RICHLAND PUBLIC HEALTH

COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers

January 22, 2021 (9 p.m.): Continuing Phase 1B

Vaccinations in Phase 1B began on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced a tiered system for offering vaccinations to the estimated 2.2 million people who are eligible for the vaccine under this phase, beginning with those who are 80 or older, outlined below. When a new age group begins, vaccinations may not be complete for the previous age group. It will take a number of weeks to distribute all of the vaccine given the limited doses available.

  • Jan. 19, 2021 Ohioans 80 years of age and older.
  • Jan. 25, 2021 Ohioans 75 years of age and older; those with a developmental or intellectual disability AND one of the following conditions: cerebral palsy; spina bifida; severe congenital heart disease requiring hospitalization within the past year; severe type 1 diabetes requiring hospitalization within the past year; inherited metabolic disorders including phenylketonuria; severe neurological disorders including epilepsy, hydrocephaly, and microcephaly; severe genetic disorders including Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Turner syndrome, and muscular dystrophy; severe lung disease, including asthma requiring hospitalization within the past year, and cystic fibrosis; sickle cell anemia; and alpha and beta thalassemia; and solid organ transplant patients. If people believe they fit in this category, they should contact their local board of developmental disabilities, which will help coordinate vaccinations.
  • Feb. 1, 2021 Ohioans 70 years of age and older; employees of K-12 schools that wish to remain or return to in-person or hybrid models.
  • Feb. 8, 2021 Ohioans 65 years of age and older.
  • Feb. 15, 2021 Ohioans with severe congenital, developmental, or early-onset, and inherited conditions listed above. If people believe they fit in this category, they should contact their local board of developmental disabilities, which will help coordinate vaccinations.

  • Vaccinations for those with qualifying medical conditions – Local boards of developmental disabilities will reach out to individuals who meet eligibility requirements to coordinate vaccinations. These boards will work with children’s hospitals and some local health departments on scheduling. Only those individuals identified and scheduled by the local developmental disabilities board will be eligible for vaccination at the local health department or children’s hospital.
  • Vaccine allocation Vaccines are in short supply in Ohio and across the country. Each week, the federal government will inform Ohio of its statewide vaccine allocation for the following week, and thereafter, providers will be notified of how many doses of vaccine they will receive. Flexibility continues to be key in vaccine planning.

Until all Richland County providers get a larger allotment of vaccines, scheduling will continue to be difficult. Please be patient. We want to make sure everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination can get one.

People can register for vaccinations with Richland Public Health at 1-866-395-1588. CLICK THIS LINK to see all COVID-19 Vaccination Providers in Richland County.

 

HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN TO GET MY VACCINE?

Listen to the directions given when COVID-19 vaccine supplies are available. Most likely you will have to call for an appointment. It is likely when you call for an appointment there will be a screening process to see if you qualify for whatever phase (Phase 1A, 1B, Phase 2 or Phase 3) we are in at that time. No doctor’s orders will be necessary but appointments will be needed (no walk-ins).

One other important note: there is ZERO cost for COVID-19 vaccination.  No community member will ever see a bill for receiving a COVID-19 vaccination regardless of insurance status, age, occupation, or any other factor.

DO I STILL NEED TO FOLLOW COVID PROTECTIVE MEASURES AFTER I GET THE VACCINE?

Yes. Here’s Why:

  1. The vaccine doesn’t guarantee complete immunity

The currently authorized mRNA vaccines have been found to provide up to 95% immunity against COVID-19. That means that there is still a small chance that you could get infected, so you need to continue to protect yourself while COVID-19 cases are high in your area.

Wearing a mask can limit your exposure to the virus, which should greatly lower your chances of becoming ill, even if you’ve been vaccinated.

  1. You might infect others with COVID-19

It’s unclear whether or not people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine have the ability to spread the virus to others, even if they don’t become sick themselves. Researchers are now studying whether the vaccines prevent asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

If you’ve been vaccinated, it may be possible for enough of the virus to be present in your nose or mouth for you to unknowingly spread it to those around you, even if you don’t experience symptoms. Until researchers confirm that this doesn’t happen, wearing a mask helps you protect the people in your community who haven’t received the vaccine yet.

  1. It takes time to achieve “herd immunity”

For herd immunity to help stop the spread of COVID-19, enough people would have to become immune, through vaccination, to the virus that causes the disease. It’s unknown at the moment what percentage of the population would need to get vaccinated to limit the spread of the virus this way.

Some experts believe that herd immunity may be achieved if 60 or 70 percent of the population is vaccinated. Others suggest that an even higher percentage of people would need to be vaccinated for herd immunity to have an effect. The actual figure remains to be determined.

At the moment, only 4 percent of Ohio residents have received COVID-19 vaccines, so we have a long way to go before our communities could reach herd immunity. Until we achieve herd immunity, it’s important that we all take steps to protect one another.

How to Continue to Protect Yourself

For those reasons, it’s critical to continue doing everything you can to protect yourself and your family. That includes continuing to:

  • wear a mask over your nose and mouth when you’re around people from outside your household
  • stay 6 feet away from people who aren’t from your household
  • limit the time you spend in indoor spaces, especially poorly ventilated ones
  • avoid crowds and close contact with people from outside your household
  • wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer

“As we continue to distribute vaccines across our communities, it’s important that we all continue to do our parts to limit this spread. With these vaccines, we have hope for a more normal future and a path to get there.”*

*Thomas Bader, M.D., vice president of medical quality at Hackensack Meridian Health (www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org)

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES

Now that there are authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, accurate vaccine information is critical.

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

No. 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. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

There are several different types of vaccines in development. All of them teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?

No. Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.

If your body develops an immune response—the goal of vaccination—there is a possibility you may test positive on
some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

Do I need a COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve already been exposed to the virus?

Yes. It’s unknown how long any COVID-19 antibodies that are in your system may protect you from the virus, or how high the levels in your system would need to be to offer you protection. There have been some reports of people that have been re-infected with COVID-19, which indicates that the natural immunity wears off over time. Also, it’s possible to get a false positive result on an antibody test, which may lead you to believe that you have COVID-19 antibodies when you actually don’t.

Will a COVID-19 vaccine prevent me from getting sick again?

Yes, to some extent. Both mRNA vaccines were found to be about 95% effective at protecting against COVID-19. The vaccines train your body’s immune system to identify a spike protein on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and fight it off, should it enter your system. You should expect to experience the full effects of the vaccine’s immunity potential about two weeks after you receive the second dose of the vaccine. Even if you do get an infection after vaccination, the vaccine will likely prevent the more severe forms of Covid.

How soon can I get a COVID-19 vaccine after I’ve been sick with the virus?

If you’re actively sick with COVID-19, or if you’ve just recovered, hold off for a while before getting vaccinated. Experts recommend that you wait until you are fully recovered from your infection and are no longer in isolation before you receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Given the limited vaccine supply and your natural immunity following your COVID infection, you may wish to wait up to 90 days for the vaccine (so that others – who have no immunity – can receive their vaccine now). However, you are not required to wait 90 days.

Are there any other things that I can do to avoid getting COVID-19 again?

Before and after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine, follow the recommended safety guidelines to lower your chances of contracting the virus. It may be possible to become ill if you’re exposed to COVID-19 after any antibodies in your system wear off and before the vaccine takes full effect, about two weeks after your second injection. Be sure to:

  • wear a mask over your nose and mouth when you’re around people from outside your household
  • stay 6 feet away from people who aren’t from your household
  • limit the time you spend in indoor spaces, especially poorly ventilated ones
  • avoid crowds and close contact with people from outside your household
  • wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer

Will a COVID-19 vaccination protect me from getting sick with COVID-19?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccination works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, and this protects you from getting sick with COVID-19.

Being protected from getting sick is important because even though many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness, have long-term health effects, or even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you don’t have an increased risk of developing severe complications. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?

No. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.

Messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. That immune response and making antibodies is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

Other links to information about COVID-19 and the Vaccine

  • Ohio Department of Health (ODH): COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  • Ohio Department of Health (ODH): COVID-19 Vaccines Myths vs. Facts
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): What to Expect After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine and video
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): What is an EUA article and video

Last Updated Jan. 21, 2021

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT COVID-19 Varient B.1.1.1.7: The more contagious COVID-19 strain

NOTE: The newest varient of COVID-19 has been detected in Columbus, Ohio, as of 1/12/2021

Grace Hauck USA TODAY, January 2, 2021

A more contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom continues to crop up across the U.S. and around the globe, threatening to further strain overburdened health care systems just as vaccines are rolling out worldwide.

At least three U.S. states and 33 countries have identified the new variant, known as B.1.1.7. Several nations have also identified an additional variant, first identified in South Africa, that also appears to infect people more easily.

“Because the variants spread more rapidly, they could lead to more cases and put even more strain on our heavily burdened health care systems,” said Dr. Henry Walke, incident manager for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 response.

“We need to be even more vigilant in our prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

How much more contagious is the new strain?

The strain first identified in the U.K. spreads more easily and quickly than other strains, according to the CDC. The strain was first spotted in September in southeastern England and accounted for a quarter of cases in London by November. By the week of Dec. 9, it was responsible for 60% of cases in the city.

What makes the new strain of COVID-19 more contagious?

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, mutates regularly and acquires about one new mutation in its genome every two weeks, according to the CDC. The U.K. variant has several mutations that affect the “spike protein” on the virus surface that attaches to human cells.

“It’s able to bind to the receptors on cells better, and therefore is transmitted better,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said last week.

Is the new COVID-19 strain more lethal?

There is no evidence that B.1.1.7 causes more severe illness or increased risk of death, according to the CDC.

Is the vaccine effective for the new variant?

Researchers believe current COVID-19 vaccines will likely protect against B.1.1.7, but data is needed. The virus would “likely need to accumulate multiple mutations in the spike protein to evade immunity induced by vaccines or by natural infection,” according to the CDC.

“From what we know from experience with this mutation and other mutations, it’s unlikely to have a large impact on vaccine-induced immunity, or existing immunity from previous strains,” said Dr. Greg Armstrong, director of the CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection. Armstrong said it is unclear how the variant may respond to COVID-19 treatments, such as monoclonal antibody treatments.

How long has the variant been in the US?

Researches first identified the B.1.1.7 variant in the U.S. in Colorado on Dec. 28 in a COVID-19 patient with no reported travel history, suggesting that the virus was spreading from person to person in the community. It’s unclear how widespread the variant has become, experts say.

The U.S. has only sequenced viruses from about 51,000 U.S. cases, according to the CDC. The nation now has more than 20 million confirmed cases. “Given the small fraction of U.S. infections that have been sequenced, the variant could already be in the United States without having been detected,” the CDC said last month.

The CDC said it plans to launch a national strain surveillance program this month that requires each state to submit at least 10 samples biweekly for sequencing.

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