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 5-4-2021)

Vaccine appointments

How can I make a vaccine appointment?

DHW encourages Idahoans to visit https://covidvaccine.idaho.gov/. On that website, Idahoans can pre-register for an appointment and a provider will call them, schedule an appointment through their local public health district, or Use the vaccine finder to find a walk-in location.

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 who calls you to make an appointment.

Should I register on the state’s tool and at other places, too?

DHW recommends first registering on the state’s pre-registration tool and waiting for a provider to reach out to set up an appointment. Please do not book multiple appointments and remember to cancel any appointments you are unable to attend to prevent vaccine wastage.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho?

Everyone age 16 and older is eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho, regardless of where they live or work.

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.

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine

What’s the status of Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Idaho?

On April 23, CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to lift the pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and resume administering it in the U.S. to everyone 18 and older. The vaccine was put on pause on April 13 after a small number of people experienced a rare blood clot. In addition to lifting the pause for Idaho vaccine providers, DHW recommends the following:

  • Each community should work to ensure multiple vaccines — at least two and ideally three — are available in their community.
  • Pharmacies, clinics, and vaccine providers should be transparent about which vaccines they have available.
  • Patients should be made aware of the risks and benefits of each vaccine. Patients who have concerns about the vaccine being offered should be made aware of other options available in the community so they can choose the right vaccine for themselves.
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.

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. 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. 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’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 2020 with Walgreens and CVS administering vaccines in many of Idaho’s long-term care facilities.

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.

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.

Vaccine wastage

How much vaccine has been wasted in Idaho and why/how does it get wasted?

As of April 6, a reported 1,155 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have gone to waste in Idaho. That is 0.135% of the total doses delivered to Idaho enrolled providers to date.

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; information about pre-registrations for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, and an interactive tool that shows how long it will take to vaccinate 60% of Idaho's age 16+ population, among other features.

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 now available on the COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard, which is available at coronavirus.idaho.gov. The data is updated by 5 p.m. daily, except for Sundays and holidays. Race and ethnicity data are incomplete. The information is not mandatory for patients to report, but if the patient provides this data, it is required to be reported by enrolled COVID-19 vaccine providers.

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.

There are more than 450 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.

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.

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:

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can safely do the following without wearing a mask: walk, run, roll, or bike outdoors with members of their household, and attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends.

Fully vaccinated people can now do the following without masks: attend a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households. See CDC’s website for more information.

Fully vaccinated people can visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age; visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness; and travel domestically without pre- or post-travel test, and without quarantining. See CDC’s website for more information.

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 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 may be 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. You can also see a Central District Health press release about the presence of the UK variant found among wastewater samples submitted from the Boise area in late January. And a press release published after laboratory testing identified the South African variant (B.1.351) of SARS-CoV-2 in a southwestern Idaho resident.

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.

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 16 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.

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.

Can mRNACOVID-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% effective worth taking?

Yes. No vaccine is perfect, but a vaccine with 60-80% 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% 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 16.

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?

Breakthrough cases refer to COVID-19 infections of people no sooner than 14 days after becoming fully vaccinated.

Breakthrough case counts are now 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.

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.