Answer: The three vaccines currently approved for use in the United States—Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—have not yet been adequately studied in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has advocated for research to include the pediatric population. Pfizer and Moderna expanded their studies to include adolescents starting in January. We are eagerly awaiting the results of the first cohort—the 12 to 17 year old participants—which are estimated to be available by September. Johnson & Johnson plans to start studying this same group soon. Younger children are not anticipated to be eligible for COVID vaccine until 2022. Moderna just started enrolling for vaccine trials in children as young as 6 months. Pfizer is expected to start vaccine studies in children 5 to 11 very soon.
Answer: We are delighted that DOH has accelerated the eligibility of some 16 year old patients. Phase 1B (Tier 2) opens March 17 and includes 16 year old patients who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high risk (Down’s Syndrome, severe developmental/intellectual disability, or who are deaf or blind). We will be reaching out to this small group of patients directly to communicate and support their getting access to the vaccine. Phase 1B (Tier 3) is currently scheduled to open in mid-April and include 16 year old patients who have 2 or more underlying conditions.
Answer: The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved only for patients 18 years and older. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in patients 16 years and older but requires specialized storage, which limits who can give this vaccine. We continue to work closely with the Department of Health to determine when we will be able to get COVID vaccine to give to our patients. Until then, we are partnering with Seattle Children’s Hospital to provide Pfizer vaccine for children throughout the region. As you can imagine, this effort requires significant planning, and the eligibility date was moved from late April to mid-March only last week. We anticipate that we will be able to contact our eligible patients about how they can access COVID vaccine in the coming weeks.
Answer: Although the first round of vaccine studies did not include pregnant or breastfeeding women, the experts believe that it is safe and the goal is to not limit access to pregnant or breastfeeding women. Both the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine support this vaccine. A recent study by UW showed that the COVID vaccine is safe and effective. We recommend you contact your obstetrician to discuss your individual risk factors.
The good news is that there are very few conditions in which the risks of COVID vaccine outweigh the short-and long-term risks of COVID infection. The sooner adults in the United States get vaccinated, the quicker we will achieve herd immunity, which will—in turn—protect our children.
Answer: Many parents already qualify for the COVID vaccine based on the following criteria:
Answer: The vaccine distribution process has been stressful because demand continues to outpace supply. We recommend that you look on the DOH website for community locations and on WA COVID Vaccine Finder for up to date availability.
Answer: None of the approved COVID vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Answer: Yes, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated, even if you’ve already been sick with COVID-19. Early research suggests that even if you’ve had COVID-19, natural immunity may not be very long lasting. Additionally, it is not known how long after being infected with COVID-19 you may be able to get it again, and reinfection has occurred in the community. Receiving the vaccine will better protect you from contracting the virus again.
Here is some information on special situations that may impact the timing of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine:
Answer: Yes. All vaccines currently approved in the United States offer excellent protection against COVID-19 causing hospitalization or death. This means that if we can reach herd immunity quickly, future variants can be handled through seasonal boosters, rather than having to restart this current massive primary vaccination effort. The World Health Organization explains this in more detail.
Answer: Yes. Although the vaccine has been proven to protect you, we don’t yet know enough about if the vaccine changes the fact that you can be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus and infect others. You should continue to social distance and wear a mask.
The CDC has updated its guidance to state that two weeks after you are fully vaccinated, you can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. Additionally, you can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless anyone has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID. Even if you have been fully vaccinated, please continue to wear a mask and socially distance when in public.
Once herd immunity is achieved, which will take months, more expanded socializing will be safe.
We understand this pandemic has been incredibly stressful and you may be hearing conflicting information on COVID vaccines. Here are some myths about the COVID vaccines and information explaining why they are false.
Fact: The first vaccines for COVID-19 were developed in record time. However, Operation Warp Speed did not “rush” in a way that would compromise safety. The approved vaccines have gone through the same research and approval process required for any new vaccine. They were reviewed by both the Federal FDA and a safety review group, as well as independent panels in several other countries. Each of these groups agreed on the approved use of the vaccines.
Fact: The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines both use mRNA technology. While this is the first time it’s being widely used in a vaccine for the public, this type of vaccine has been researched for more than three decades. Watch this quick animation that explains how mRNA vaccines work!
Fact: Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 24 million Americans have been infected and over 500,000 have lost their lives to COVID-19. Currently, 1 American is dying of COVID every 33 seconds. The only way to decrease these numbers is to have as many people vaccinated as possible.
It is difficult to predict which healthy person will have an extreme reaction to COVID-19 and end up in the hospital or worse. Additionally, we are still learning about the long-term risks of COVID-19 and it is reported that more than 75% of patients hospitalized with COVID still have symptoms 6 months later.
Fact: It will take all of us working together to beat COVID-19. Our community, schools, and economy will only open when herd immunity is reached. Experts believe we will need between 70-85% of the entire population be vaccinated in order to achieve immunity.
Fact: You may experience short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that go away without complication or injury. The most common side effect is pain or swelling on the arm where you received the shot. Other reported side effects include headache, chills, fatigue, muscle pain, or fever lasting day or two. Remember that these side effects are an indication that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and are common when receiving any vaccine. These temporary side effects are much less dangerous than a COVID-19 infection.
Fact: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have reported that their vaccines do not contain preservatives. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA, or messenger RNA, technology. mRNA is fragile and can break down easily so storing mRNA vaccines in an ultracold environment keeps them stable and safe. You should not worry about the temperatures, as vaccines are thawed before injection.
Fact: COVID-19 vaccines have not been linked to infertility or miscarriage. A disinformation campaign has been circulating online, claiming that antibodies to the spike protein of COVID-19 produced from these vaccines will bind to placental proteins and prevent pregnancy.
This information is not scientifically plausible. During a COVID-19 infection, the immune system creates the same antibodies to the spike protein that COVID-19 vaccines would. COVID-19 infection has not been linked to infertility. Therefore, there is no scientific reason to believe fertility will change after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Science has shown that while pregnant women are at a higher risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection, there is no evidence of an increase in miscarriages. During a COVID-19 infection, the immune system creates the same antibodies to the spike protein that COVID-19 vaccines would. Therefore, if COVID-19 affected fertility, we would already be seeing an increase in miscarriage rates in women infected with COVID-19. This has not happened.
Fact: COVID-19 vaccines cannot alter your DNA. mRNA vaccines work by telling the cells in your body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA in a vaccine does not interact with the DNA in your body or do anything to the DNA in your cells. Additionally, your cells will break down and get rid of the mRNA soon after they have finished using the mRNA, or instructions.
Fact: None of the approved COVID-19 vaccines contain fetal cells nor were fetal cells used the development or production of either vaccine.
Fact: There is no vaccine microchip. The vaccine will not track you or gather personal information into a database. This myth started after Bill Gates from The Gates Foundation made comments about a digital certificate of vaccine records. The technology he was referencing is not a microchip, has not been implemented in any manner, and is not tied to the development, testing or distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.