladder or bowel functions. There are other COVID-19 vaccine options available that do not increase risk of GBS (i.e, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines). Please call us for more questions or talk to your doctor during your next visit.

Thrombocytopenia syndrome: People should be aware that a rare condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) has been reported following vaccination with the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. TTS is a serious condition that involves blood clots with low platelet counts. This problem is rare, and most reports were among women between 18 and 49 years old. For women 50 years and older and men of any age, this problem is even more rare. There are other COVID-19 vaccine options available  that do not increase risk of TTS (i.e., Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines). Please talk to your doctor during your next visit.

Reactions: Common reactions to the vaccine included injection site pain, fatigue, headache, and muscle aches.

Storage and handling: Storage and handling of this vaccine is similar to many vaccines already in use.  The vaccine must be stored at refrigerated temperatures between 36°- 46°F (2°-8°C). Each dose is 0.5mL and each vial contains five doses. Idaho’s initial allocation of Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 13,300 doses.

Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (CVAC)

What is the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee?

The Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee advised the Governor and assisted 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 2020 and its members represented stakeholders from across Idaho, including the tribes, priority populations, healthcare systems and providers, and immunization organizations.

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.

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. 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.

Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 while currently being sick with it?

No. People with COVID-19 who have symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and have met the criteria for discontinuing isolation; those without symptoms should also wait until they meet the criteria before getting vaccinated. This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have an autoimmune disease?

COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to most people with underlying medical conditions once vaccine is available to them. Review the CDC’s Vaccine Considerations for People with Underlying Medical Conditions and speak with your healthcare provider about your specific situation when making your vaccination decision.

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.

Are side effects worse for the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna? If so, can I skip the second dose to avoid stronger side effects? What’s the benefit of taking the second dose?

Side effects after your second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot. These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days. The second dose in a two-dose series provides an immunity boost and may encourage a more durable immune response. Although rare, if you had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to the first dose of a vaccine, CDC recommends you do not get a second shot of that vaccine.

Vaccinating long-term care facilities

What was 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 2020 with Walgreens and CVS administering vaccines in many of Idaho’s long-term care facilities. The program ended on April 23, 2021.

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

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.

Vaccine wastage

Why do some vaccine get counted as "wasted" in Idaho?

Reasons for wastage include storage and transportation issues, challenges filling appointments, and not being able to pull the total number of doses out of the vial (for example, if a provider can’t fill a syringe with a the full volume needed for the last dose in a vial, that dose would have to be reported as wastage since a vaccine recipient should receive the full amount of vaccine recommended by the manufacturer). Wastage can also occur if the vial arrives broken or damaged in the shipping container or the seal around the vial is leaking.

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?

The COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard includes data on COVID-19 vaccinations, including vaccination rates by age group and Idaho data versus national data.

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.

Does Idaho track race and ethnicity data for COVID-19 vaccinations?

Yes. Race and ethnicity data is available on the COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard, which is available at coronavirus.idaho.gov

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.

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?

CDC’s latest guidelines:

  • If you are fully vaccinated, you can participate in many of the activities that you did before the pandemic.
  • To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
  • Wearing a mask is most important if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area.
  • You should continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance.
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 two 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 two 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 two 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 airlines require the COVID-19 vaccine for travel?

Airlines may require proof of vaccination to travel on their flights. Check with individual airlines for more information. 

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.

Will there be vaccine passports in Idaho?

Gov. Brad Little on April 7 signed an executive order banning any State of Idaho governmental entity from requiring “vaccine passports” – or proof of COVID-19 vaccination for citizens to receive public services or access facilities.

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?

For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it typically takes about two weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination with the recommended two doses of vaccine. For the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, protection is not complete until about 28 days after vaccination. 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.

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

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

Because of the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and the possibility of reinfection, people are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have had COVID-19 before. At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, likely varies from person to person. Evidence from other coronaviruses suggests that reinfection can occur several months. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data.

COVID-19 variants

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

Information about COVID-19 variants can be found on the COVID-19 Case, Laboratory, and Hospital Data Dashboard under the “Laboratory Testing” tab and on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

What is the Delta variant and what should I know about it?

The COVID-19 virus Delta variant contains mutations, or changes, from the original virus strain. The Delta variant is more contagious and spreads more than twice as easily from one person to another, compared with earlier strains. Areas of low vaccination coverage have rapidly increasing cases, and we are in a race against time to increase vaccination before new variants emerge. High vaccination coverage reduces spread of the virus and help prevent new variants from emerging. Data demonstrate that the vaccines are preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and are effective against the Delta variant. Vaccination is the best way to protect you, your family, and your community.

What changed from a few months ago when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said vaccinated people did not need to wear masks?
  • The Delta variant is circulating; it has quickly grown from less than 1 percent of cases in May to more than 95 percent by August.
  • The Delta variant is more than two times as contagious compared with previous strains of the virus.
  • As new evidence about the impact of the Delta variant has emerged, public health scientists determined that some vaccinated people can get and spread the Delta variant. The CDC recommends people in substantial and high transmission areas consider masking, even if they’re fully vaccinated.
  • Importantly, the vaccines can help prevent the Delta variant from spreading even further. Most transmission happening around the country is among unvaccinated people and in areas with low vaccination rates. We need more people to get vaccinated to slow the spread and prevent more changes in the virus.
Should vaccinated people worry they are spreading the virus?
  • Although vaccines are highly effective, they are not perfect and there will be vaccine breakthrough infections. However, breakthrough infections represent a very small number of cases around the country. Infections among vaccinated people are much less likely to result in serious illness, hospitalization, or death.
    • If you get vaccinated, your risk of infection is around 3.5-fold lower, your risk of getting ill from COVID is over 8-fold lower, and your risk of hospitalization or death is around 25-fold lower.
  • There is new evidence that some vaccinated people can be contagious if they get infected with the Delta variant.
  • In areas of substantial and high transmission, it is recommended that vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoors to prevent spread and protect themselves and others.
Does the Delta variant and updated masking recommendations mean the vaccines aren’t working as we expected?

No. The 162+ million fully vaccinated Americans have very strong protection against the virus, including the Delta variant. They are overwhelmingly avoiding severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Unvaccinated individuals account for the vast majority of the hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.

Getting fully vaccinated is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you.

How rare is transmission by the vaccinated?
  • We are continuing to monitor available data, but we know vaccinated people represent a very small proportion of transmission.
  • For example, some data out of Israel showed as little as 13 percent of people with a vaccine breakthrough infection were spreading the virus, with 80 percent not spreading at all.
  • It’s important to remember vaccine breakthrough infections occur in only a small proportion of vaccinated people and of these infections, transmission appears to be a small part of virus spread.
If you are vaccinated, and get COVID-19 but are asymptomatic, can you spread the virus?

We do not have enough data to provide a definitive answer, but virus transmission from people with no symptoms tends to be lower than from people with symptoms.

What about kids in schools? Should they all be masking, even if vaccinated?

Yes. There is a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in schools and vaccines are not available to children under 5.

The CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

If kids get infected with the Delta variant, are they at serious risk?
  • Most children who get COVID-19 have fewer symptoms than adults. However, the Delta variant is more easily spread than other variants, and protection against exposure is more important than ever, especially among those who are unvaccinated.
  • CDC recommends that parents take protective actions, such as having children older than age 2 who are unvaccinated wear masks in public indoors.
  • To support in-person learning in the fall, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
How many breakthrough infections (infections in those who are vaccinated) are we seeing?
  • Breakthrough infections are expected even with a highly effective vaccine.
  • Importantly, breakthrough infections are mostly resulting in mild disease. If you get vaccinated, your risk of infection, symptomatic disease, and especially hospitalization or death are far lower than in the unvaccinated.
  • Information about breakthrough infections in Idaho is available under the Statewide Demographics tab

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. One recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no evidence that vaccination reduced or impacted sperm counts among vaccinated men.

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?

Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination are rare.

According to the CDC, More than 346 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through August 2, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 6,490 reports of death (0.0019%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. 

Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem. A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines. However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS, a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets—which has caused deaths.

Can mRNA COVID-19 vaccines lead to autoimmune disease?

No. There is no evidence that messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna cause autoimmune disease. The mRNA from the vaccine is broken down shortly after vaccination and does not stay in the body.

Can COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer?

No. None of the vaccines alter your genes in any way, and therefore cannot cause cancer. The vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response if someone gets infected. Those instructions do not interact with your DNA or alter genes. However, swollen lymph nodes after vaccination can mimic the symptoms of cancer on mammograms or other scans, so make sure to notify your healthcare provider if you are getting a cancer screening or other scans shortly after being vaccinated.

Is a vaccine that’s 60-80 percent effective worth taking?

Yes. No vaccine is perfect, but a vaccine with 60-80 percent efficacy is still effective for reducing severe disease and hospitalization. Some protection is better than no protection. Even if a person who has been vaccinated becomes infected, the likelihood that they develop symptoms that require hospitalization is lowered. Additionally, large community uptake of vaccine at 60-80 percent efficacy will help to reduce disease spread, achieve community immunity, and end the pandemic.

Can COVID-19 vaccines cause autism in children?

Vaccines do not cause autism. Multiple studies show that there is no difference in autism rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. No COVID-19 vaccine is yet available for children under 12.

Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I would like to have a baby one day?

Yes. If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you.

There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In addition, there is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines.

Like all vaccines, scientists are studying COVID-19 vaccines carefully for side effects now and will continue to study them for many years.

Can someone else who received a COVID-19 vaccine shed any of the vaccine components and affect my menstrual cycle?

No. Your menstrual cycle cannot be affected by being near someone who received a COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine cannot shed or release any of the vaccine components. In addition, none of the vaccines authorized for use in the United States contain a live virus so it is not possible to shed it.

Many things can affect menstrual cycles, including stress, changes in monthly schedule, problems with sleep, and changes in diet or exercise. Infections may also affect menstrual cycles.

Do any of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States shed or release any of their components?

No. Vaccine shedding is the term used to describe the release or discharge of any of the vaccine components in or outside of the body. Vaccine shedding can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus. None of the vaccines authorized for use in the United States contain a live virus. The mRNA and viral vector vaccines are the two types of currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines available.

Do COVID-19 vaccines cause miscarriages?

A review of vaccine safety in pregnant women was published in June in the New England Journal of Medicine. The review concluded that there is currently no evidence of increased risk of miscarriage, specifically stating in the paper that, “Early data from the v-safe surveillance system, the v-safe pregnancy registry, and the VAERS do not indicate any obvious safety signals with respect to pregnancy or neonatal outcomes associated with Covid-19 vaccination in the third trimester of pregnancy. Continued monitoring is needed to further assess maternal, pregnancy, neonatal, and childhood outcomes associated with maternal Covid-19 vaccination, including in earlier stages of pregnancy and during the preconception period. Meanwhile, the present data can help inform decision making about vaccination by pregnant persons and their health care providers.”

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

What are pericarditis and myocarditis?

Parents and teens should be aware that an increased risk of rare conditions called myocarditis and pericarditis has been reported, particularly in adolescents and young adults, following vaccination with mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna). These events are rare after vaccination. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. In both cases, the body's immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger. Confirmed cases have occurred mostly in male adolescents and young adults age 16 years or older, more often after getting the second dose in a two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series, and myocarditis occurs typically within several days after COVID-19 vaccination, although pericarditis typically occurs about 20 days after vaccination. Most patients who received care responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better. CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older, given the risk of COVID-19 illness and related, possibly severe complications.

Additional doses of mRNA vaccines

Can you explain the guidance for immunocompromised persons to get another shot of the COVID-19 vaccine?

CDC recommends that people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised receive another dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) at least 28 days after completion of the initial mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series. With new evidence showing some people who are immunocompromised experienced a reduced immune response to the initial COVID-19 vaccine series, this recommendation aims to prevent serious and possibly life-threatening COVID-19 for these people.

Who is eligible to get the additional dose?

The additional vaccine dose should be considered for people who are  moderately to severely immunocompromised due to a medical condition, or take medications or treatments that reduce their immune response. This includes people who have:

  • Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies
  • Received a solid-organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • Received CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within two years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (≥20mg prednisone or equivalent per day), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.
Why only these people? What about people in nursing homes, or those over 65?

Studies suggest some people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems don’t always build the same level of immunity after vaccination the way non-immunocompromised people do and may benefit from an additional dose to make sure they have enough protection against COVID-19.

In addition, small studies have found that among fully vaccinated people hospitalized with COVID-19, immunocompromised people accounted for 40–44 percent of those breakthrough cases even though they only make up about 3 percent of the adult population. These updated recommendations may help to  protect these people when COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

What about booster doses for the broader population? Are there new data supporting another dose in other groups?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized and recommended booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine for certain people in late September 2021. 

  • Adults who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago and are 65 years and older, live in a long-term care facility, or are 50-64 with certain medical conditions should receive the booster.
  • Adults younger than 50 with certain medical conditions who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six month ago may choose to receive a booster.
  • Adults less than 65 years who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months ago and are at increased risk because of the work they do (such as teachers and frontline workers) or because they live in an institutional setting may choose to receive a booster.

Boosters are available at pharmacies, clinics, and healthcare providers statewide. They are not available to the public at hospitals. Use the Vaccine Finder to find locations, the vaccine brands available, and walk-in or appointment details. Neither proof of eligibility nor a prescription is required, and all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are free of charge.

What is the difference between an “additional dose” and a “booster dose?”

An “additional dose” refers to people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised receiving an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) at least 28 days after the completion of the initial mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series. This is because they may not have received adequate protection from their initial 2-dose vaccine series.

A “booster dose” is a supplemental vaccine dose given to people when the immune response to a primary vaccine series is likely to have waned over time. The need for and timing of a COVID-19 booster dose has not been established, and no booster doses are recommended at this time. CDC and Food and Drug Administration continue to review evidence and data as it is available about whether or when booster doses for the broader U.S. public may be needed and will update guidance as more information becomes available.

Will providers accept anyone who says they’re immunocompromised to receive a third dose? Will people need to show a doctor’s note/prescription or other documentation?

Immunocompromised individuals may discuss with their healthcare provider whether they should get another dose. If their healthcare provider is not at a site that is giving the vaccines, they can self-attest and receive the additional dose wherever vaccines are offered. This will help reduce barriers to access the vaccine. The CDC is providing further information about vaccine administration to immunocompromised individuals to states, pharmacies, health centers, and all vaccine providers.

How long after completion of the initial vaccine series is the additional dose recommended?

CDC recommends the additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be administered at least 28 days after completing the initial two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series (such as for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna). The exact timing can be determined in consultation with a person’s healthcare provider to optimize both immunosuppressive treatments, as well as response to vaccination.

Can you mix and match the mRNA vaccines?

The additional dose should be the same vaccine as the initial two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). If the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine product given for the first two doses is not available, the other mRNA COVID-19 vaccine product may be administered. A person should not receive more than three mRNA COVID-19 vaccine doses.

What should immunocompromised people who received the J&J/Janssen vaccine do?

There is not enough data at this time to determine whether immunocompromised people who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine also have an improved antibody response following an additional dose of the same vaccine. FDA and CDC are actively working to provide guidance on this issue.

Breakthrough cases

How many breakthrough cases have been reported in Idaho?

Breakthrough cases refer to COVID-19 infections of people at least 14 days after becoming fully vaccinated.

Breakthrough case counts are available on the COVID-19 Case, Laboratory, and Hospital Data Dashboard on the Statewide Demographics tab, which is available at coronavirus.idaho.gov.

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.

After you’re fully vaccinated

Can I take over-the-counter medications after getting my vaccine? Are certain ones recommended and others not recommended?

Talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, for any pain and discomfort you may experience after getting vaccinated. You can take these medications to relieve post-vaccination side effects if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally. It is not recommended you take these medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects.

Do I need to keep my COVID-19 vaccination card? What should I do if I lose my card?

Yes. Your COVID-19 vaccination card is part of your medical record. You may also consider taking a photo of your vaccination card as a backup copy. If you lose your card, contact the healthcare provider who administered the vaccine for a replacement card or an official IRIS record print out from the Immunization Program by completing this Record Request form.

What is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and how does it work?

Co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), VAERS is a national early warning system to detect possible safety problems in U.S.-licensed vaccines.

VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning it relies on individuals to send in reports of their experiences to CDC and FDA. Anyone can submit a report to VAERS, including parents and patients who believe they may have experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine. Reports of adverse events (possible side effects) after vaccination do not mean that the reported problem was caused by a vaccine. Reports are used as signals to alert scientists of possible cause-and-effect relationships that need to be investigated.

Vaccine approval process

What’s the difference between Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization (EUA) and FDA approval? What steps remain, if any, for COVID-19 vaccines to become fully approved?

The EUA process is different than an FDA approval or clearance. Under an EUA, in an emergency, the FDA makes a product, like the COVID-19 vaccines, available to the public based on the best available evidence, without waiting for all the evidence that would be needed for FDA approval or clearance. The EUA process was initially established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to ensure that potentially lifesaving medical products could be made available during an emergency before being fully approved by the FDA. To issue an EUA, it must be proven that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks based on data that demonstrates the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. The FDA can revoke the EUA at any time.

FDA approval of a vaccine means that data on the vaccine’s effects have been reviewed by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, which rules on whether the vaccine’s provided benefits outweigh its known and potential risks for the intended population.