COVID Q&A: Where to get a vaccine, new virus strain, and vaccine side effects

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.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: DHW is committed to full transparency on the COVID-19 vaccine

When it comes to COVID-19 in Idaho, DHW is focused on vaccine delivery and administration and making sure we share everything we know with you. As part of our commitment, we have developed a COVID-19 vaccine page on the coronavirus website, which is updated daily. On the site and page, you can find:

As part of Idaho’s commitment to transparency, DHW is now hosting vaccine media briefings every Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to listen in and/or watch the briefing, while the media representatives have the opportunity to ask questions. The log-in information is available each Monday on the coronavirus website.

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COVID Q&A: Getting vaccinated

How will people know when to get vaccinated?

The Idaho Coronavirus Vaccine Advisory Committee will be discussing this issue in meetings that will be open to the public, and decisions will be publicized through press releases, social media, blog posts like this one, and information at coronavirus.idaho.gov.

If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I need to get vaccinated, too?

There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. However, if you have recovered from COVID-19, you may want to wait until others have had a chance to get the vaccine and build some immunity before you consider getting vaccinated.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? Are they similar to other vaccines?

We are going to learn a lot more about this, as FDA releases data this week about the first (Pfzer/BioNTech) vaccine. What we do know so far is that people have reported soreness in the arm after vaccination, headache, fatigue, a general cruddy feeling and achiness, and in a few cases more severe fatigue. Most of these symptoms have cleared up after a couple of days. They are very similar to side effects reported for other vaccines. No serious side effects have been reported to date.

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COVID-19 vaccine recommendations and a groundbreaking child welfare system: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Today, the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee made a recommendation about which populations should be prioritized for Phases 1a and 1b in Idaho’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. The recommendation will be delivered to Gov. Brad Little, who will make the final decisions.

CVAC is recommending Phase 1a include healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Skilled nurses and those working in assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities are counted as healthcare workers in this phase.

CVAC is recommending the following types of essential workers being prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1b:

  • First responders, including fire, police, protective services and community support personnel
  • Pre-K through 12th grade school staff and teachers and daycare workers
  • Correctional and detention facility staff, except medical staff already in Phase 1a
  • Food processing workers
  • Grocery and convenience store workers
  • Idaho National Guard
  • Other essential workers not already included and unable to telework or social distance at work

Idaho is expecting to receive approximately 13,650 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine by mid-December in its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, and then additional doses in the two weeks after that. Equal numbers of second doses will be shipped a couple of weeks after the first doses for people who received those. It takes about two weeks for the human body to build immunity after a vaccine.

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