covid-19 vaccine

Answering Your Biggest COVID Vaccine Questions

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to any adult who wants one in Texas

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COVID-19 vaccines are now available to any adult who wants one as of Monday in Texas.

The move makes Texas the most populous U.S. state to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults. The state has nearly 30 million residents.

This expansion also comes with more questions now that the vaccine is more widely available. NBC 5 scoured social media and took in some viewer submitted questions on some of the most common concerns about the vaccine.

Dr. Harvey Castro is a certified emergency medicine physician by the American Board of Emergency Medicine and the co-founder of Trusted ER clinics across North Texas. He answered our questions during a series of live interviews on NBC 5 Today.

Each answer is also supplemented with helpful links and resources for the COVID-19 vaccine as availability is expanded across the state.

What are the side effects of the vaccines? Are they different depending on which one you get?

"Honestly, they are not. A lot of the side effects that we are seeing right now is redness and pain where the shot is given, A little bit of nausea, low-grade fever, body aches and chills. This should reside and go away in about two or three days. Most people you should be able to continue working but if not, just be prepared that you may be out for a few days," Dr. Castro said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website notes that "these side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days."

Click here to learn more.

What is the "COVID arm"?

"With COVID arm, we’re seeing cases of that with Moderna mainly. What you could see is redness and pain outside at the shot site. It looks like a rash. We are also seeing it with Pfizer as well," said Dr. Castro.

According to the CDC, if you experience “COVID arm” after getting the first shot, you should still get the second shot at the recommended interval if the vaccine you got needs a second shot. Tell your vaccination provider that you experienced a rash or “COVID arm” after the first shot.

Your vaccination provider may recommend that you get the second shot in the opposite arm.

I have concerns that I could be allergic to the vaccine. What should I do and are vaccine sites prepared for this?

"Be proactive. Look at the ingredients to see what you’re allergic to. If you have a propensity to having allergic reactions, especially anaphylactic shock, I would recommend getting a vaccine at the hospital," Dr. Castro said.

Vaccine sites have forms and site moderators are required to ask questions about the potential for allergies. Locations are also requiring people to wait for at least 15 minutes to make sure that they are not having an adverse reaction to the shot before they are allowed to leave the vaccination site.

"They'll make the determination about whether to monitor you longer after the shot or not administer it," Dr. Castro said. "It's best to speak with your doctor first before you get the vaccine if you have concerns about allergic reactions. God forbid that they need to call someone, usually they have an ambulance present and if not, the ambulance system will be there within minutes."

According to NBC News, such incidents have been rare — about 5.5 cases for every million doses of vaccine administered in the U.S. — and the patients recovered. For most people, the risk of getting the coronavirus is far higher than the risk of a vaccine reaction.

The CDC has written about the risk for anaphylaxis and said that it has rarely been reported following COVID-19 vaccination. CDC recommendations called for healthcare personnel to be trained and qualified to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis. EpiPen doses and other medicine should be available at the vaccination location at all times.

If you had a severe allergic reaction—also known as anaphylaxis—after getting the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that you not get a second shot of that vaccine.

Click here to learn more about the CDC's guidelines on what you should do about getting the second shot depending on your reaction.

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to any adult who wants one as of Monday in Texas.

Does it matter which vaccine I get?

"Honestly, I would just go with whatever you can get," Dr. Castro said. "I know it still can be difficult but the difference is that Johnson and Johnson is just one shot while the other ones, Pfizer and Moderna, require two shots several days apart.

According to the American Medical Association, with more vaccine options becoming available, it is less important which one a person gets. Instead, experts echo Dr. Castro's advice that everyone simply gets vaccinated.

To learn more about how the vaccines compare, click here.

How long do the vaccines last?

It might be too early to tell.

"It’s such a new vaccine that we don’t have enough data or sample to know how long this will last. As a personal take, I could see it taking six months to a year but that’s not published yet and we don’t have enough data," Dr. Castro said.

The CDC states that it does not know how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated. Experts are still working to learn more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity.

"What we do know is that COVID-19 has caused very serious illness and death for a lot of people. If you get COVID-19, you also risk giving it to loved ones who may get very sick. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer choice," a statement on the CDC website reads, adding that the agency will update the public as new evidence becomes available.

When will children be able to get the vaccine?

While more adults are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus every day, children, particularly younger ones, are not expected to get the vaccines for months.

"Right now, only one vaccine allows for age 16. There’s a lot of research being done for Madonna and Pfizer but over the summer we should know more and potentially get FDA approval for ages 12 to 16," Dr. Castro said. "This is really important. We need herd immunity and we need our children to be vaccinated to reach that."

Experts say the overall risk of the coronavirus to healthy children has been low. Children are generally more likely to have mild cases of Covid-19 than adults. Young children also appear to be less likely to spread the virus than adults.

But they are still capable of transmitting Covid-19 to other people, and though rare, there have been severe and fatal cases in children.

Are pregnant women able to get the vaccine?

Based on how COVID-19 vaccines work, experts believe the vaccine is unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, the CDC says there is limited data because the vaccines have not been widely studied in pregnant people.

"It is approved but like with anything involving pregnancy, make sure your OB/GYN doctor is aware and is having a discussion with you about it," said Dr. Castro.

According to NBC News, research has found the moms’ antibodies were present in their umbilical cord blood and breast milk, suggesting they pass on immunity to their babies.

Systems are also in place to continue to monitor vaccine safety. The CDC said so far, they have not identified any specific safety concerns for pregnant people and that clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people are planned or underway.

Can I relax restrictions once I get the shot?

"The CDC has said that if everyone in your party is vaccinated, it’s OK to take off your mask. With that said, you need to make sure we’re cautious. Especially with the elderly and high-risk population," Dr. Castro said.

According to experts, the vaccine is not going to prevent the virus 100%. Moderna and Pfizer have efficacy rates of at least 90%. With the lesser chance

"Think of it this way. If I were to get vaccinated and then get the coronavirus, my body is fighting it quicker because those antibodies are in in my body, ready to fight it. So I may not be as sick and hopefully may not even show symptoms but you will have the virus. The symptoms just wouldn’t be as severe," Dr. Castro explained.

The CDC said it is still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the CDC recommends people should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until more is known.

Is there fear that a rise in COVID cases could outpace the number of people getting vaccinated, especially after Spring Break?

After several weeks at a plateau, Covid-19 cases in the United States are rising again, according to NBC News.

Here in North Texas, cases have improved since the holiday season, but Dr. Castro said it's important to remain vigilant.

"Interestingly enough, we’re seeing less COVID cases but if you remember, here in [North Texas] every Spring Break week was staggered. I would say let’s give it a couple more weeks and we will know the data," said Dr. Castro.

Nationally speaking -- CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a media briefing this week that the most recent seven-day average of Covid-19 cases was about 57,000 cases per day, an increase of 7 percent from the previous week.

Dr. Castro said because of this, it's important to continue wearing masks, washing your hands often and social distancing as more people get vaccinated in the coming months.

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