Q: How and where can I get vaccinated if I don’t have a primary care physician?
A: 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. As we move from vaccinating healthcare workers to offering vaccine to others, more and more healthcare providers will have vaccine. Currently over 200 healthcare providers have signed up to be able to provide COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: What do we know about the new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 and is it in Idaho?
A: We are aware that the new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported in the U.S. Idaho Public Health officials and testing laboratories are watching for the variant virus, but we have not detected it yet. Nonetheless, we think it’s probably here, as it is in some nearby states.
The Idaho public health laboratory is participating in a national Strain Surveillance project and is routinely sending COVID positive samples to CDC for sequencing to monitor for new variants. In addition, our public health laboratory also has the capacity to perform gene sequencing of the virus and will be bringing on that capability as soon as possible this year, to provide additional monitoring for mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 genome in Idaho.
At this point, our work to vaccinate healthcare workers and residents and staff in long-term care facilities continues. The expectation of experts is that based on the mutations, the currently available vaccines should still be very effective against this strain.
Q: What are the side effects of the vaccine? Will the vaccine hurt?
A: Early data suggests that everyone should be prepared for mild to moderate side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, although many people don’t notice any side effects. If you do have side effects – such as injection site pain or swelling, muscle pain, headaches, or mild to moderate fevers – they are a sign that the body is producing an immune response, just like your immune response of fever and aches when you are sick from a live virus. 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. If you do have symptoms after a vaccine, 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.
Q: Some people have reported severe reactions to the vaccine. Do we have more information about that or are we concerned?
A: There have recently been reports of people who experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis after the administration of the 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 will be available at all vaccination sites, as they are for other vaccines.
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 are 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 reactions to the vaccine because it stimulates the body’s immune system. 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.
To slow the spread of COVID-19 in Idaho, please continue to:
- Wear face coverings
- Keep at least six feet between you and others
- Stay home if you are sick
- Wash your hands often
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly
Stay up-to-date with the latest and most accurate information on COVID-19 at the following websites:
DHW also posts lots of information, including daily updates on the numbers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Dr. Christine Hahn is the state’s epidemiologist and the Division of Public Health’s medical director. She is board certified in infectious disease and works in the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho’s tuberculosis clinic twice monthly. She also serves on CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and since late February 2020, has been focusing almost solely on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.