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Q&A: Getting more of your COVID-19 vaccine questions answered

Joining live this morning is Dr. Tra'Chella Johnson Foy to answer all of the questions you have about the Coronavirus vaccine. To get your questions answered call 1-800-366-9598 or 904-346-4630.
Joining live this morning is Dr. Tra'Chella Johnson Foy to answer all of the questions you have about the Coronavirus vaccine. To get your questions answered call 1-800-366-9598 or 904-346-4630.

President Joe Biden’s goal of having 160 million Americans with at least one COVID shot by the Fourth of July holiday is only a month away.

Vaccination rates for American adults continue to rise, but the pace has slowed as cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus have fallen.

News4Jax understands some might be hesitating because they still have unanswered questions about the vaccines.

In an effort to get those questions answered, we hosted a phone bank during The Morning Show and asked for our Insiders to submit questions online also.

Baptist Health’s Dr. Tra’Chella Johnson Foy joined us to provide some expert insight about vaccines. Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval Medical Society Foundation, answered the questions that we did not have time to get to on the air.

If you’ve had COVID, do you need the vaccine?

Yes, if you’ve had COVID, you should definitely still get the vaccine. The recommendation is to wait about 90 days because even though you get some immune response, everybody’s immune response is a little bit different. What we know with the vaccine, we expect a certain type of reliability that leads – with the first two -- at least a 90% effectiveness against protecting you from it.

Are the antibodies good for life?

The antibodies at this point are not considered good for life, which is why this vaccine is so important. This is why even if you’ve had it we recommend that you still get vaccinated.

Will the flu shot help against COVID?

No

Some are hesitant to get the vaccine because of speculative unfavorable long-term problems. What are the latest results from studies done on those who first participated in the vaccine trials? (News4Jax Insider Jim/Jacksonville)

We are still kind of early in the vaccination process. When the vaccines first were released, they had an emergency use authorization. So the good news is, we’ve actually now moved forward to where they have begun to apply for their permanent use. The reason they’ve been able to do that and why they’re feeling that they’re ready to take that step is because so far the vaccines have been proven to be very safe and effective, and so those people who participated earlier on are still showing great immunity, they’re still showing that they aren’t having any significant side effects or concerns from it, and so now we’re able to really move to the next step to really show that people who were initially concerned about conditional authorization, that that’s not as much of a concern anymore because they’ve actually stepped forward and are proving themselves now.

Is there a number of years that we need for us to know for sure it’s safe? Or does it not take that long?

It really doesn’t take that long. The thing that you said that is most important is that we’ve been dealing with vaccinations for a long time. This isn’t completely new. Although the mRNA vaccinations, the Moderna and the Pfizer, are ones that are relatively new types, they actually still have been around before the COVID vaccine existed. So what we need to show is that, Yes, long term, there isn’t going to be any major side effects, but we don’t anticipate any. The good thing is, though, we’re always watching. We’re always surveilling. But we’re just looking for surprise things, but at this point the vaccines have really been shown to be effective and harmless. So when I’m asked, What is the biggest long-term effect? (The answer is) the lack of getting coronavirus. Which is a positive. Not having to worry about dying from COVID is the biggest long-term effect of the vaccination.

When will booster shots or annual shots be required? (News4Jax Insider Aaron/Clay County)

At this point, we’re not a time where they have actually decided that we need booster shots. A few days ago, the CEOs had looked at (it) and said we might need them, but as recent as yesterday there was actually a report that said maybe boosters won’t be needed. So research is still being done. We’re looking at seeing how long this immunity is lasting, and right now it’s holding up.

Does a possible booster shot need to be the same brand as the original vaccine you received? (Anonymous)

First, we’re still trying to answer whether or not you need a booster, but more importantly, can you have this crossover? There are some countries that actually have released that if a booster is needed that people can get a second vaccination from a different brand. So the NIH right now is doing some studies to see if 1) we need a booster and if we do need a booster, can we go ahead and use different types of vaccines.

What dosage are children getting as opposed to adults? Is it the same?

Right now, the vaccine that’s available, the Pfizer vaccine for children is exactly the same. Now, it’s not like antibiotics where you have to adjust stuff based on people’s sizes or age or how tall or short they are. But when the younger version comes out, they’re still trying to determine what dose will be needed for them, so right now, the one that’s available up to 12 years old though is the same adult vs. children.

If you miss the window of when you should get the second shot, do you have to start over or should you just get the second shot?

You do not have to start all over, you just need to go ahead and as soon as you can, get in there and get it.

My doctor is against me getting the shot. What should I do?

Get a second opinion. Doctors are people, so people have their opinions and that’s different from science. Science says the vaccines are safe. Science says you should get it. We know that COVID kills. If she has someone that is guiding them based on their personal opinion, that’s not the right type of information she should be going by. She should get multiple opinions based on what’s going to be right for her and not just her doctor’s personal concerns.

How can you replace your vaccination card if you lost it?

Go to the Department of Health and they’ll be able to do it. We keep a registry of people who have been vaccinated. They’ll be able to provide that for you.

I got the shot at Gateway Mall and had a second shot scheduled at Regency, but that’s closed now. How do a find a place to get a shot?

The best way I would say for our city is to go to COJ.net and if you don’t have access to the internet then you can actually call the city hotline: 630-CITY. They’ll be able to guide her and direct her and what the available resources are. But there is still great availability to get this vaccine. Some services will come to your home or come to your apartment building, so don’t be deterred.

I’m a breast cancer survivor and I’ve never taken any vaccine or flu shot. What COVID shot is best for me to consider?

Whatever vaccine is available for her to get is the one she should get. At this point, there is no indication that she should have to be concerned about any of them, but with her having a breast cancer history, it’s going to be important for her to get vaccinated. So whether it’s Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, she should go ahead.

I’m still testing positive for antibodies and I donate plasma. Will getting the shot affect that?

No. That’s a misunderstanding. There’s two different types of plasma that are used. There’s convalescent plasma, which is what’s used to help treat people. So in the beginning, the CDC had said that people who are vaccinated shouldn’t be allowed to donate convalescent plasma. They’ve changed that. So he doesn’t have any concerns about going ahead and giving his plasma.

If you take the vaccine, will it affect your lymph nodes? If it does, does that make you predisposed to cancer?

The lymphatic system is what drains infections or drains things that are going on in our bodies so after a vaccine, sometimes people will have this enlargement of their lymph nodes, primarily under their arm or in their neck area. Because of that, it’s recommended that people who are getting ready to have a mammogram should wait at least six weeks before they have the mammogram because the lymph nodes can be inflamed. But just like when your sinuses are flared up, this is not an indication that you’re going to have cancer later. It’s just doing its job. Your body is doing its job. So she can feel comfortable that it’s not about progression of cancer but it can happen.

I’m having surgery soon. Should I get my first shot or should I wait until after the surgery.

This would be one where she might need to wait because she doesn’t know if there’s going to be any type of reaction that she is not expecting. So if her surgery is right next week, then getting it the following week may be reasonable.

My adult daughter has consistent chronic low white blood count, is it safe for her to get the vaccine?

It is safe for her to get the vaccine and she should get the vaccine because her low white count means that her immune system isn’t that strong.

I had to have surgery to have the veins replaced in my legs. The doctors say I have fine veins. Is there concern with me getting blood clots from the vaccine?

There is not a concern with getting those superficial vein clotting problems. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been put on pause because of a questionable central vein thrombosis, so if she has any concerns about it, she should go with the Moderna or the Pfizer because no clotting concerns have been shown with those.

I had severe complications from my first Moderna shot: itching, pain and swelling for two months. I didn’t get my second shot. Should I get it?

That’s a complicated one. She should really talk to her doctor about whether the symptoms she had were really related to the vaccine because sometimes it’s not. If there’s any thought that it would be then she would want to talk with them about what would be safe for her to get. If she should try an alternative, which there are alternatives available. The one that she had is an mRNA vaccine, and so the Johnson & Johnson is a different type of vaccine, and so she may do well with that. That would be a conversation that she would have with her doctor.

I recovered from COVID in May. Can I get the vaccine now in June?

The recommendation is to wait 90 days, so yes, you could get it, but you want your immune system to be in a place where it can really make those soldiers as effectively as possible, so that’s the reason for the 90-day wait, so she should wait the 90 days.

My daughter is 13 and she tested positive for COVID 3 days after her first shot. Should she get her second shot?

She should get the second shot but she should wait those 90 days, because again we want that immune system to be able to create a real robust response specifically to the vaccine so that she’ll have that 90% coverage that she had gotten with the first shot.

Should I get the vaccine if I have Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

This is one that really should be a conversation with the doctor. There hasn’t been any cases or studies or findings associated with Guillain-Barré with the COVID vaccine. There have been some with other vaccinations. So this would be a very personal one that she should talk to her doctor about. This is a serious condition and I know it can be scary to think about getting vaccinated and have something like that happen again.

Several viewers wrote in with questions about allergies to vaccines and whether it’s safe to get the COVID vaccine.

The first thing I would say is, always talk to your doctor about this because your personal circumstances may be different but in a general sense the CDC recommends that people with basic allergies: milk, eggs even if they have had other reactions in the past that have been more severe, that they don’t have to abstain from getting the shot. It is safe for them to get it.

If they have had vaccine-related allergic reactions, then they really want to have a good conversation with their doctor. They want to make sure that this is safe for them. In the general sense, there hasn’t been any shown concerns from that. Some people will have an allergic reaction even if they have never had a reaction to anything before. So always if you have any concerns about your past and your history, talk to your doctor about it. I have my patients, if they are concerned even a little bit, I give them an epi-pen to kind of keep on hand, but it’s one of those things that so far CDC recommends that they can go ahead and get vaccinated.

Actually, I have had an anaphylactic reaction in the past so for me what they did was I sat for 30 minutes and had to wait. I was fine; I went about my business and took care of patients the rest of the day.

I was hospitalized with COVID in February. I got the first shot. Should I go back for the second shot?

If you had one vaccine and you had an interruption in that process, you still need to go back and get that second vaccine because we want the body to have that immune response that it’s supposed to have, and the second shot actually gives you that heightened response so that’s where you get at least a greater amount of antibodies present.

I got my first shot and a few days later, I got shingles. The doctor told me to wait until the shingles were gone to get the second shot. Will they flare up again?

I can understand his concerns. The likelihood is that he was going to have shingles and it was not necessarily related to the vaccine so in that context he definitely should still get it. Usually, shingles is not one of those things that will re-flare up anyway so it’s important for him to protect himself against COVID.

Are people who have severe allergies at greater risk? After my first shot, my allergies got worse. Do I need to take the second shot?

Yes, please take the second shot. Unless you have an allergy to polyethylene glycol or polysorbate-80 (found in Golytely for colon preps or in laxatives) then you are no more at risk than the general population.

Will I have problems from the vaccine if I am allergic to shellfish?

Shellfish allergy is not a contraindication to the vaccine

I have many allergies and an autoimmune disease. I have no EpiPen and do not take steroids. Should I be afraid of getting vaccinated? 

No, you should not be.

I am currently undergoing chemo; how long should I wait to get vaccinated?

We do not know who much the immune reaction to the vaccine is diminished by chemotherapy. Thus it may be best to wait until after completing a course of chemo before receiving the vaccine (to get the most effectiveness from the vaccine).

My youngest daughter has cancer markers in her blood. Is it safe for her to get vaccinated?

Yes, as long as she meets the age criteria.

I am a cancer survivor of 21 years. Is one shot better than another to take?

All three shots have fantastic effectiveness. Based on your history of being cancer-free for 21 years, you should feel comfortable with any of them.

I am a two-time breast cancer survivor. Could the vaccine bring out my cancer?

No, it should not.

If I get the first vaccine, how long am I supposed to wait before getting the second shot?

Three weeks for Pfizer and four weeks for Moderna.

I got my second dose of Moderna in April. Do the vaccines have expiration dates? How long does it last?

We feel that the protection that the vaccine provides is likely to last up to nine months, based on recent data. This is good news because we initially felt that it would be for six months.

I have a friend who is coming to visit me. I have had the vaccine shots but my friend has not. Should I be concerned with my friend coming to visit?

I am glad that you are fully vaccinated because that significantly reduces your risk of picking up the virus from your unvaccinated friend. Also, even if you did contact the virus you should very unlikely to have severe effects requiring hospitalization. That vaccines have been shown to be excellent at preventing hospitalization from the infection.

I had my second Moderna shot in February. Am I allowed to be around my young grandchildren? Do I still have to wear a mask around them?

Based on the CDC guidelines you should feel comfortable being around others without your mask on since you have been fully vaccinated.

I have a friend getting over COVID. I have both the vaccines, so when can I visit her?

If she has COVID, it remains wise for your friend to isolate for 10 days and then (after the isolation period) if she has been asymptomatic and without fever for 48 hours, then you can visit with her.

My wife and I got the vaccine two months ago. Should we still wear masks?

If you plan to follow CDC guidelines then you no longer need to wear the masks, unless the place of business you are visiting requires them.

I had COVID seven months ago and tested positive for two months. I am currently a caretaker for my mother; when should she get the vaccine?

She (your mom) should get the vaccine anytime, including today!

What is the difference between Moderna and Pfizer?

They are very similar vaccines that use the new mRNA technology that has helped to make them very effective.

What exactly is in the vaccine? What tips can you give me to be confident about the vaccine?

There is a protein that corresponds to the “spike” protein. The “pre-protein” (mRNA) is what is used in the vaccine and the body converts it into a protein and then develops the immune reaction.

Is it required to get a COVID test prior to getting vaccinated?  

No.

Does the vaccine after COVID cause damage?

No.

I got the Pfizer vaccine in January. I just tested positive for COVID this week. Why did this happen?

You can still get the infection even after receiving the vaccine but it should be much less likely to lead to severe illness.

I will be traveling and want to get the vaccine. Is it possible to get the first dose in one state and the second in another?

Yes, but please take your vaccine card with you.

I want to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but I heard it should not be given to females under 50. What should I do?

Females under 50 can receive the JnJ vaccine but the blood clot issue (1 in 500,000) was seen only in women between the ages 18-50. So then consider the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Is there a magnet in the vaccines?

No.

I know many people who have gotten sick from the vaccines. Will older people be at risk of dying from the vaccines?

No, you are not at risk of dying directly from the vaccine.

Is there a tracker within the vaccine?

No.

Is there something in the second shot that is getting women sick? No there is not something that is specifically getting one gender sick in the second dose.

Can someone be an asymptomatic carrier after getting fully vaccinated?

Yes, though this is less likely to be the case than prior to being vaccinated.

Is the vaccine safe in my first trimester of pregnancy? If so, what is recommended?

It has not been studied in pregnancy but there is a registry of pregnant women who have received the vaccine and it suggests that the vaccine is safe in pregnancy.

Every time I get the flu shot I end up getting the flu. Is this going to happen with the COVID vaccine?

No.

If I have an autoimmune disease. How will the vaccine affect me?

No different than the general population in terms of side effects.

I have not had my taste buds for four months. I lost them after getting the vaccine. Is this a reported symptom of the vaccine?

Not commonly, no.

I had a bad reaction to Moderna in January. Since then I have developed GBS (Guillain-Barré syndrome) and was in the hospital for three weeks. My doctors advised me to not get the second shot, but I really want to travel. What should I do?

If you developed GBS as a result of the vaccine, you should not get the second dose.

I was vaccinated in March and I had no complications. I also have a rare type of lymphoma. Do I need to get an antibody test?

It may be wise but I would suggest that you discuss this in detail with your oncologist.

I know someone who got the Pfizer vaccine in April. He ended up passing away this week. Is there any connection between the two? His heart just stopped and he was completely healthy prior with no heart conditions.

I am sorry to hear that but his death is unlikely to have resulted from the vaccine.

I have an enlarged heart. Would the vaccine affect my heart in any way?

No, it should not. But the virus certainly could.

Several questions rolling into one: Should I get the shot if I have Crohn’s Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, heart problems, kidney disease, low blood pressure, one kidney, a rare syndrome, multiple illnesses, asthma, fluid around my lungs, blood clots, extreme lymphedema?

Yes. But you may want to discuss which vaccine would be the best choice based on your particular conditions.


About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.