Answers to common questions about COVID-19 vaccines

News you can use: Your questions about COVID-19 vaccines, answered

SOU’s Student Health and Wellness Center is getting many questions about COVID-19 shots as the nationwide vaccination program gains momentum and potential availability of the vaccine on campus grows nearer. Current answers to some of the most common and relevant questions about the vaccines are covered here, including who should receive them and what to do next. Data about the vaccines is growing daily, so these answers may evolve or change.

Do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID?

Yes. Being infected with COVID-19 may give you some natural immunity, but researchers aren’t sure how long that protection will last. Reinfection is possible and has happened, so you could be at risk for complications from the illness or for spreading the virus to others. It is strongly recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get vaccinated. However, if you have had COVID-19 within the last three months, you can consider delaying vaccination until 90 days after your diagnosis, since reinfection is uncommon in the first 90 days after your first infection.

Will coronavirus mutations and variants reduce the vaccine’s protection?

At this time, researchers believe that both the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines provide protection against the main COVID-19 variants that were first identified in the U.K. and South Africa.

How soon after being vaccinated will I be protected?

It takes about two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine for your immune response to peak so that you have as much protection as possible.

After I get the first dose of a two-dose vaccine, do I still need to follow safety protocols?

Yes. You are not considered fully immunized until two weeks after the second dose, so during this time you can still get COVID and pass it to others. And even after your second dose, you still need to follow safety protocols.

After the first dose of a two-dose vaccine, do I still need to get a COVID test and quarantine if I develop symptoms or if I have been in contact with someone who has COVID?

Yes. The first dose of a two-dose vaccine provides only about 50 percent protection, so you can still get and transmit COVID. If you have had only one dose of vaccine and you develop symptoms or come into contact with someone who has COVID, then you will need to quarantine and get a COVID test.

If I’ve had a dose of one vaccine and then a different one becomes available, what should I do?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) discourages people from mixing vaccines unless there is an exceptional situation, such as a significant shortage of the vaccine you received first.

After I get the second dose of a two-dose vaccine, do I still need to follow safety protocols?

Yes. Experts agree that everyone needs to continue following standard COVID precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands and following CDC precautions regarding travel. This is a very effective vaccine, but about five out of every 100 people who receive it will not achieve immunity. We don’t know yet how likely it is that someone who is fully vaccinated can still get COVID without having symptoms and unwittingly infect others. Taking standard precautions helps protect you and those around you.

After my second shot, do I still need to quarantine or get a COVID test if I have been in contact with someone who has COVID or if I develop symptoms?

It depends. You are not required to quarantine or test if you meet all three of these criteria:

  • It has been at least two weeks since the second shot of a two-dose vaccine
  • It has been no more than 90 days since the second dose of vaccine
  • You have no symptoms

If you do meet all three criteria, then you do not have to quarantine or test. However, you will still need to monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days after being exposed. If you do develop symptoms in those 14 days, then you must quarantine.

If you do not meet all three criteria, then you need to quarantine.

After I’m fully vaccinated, can I hang out with my friends and family? Can I travel?

There are no definite answers to these questions yet. As more people get vaccinated and the infection rate drops, it will become safer for small groups of vaccinated people to gather. For the moment, until vaccines are more widely available, experts recommend that people practice social distancing whenever possible, continue to wear masks and avoid large groups. Remember, it is still possible for someone who has been vaccinated to become infected and to possibly transmit the virus.

As vaccines become more widely available, travel will become less risky. However, not everyone will be vaccinated, the vaccines are not 100 percent effective and variants have developed that may be more transmissible, so air travel will continue to be riskier than other activities. The CDC regularly updates its travel recommendations, so check its website for updates.

Will getting vaccinated cause me to test positive for COVID?

No. None of the vaccines that are currently approved or that are being tested in the U.S. can cause you to test positive on a viral test. These are the standard tests used to see whether you currently have COVID-19 infection.

It is possible that you would test positive on an antibody (blood) test, but those tests are used only to see whether you have ever been previously infected with COVID-19.

How long will vaccine immunity last? Will booster doses or annual vaccines be needed in the future?

Researchers aren’t sure how long immunity from the vaccine will last and whether a booster dose will be needed.