Vaccinations: Frequently Asked Questions
In recent months there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines. Questions about the roll-out of the vaccine in New Hampshire, the safety of the vaccine, and how vaccines work have been asked. Director of Oral Health Services Angela Boyle who has a Masters in Public Health has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic in our state since last spring. Recently, she put together some frequently asked questions about vaccinations.
How do the current vaccination timelines pertain to me?
Because vaccine supply is limited in these early phases, the state has a set criterion for receiving a vaccination, and individuals with disabilities are included in the coming phases of distribution. You can learn more about the vaccine roll-out plan here, https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/covid19/documents/covid19-vaccine-allocation-plan-summary.pdf). Much work has already been done to vaccinate our front-line health care workers, first responders and those older adults living in long-term care settings. As more and more vaccines become available over the next few months, people who are medically vulnerable and those who care for them will also be included in the coming phases.
Are vaccines required or do I have to get a vaccine?
There is no federal, state or local mandate to participate in receiving a vaccination. This is a personal decision and we encourage you to discuss this decision with family and your physician.
How do I know if I or my loved one meets the criteria for receiving the vaccination?
During these early phases, vaccine supply is limited, and therefore the state must categorize populations that have moderate to high risk of either getting the virus from the community or transmitting the virus to others. The initial categories are heavily based on Risk of experiencing significant health consequences and/or hospitalization. Those on the front-line and other vulnerable populations are in those high-risk categories and have already started to receive their vaccinations. As more and more vaccines are delivered to the state, there will be opportunity to move through the critical phases quicker and expand distribution to more and more people. The state is constantly updating its guidance and information and has developed a robust vaccination plan which can be found on their website here, https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/covid19/documents/covid19-vaccine-allocation-plan-summary.pdf
I provide all the home care for my loved one, why doesn’t that qualify me as a front line worker?
During times of limited vaccine, the state public health officials must consider who is at risk for complications associated with the virus. In public health, the focus is to target “population risk” and not individual risk. Which population is at most risk of either acquiring it or transmitting is an important component in determining where to put limited resources, especially in the early phases. Protecting our critical health care providers, both licensed and unlicensed, keeps our health care system safe from the inability to provide needed services because of potential workforce shortages related to being ill with the virus.
It’s important to note that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. As more and more doses are distributed to the state, the expansion of populations receiving a vaccine will increase and it will allow for quicker movement through all the phases.
How much will it cost to receive the vaccination?
Because we are in a national state of public health emergency, there is no cost to NH residents for the vaccination. Based on the current manufacturers, a two dose vaccine will be allocated. At this time, we do not know which manufacture will be received. If in the future, the vaccine is recommended yearly like the “flu vaccination”, there may be a fee.
How safe is the vaccination?
The vaccine is safe. Both makers of the vaccine have followed the same gold standard process that all medications and vaccines must follow in the manufacturing process. Tens of thousands of people across the world that include populations of ethnic and racial backgrounds as well as those with varied medical complexities have been included in the clinical trials. Both vaccine manufacturers (Pfizer and Moderna) have undergone rigorous review and recommendations of the FDA and the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices in order to receive the Emergency Authorization Use permission during this public health emergency.
How does the vaccine work and can it give me COVID-19?
Many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. The Coronavirus vaccination known as “mRNA vaccine” DOES NOT. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. This protein piece serves as an antigen to trigger an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected when the real virus enters our bodies.
It is expected as with other vaccines to produce side effects after vaccination, especially after the 2nd dose. This is common in many other vaccines as well. This response is a good indication that the vaccine is building the necessary antibodies to protect you. These may include fever, headache, and muscle aches. These are similar to side affects you may experience after other adult vaccines like the flu vaccine and the shingles vaccine. It is unusual for side effects to appear more than 8 weeks after vaccination.
One advantage of mRNA vaccines is that they are not produced using infectious antigens. The vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19. Both vaccines currently available are well-tolerated and the clinical trials did not reveal any significant safety concerns.
Will the vaccine alter my DNA?
It’s important to note that the mRNA does not enter the cell nucleus, so it does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. This is a common myth about mRNA vaccines. mRNA in COVID-19 vaccine does not interact with DNA.
Governor Sununu’s office recently released a PowerPoint presentation that gives a timeline of who will be vaccinated when, https://www.governor.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt336/files/documents/20210105-presentation.pdf
Recently, Chief Medical Officer of the NH Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Jonathan Ballard and Deputy State Epidemiologist for the NH DHHS Dr. Elizabeth Talbot spoke with stakeholders in the developmental services system to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccination process. You can watch the vaccination town hall here, https://csni.org/coronavirus-covid-19.
Learn more about what you can expect from COVID-19 vaccination sites, https://www.seacoastonline.com/story/news/state/2021/01/25/nh-covid-vaccine-sites-what-to-expect/4246953001/.