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FAQs: Common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine answered

From immunity to side effects to safety and cost, here are answers to some frequently asked vaccine questions.

COLORADO, USA — While the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has begun in the U.S., a lot of questions remain about how long immunity lasts and when everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.

In late 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized both the Moderna and Pfizer for emergency use, with each one requiring two doses to reach about 95% immunity.

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus latest case, vaccine numbers for Jan. 22

Below are some answers to commonly asked questions about the coronavirus vaccine.

How long does immunity last?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's still unclear how long immunity from the vaccine lasts, and there might not be the answer for some time. More data is needed from "real world" conditions before that can be determined.

Current data shows that "natural immunity," which is gained after a COVID-19 infection, can vary from person to person. However, the CDC said that evidence indicates reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after the first infection.

Who is paying for the vaccine?

Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost, according to the CDC. Providers may charge fees or copays, however here in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order forbidding them from doing so.

The CDC also noted that no one can be denied a vaccine for their inability to pay fees.

If someone had COVID-19 and recovered, do they still need to get a vaccine?

Since reinfection with COVID-19 possible, it is recommended that anyone who had the virus should be vaccinated.

Patients who were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma should wait 90 days before getting a vaccine, the CDC said.

Do both does have to come from the same manufacturer?

The short answer is yes, according to a report from the Associated Press. 

In the U.S. where Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being distributed, health officials said the vaccines are not interchangeable. In England, where shots by Pfizer and AstraZeneca are available, officials also said the doses should be consistent.

RELATED: Can COVID-19 vaccines be mixed and matched?

In rare circumstances when the same kind isn’t available or if it’s not known what was given for the first shot, English officials said it’s OK to give whichever vaccine is available for the second shot, arguing that a mismatched dose is better than partial protection.

Is it safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Right now in Colorado, pregnant women would only be eligible if they were in one of the current priority groups, which include mostly healthcare workers, first responders and some other essential workers.

Breastfeeding is rarely a safety concern with vaccines, according to the CDC, although no data are available yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on breastfed infants or on milk production.

mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants. 

Are there more vaccines in the works?

As of Dec. 28, 2020, large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials are in progress or being planned for three COVID-19 vaccines in the United States:

RELATED: New COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial opens in Colorado

How can someone report a problem or reaction to a vaccine?

Anyone who thinks they might be experiencing a severe allergic reaction should call 911. 

Other non-serious issues or reactions can be reported using either via V-safe or the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS.)

V-safe is a new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-safe uses text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients following the COVID-19 vaccination.

It also provides second vaccine dose reminders if needed, and telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically significant adverse events.

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another vaccine?

The CDC recommends that people wait at least 14 days before getting any other vaccine, including a flu or shingles vaccine, if they get a COVID-19 vaccine first.

If you get another vaccine first, wait at least 14 days before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

If a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently given within 14 days of another vaccine, you should still complete the series on the schedule, the CDC said.

When more data are available on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, the recommendations might be updated.

Do you need to avoid close contact with others and wear a mask once you've received both doses of the vaccine?

There a lot of still unanswered questions, so right now, the answer is yes, according to the CDC.

Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions before making any changes to the recommendation.

It's also unknown whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent the recipient from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if they don’t get sick themselves.

Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?

None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC. That means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with the disease.

Will a recipient test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test after getting the vaccine?

Neither of the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the U.S. can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to show a current infection.

If a recipient develops an immune response — the goal of vaccination — there is a possibility he or she may test positive on some antibody tests.

Antibody tests indicate whether someone had a previous infection and may have some level of protection against the virus.

Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way, according to the CDC.

Messenger RNA vaccines — also called mRNA vaccines — are the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.

The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept which means it cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way.

A lot is still unknown about the vaccine. Text questions to 303-871-1491 or email them here.

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