COVID-19 Q&A: Emergency use authorization

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have all received an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are considered safe and effective at preventing serious illness and even death from COVID-19.

The following is information found on the FDA’s website. It has been edited for length and clarity. Visit the FDA link to read the full Q&A and learn more about each vaccine.

What is an EUA?

An emergency use authorization is a process that helps make needed medications and vaccinations available during emergencies. An EUA does not affect vaccine safety, because it does not impact development, such as research, clinical studies, and the analysis of side effects and adverse reactions. Instead, it speeds up manufacturing and administrative processes.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines rigorously tested?

Yes. All vaccines follow the same testing processes, whether they are approved for emergency use or through a typical license. Clinical trials evaluated investigational COVID-19 vaccines in tens of thousands of study participants to generate the scientific data and other information needed to determine safety and effectiveness. These clinical trials are conducted according to the rigorous standards set forth by the FDA.

Currently, millions of Americans have safely chosen to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

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It’s hot out! Stay cool, hydrated, and informed

Idaho and the Pacific Northwest are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures this week, with high temperatures in the triple digits in many parts of the state, and several agencies, including the National Weather Service and some of Idaho’s local public health districts,  issuing excessive heat warnings and advisories. Heat-related illnesses are a very real possibility, but the good news is that they are preventable. You will need to stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed.

What are some signs of heat-related illnesses?

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, heavy sweating, a pale appearance to the skin, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, and headaches. If things get worse to the point where you have a very high body temperature, are not sweating, and are experiencing hallucinations or disorientation, or you pass out, you may have heat stroke. Call 9-1-1 right away and take immediate steps to cool down.

Who is most at risk for heat-related illness?

People at the highest risk are babies and children up to age 4, people 65 and older, as well as anyone who is overweight, sick, or on certain medications. People without air conditioning, athletes, and outdoor workers are also at high risk of heat-related illness. Children are particularly at risk in the heat – their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults. But everyone can get sick in the heat if they’re not careful, especially if they’re doing strenuous physical activities in high temperatures. When it’s hot out, you might consider checking on any high-risk family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool.

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COVID Q&A: Free, at-home COVID-19 tests are available in Idaho by dialing 2-1-1

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is offering free at-home COVID-19 tests to Idaho residents.

Why is DHW offering the free tests?

The department was able to purchase the tests last year and were using them in conjunction with local public health districts and community partners. As the demand for testing has decreased, DHW staff worked with the test manufacturer, VAULT Medical, to develop a more convenient process that would make it easier for people to be tested in their own homes., We want to remove as many barriers as possible to testing so we can identify cases and continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.

How do I get a test?

Call the Idaho CareLine by dialing either 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588 to get the free test. The only personal information required is a name and mailing address. It may take a couple of days to receive it, so if you are having severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

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Project Filter offers a year’s worth of diapers and wipes to moms (and others) who quit tobacco

What is the Diapers and Wipes Program?

The Diapers and Wipes Program is offered through the Department of Health and Welfare’s Tobacco Prevention and Control program – Project Filter – which helps people quit tobacco. Anyone who wants to quit smoking, vaping, and chewing for good, and who lives with a baby can apply. Those who are eligible will receive up to 12 months’ worth of free diapers and wipes at the same time they change their lives for the better by quitting tobacco.

Who is eligible?

Pregnant women, and moms and anyone who lives with a baby less than a year old who wants to quit. This includes dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings – as long as they all live in the same home as the baby.

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Rabies in Idaho: Would you know what to do if you find a bat?

Idaho public health officials have gotten reports of two rabid bats in Bonneville and Payette counties, which are Idaho’s first for this summer. Would you know what to do if you found a bat that might be carrying rabies?

What should I do if I find a bat?

The most common ways people encounter bats are after a pet brings one into the home or a bat enters a home through a small opening or open windows or doors. If you can safely avoid the bat, open windows and close doors to the rest of the house, leave it alone and it will likely go away on its own. If you find a bat outside, avoid it and leave it alone and make sure pets, livestock and others also avoid it. If you are bitten or scratched, seek medical attention. Teach children to avoid bats and to let an adult know if they find one.

What if I wake up in there is a bat in the room I was sleeping in?

If you wake up to find a bat in the room and are not be sure whether you might have been bitten or scratched as you slept, a healthcare provider should be consulted immediately. Bats have very small teeth, and it’s difficult to tell outright if you have been bitten or scratched.

What is normal bat behavior?

Bats are generally most active at night. You might see a bat during the day, but that doesn’t mean they are sick. Bats migrate into Idaho every spring, and sometimes they just need to rest along their journey and hang out on the side of a building or a tree. Just leave them alone and they will go on their way when they are ready.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine for 12-15 year-olds

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

Today! Or whenever it’s convenient. As of May 12, 2021, adolescents 12-15 years old can 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.

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

Yes. COVID-19 vaccine has been administered during clinical trials to more than 1,000 adolescents ages 12-15 years old. None of the adolescents in the phase 3 clinical trials had unusual or 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. Over the counter medications can be given to adolescents after their vaccine to alleviate these symptoms, if they occur.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Traveling during the pandemic

As summer approaches, and beaches and campsites beckon, it’s still important to keep in mind that we are not out of the woods yet as far as the pandemic goes. Travel is possible, with a little homework ahead of time and adherence to precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19.

However, please don’t travel if you were recently exposed to COVID-19you are sick, you test positive for COVID-19, or you are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test. And please don’t travel with someone who is sick.

Q: Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine while I’m in Idaho for vacation?

A: Yes – Idaho has lifted its restriction that people have to live or work in the state to get vaccinated. Everyone ages 16 and older can get vaccinated in Idaho, regardless of where they live or work. Vaccine eligibility is expected to be expanded to include 12-15 year-olds later this week,

Q: What if I am not yet fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all and must travel?  

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

For those who are not fully vaccinated and must travel, the CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Before you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. Don’t travel if the test is positive.
  • While you are traveling:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
    • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • After you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
      • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
      • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
    • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
    • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
    • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
    • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.
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COVID-Q&A: Grant funding for mobile clinics is now available

In an effort to provide vaccination opportunities to everyone 16 and older where they live, work, and play, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) announced a new funding opportunity last week to establish and operate mobile, off-site, walk-in, and special COVID-19 vaccination clinics in underserved communities, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities, among others.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine safety

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

A: 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.

Q: How did COVID-19 vaccines get approved so quickly? Are they safe?

A: 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 given an emergency use authorization.

By all accounts, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective. The recent recommendation for a pause on the Johnson &Johnson vaccine illustrates how seriously Idaho and the rest of the nation takes vaccine safety. Ultimately, vaccines  are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson vaccine and severe adverse effects

Q: Why are Idaho and the nation calling for a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

A: The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is recommending that Idaho vaccine providers not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until more information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This recommendation was made after the department received information that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing data for six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot, combined with low platelet counts, in individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Vaccine safety is the nation’s and Idaho’s No. 1 priority. The CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in administering the vaccine until additional information is available for healthcare providers about evaluation and treatment of this rare adverse event among people who have been vaccinated. The Idaho Immunization Program has notified Idaho providers.

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