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Who should get vaccinated?
      
Are the vaccines safe for adults?   
Are the vaccines safe for children?   
Which vaccine is better and what about antiviral drugs?    
Is the vaccine effective immediately?      
Will the vaccines protect people from the newer strains (variants) of the virus?   
If a person is vaccinated, can they still get COVID?      
If a person has already had and recovered from COVID, do they still need to get vaccinated?      
Will we need to get vaccinated every year?      
What does it cost to get vaccinated?      
Where can I get vaccinated?      
Where can I be tested for COVID 19?      
Do we have to continue health measures after being vaccinated?      
Are we required to get the vaccine? 
When might we expect to go “back to normal”?

COVID Vaccine - Frequently Asked Questions

Who should get a vaccination for COVID?  
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are FDA approved for those age 6 months.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all eligible persons including pregnant and lactating individuals—receive a COVID-19 vaccine series.  Recent studies continue to confirm the safety of the vaccine for both pregnant mother and fetus.  Most experts advocate for vaccinating women who are breastfeeding. There are no plausible mechanisms for how the vaccine would be any danger for breastfeeding, and it’s likely that breastfeeding women would produce protective antibodies in their breast milk that could help protect their babies.  The vaccine is also recommended for people trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.

Are the vaccines safe for adults?  
Yes. The FDA originally approved and authorized the vaccines under emergency use.  Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now have full FDA approval for those 6 months and older.  Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines completed Phase III trials which showed both safety and effectiveness. Clinical trials included diverse participants.  Multiple millions of people have already received a dose. Post release monitoring is in place and so far has only demonstrated a few severe allergic reactions, all of which were treated successfully. These allergic reactions are very rare and similar to reactions that can happen with other vaccines, medications, or some foods.  Mild systemic side effects are most common after the second dose and include tiredness, body aches, and headaches, most of which last only 1-2 days and are treated with rest or over the counter medications. 

The vaccines (from the University of Nebraska Medical Center):

Novavax Vaccine:  On July 19, 2022, the CDC updated its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, approving the Novavax vaccine for emergency use authorization for adults 18 years and older. Novavax is a two-dose, protein-based COVID-19 vaccine that is currently being used in more than 40 countries and has also been authorized by the European Union and the World Health Organization.

Novavax is another option for unvaccinated Americans who have not received their primary series of Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines or the viral-vector Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and was created using a more traditional protein-based technology. As a protein-based vaccine, Novavax is another option for people who are allergic to one of the components in a mRNA or viral-vector vaccine. The vaccine is currently authorized as a primary series only, and not as a booster dose.  The U.S. has secured 3.2 million doses of Novavax, and the vaccine will be available in the coming weeks. 

Regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: On April 12, 2021, in collaboration, the CDC and FDA  announced they would be pausing distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  A 10-day pause gave health officials time to review additional data to better understand the degree of risk associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine related to a blood clotting disorder. It also gave federal agencies and the medical community time to determine and share information on the most appropriate treatment response. During that time, nine additional cases of the clotting disorder were identified, bringing the total number of known cases to 15 (among the nearly 7 million people who received the vaccine).

The decision to lift the pause is based on the experts’ determination that the benefits of again administering the vaccine greatly outweigh the very small degree of risk associated with its use, particularly now that the risk and treatment protocols are better understood. The risk of blood clotting is much higher for people who contract COVID than it is for people who receive the J&J vaccine. 

However, the CDC and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the prevention of COVID-19, have expressed a clinical preference mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer or Moderna, over Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine based on the better effectiveness, safety, and availability of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.  Although extremely rare, adverse events have been noted with the Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. The ACIP reaffirmed that receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to receive an mRNA vaccine will continue to have access to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

More information about the J & J vaccine.

Are the vaccines safe for children?
Medical and public health experts, including the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that children and adolescents age 6 months and older get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect them from contracting and spreading the virus.  They answer frequently asked questions about the vaccine for younger children here.

The vaccine is the best way to protect children from becoming severely ill or having long-lasting health impacts due to COVID-19. COVID-19 has become one of the top 10 causes of pediatric death, and tens of thousands of children and teens have been hospitalized with COVID-19. While children and adolescents are typically at lower risk than adults of becoming severely ill or hospitalized from COVID-19, it is still possible.

Children 6 months and older are able to get either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.  COVID-19 vaccines have been used under the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history, including studies in children 6 months years and older. Your child cannot get COVID-19 from any COVID-19 vaccine.  Like adults, children may have some side effects after COVID-19 vaccination. These side effects may affect their ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.  CDC has received some reports of myocarditis and pericarditis in adolescents and young adults after COVID-19 vaccination. The known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.  

The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of two doses, one month apart, to individuals 6 months through 17 years of age. The vaccine is also authorized to provide a third primary series dose at least one month following the second dose for individuals in this age group who have been determined to have certain kinds of immunocompromise. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of three doses in which the initial two doses are administered three weeks apart followed by a third dose administered at least eight weeks after the second dose in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age. 

The FDA has authorized, and the CDC recommended, a single-dose Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot for everyone 5 years and older, at least six months after getting their second dose of that vaccine. As of now, individuals in this age group are only authorized to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech booster vaccine.

Which vaccine is better?
All available vaccines effectively prevent moderate cases and are extremely effective at preventing the severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death.  Read more about each vaccine from Yale Medical School.

What about antiviral drugs?
Vaccination is the best line of defense against COVID-19. While antiviral drugs and other treatments are an important advancement, they are not 100% effective in reducing risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and they are no substitute for getting vaccinated. Getting COVID-19 still causes serious health impacts for some people, especially those who are not vaccinated. Preventing serious infection by getting vaccinated (and boosted, if you’re eligible) and taking other precautions, like masking and distancing — particularly if your COVID-19 Community Level is high — are the best ways to protect your health. 

Is the vaccine effective immediately?
For full immunity:
   *Pfizer vaccine  - 7 days after 2nd dose.
   *Moderna vaccine - 14 days after 2nd dose
  *Johnson & Johnson vaccine - 28 days after single dose
*Those who are immunocompromised or with high risk conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, etc., need at least six weeks after their final dose to ensure full immunity.
  

At about 6 months after receiving the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the single dose of the J & J vaccine, recent studies have found that immunity may drop as low as 50% effective.  To bring immunity back up to 90%+, vaccinated individuals require a booster dose.  

Will the vaccines protect people from the newer strains (variants) of the virus?
The coronavirus continues to spread and mutate. Evidence shows that all three vaccines approved in the US (Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna) provide some protection against all the variants.  The Delta variant spreads quickly and may lead to more severe disease and hospitalizations, especially in young people and unvaccinated people. The Omicron variant and sub-variants are the dominant strain in terms of number of new cases.  The Omicron strain is far more transmissible, putting medically vulnerable and seniors with less robust immune systems at more risk. Omicron also appears to be more resistant to COVID-19 medicines like monoclonal antibodies and cause more breakthrough cases in those without a booster shot. The spread of the virus and development of more mutations can all be stopped by getting vaccinated and boostered and following CDC guidelines if you have COVID-like symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has COVID.

If a person is vaccinated, can they still get COVID?
Because no vaccine is 100% effective, some people will get COVID-19. These vaccine breakthrough cases are expected. A CDC study is among the first to show secondary benefits of vaccination for people who got COVID-19 after they were fully or partially vaccinated. Benefits included:

  • Fewer sick days in bed
  • Less likely to have fever or chills
  • May be less likely to spread the virus to others

While vaccines must be highly effective to be approved for use, no vaccine provides 100% immunity. The Omicron variant also appears to cause more breakthrough cases in vaccinated persons who have not had a booster shot.  Even individuals who have had 2 doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should get a booster and continue to take precautions in public and when around unvaccinated people. 

If a person has already had and recovered from COVID, do they still need to get vaccinated?
Yes. Most experts recommend getting vaccinated once 90 days have passed from a prior infection.  This is because data shows that some people with mild infections do not have full immunity, so those people can benefit from a vaccine to strengthen their protection against reinfection.  Recent data also shows that any immunity an unvaccinated person may have developed after recovering from COVID wanes after 6 - 8 months.

Will we need to get vaccinated every year?
The FDA and the scientists and health and medical experts who developed the vaccines are continuing to study the virus and vaccines closely to understand how long immunity lasts and how well the vaccines protect against new mutations of the virus. Just like the flu vaccine, an annual COVID booster is likely.  Everyone ages 5 and older should get a booster shot 5 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, especially the following groups:

  • 65 years and older
  • Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
  • Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
  • Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings

More information about boosters.

What about "long covid"?  Long COVID or post-COVID-19 syndrome is an array of symptoms that present four to eight weeks after acute illness has passed. Long COVID can affect both adults and children. The condition is thought to affect as many as 30 percent of patients and can include a continuation of symptoms suffered during the acute phase — shortness of breath or fatigue, for example — along with new symptoms that occur after patients feel like they’ve recovered: chest discomfort, severe pain, dizziness, vomiting, brain fog. Even people who did not have any symptoms can experience long COVID, which can present as different types and combinations of health problems and can range in lengths of time. More Q & A about long COVID.

Vaccination may reduce the risk of long COVID in two ways. The first is by reducing the risk of becoming infected with COVID in the first place. A recent study also shows that fully vaccinated people who experience breakthrough infections are about 50% less likely to develop long COVID than people who are infected without having been vaccinated. 

What does it cost to get vaccinated?
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people for free. Vaccine providers are allowed to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. This fee will be paid by your insurance provider or Medicare. If you do not have health insurance, the vaccination is free.

Where can I get vaccinated?
Check here for the latest Nebraska information.  Health districts and local health departments may be prioritizing other age groups, such as adults 50 and older. For more information about eligibility in your county, visit your local health department website.

Lancaster County  Lancaster County residents age 6 months and older are eligible for Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Children 5 years and older may also receive the vaccine from their Lincoln pediatricians' offices (the vaccine for children under 5 will be available soon).  All minor children 18 years old and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian when receiving vaccine. Other vaccines should not be given two weeks before or two weeks after receiving COVID-19 vaccine.  Check for the latest Lincoln/Lancaster County information.   An online COVID-19 vaccine registration form for Lancaster County residents is available at COVID19.lincoln.ne.gov.  Those who do not have online access or who need assistance may call LLCHD’s COVID-19 hotline at 402-441-8006 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays to register.  Those who are registered will be given an appointment to be vaccinated. Appointments for vaccinations are dependent on vaccine supply and are not related to the order in which people register. 

In Lincoln, vaccines are also available by appointment or walk-in, at HyVee, WalMart, Sam's Club, Costco, and CVS pharmacies. Vaccines are available at Rely Care pharmacies with appointment. Nebraskans can visit any available pharmacy regardless of jurisdiction.  The pharmacies are:

  • Wells Drug at 113 S. 4th St. in Albion
  • Alliance Community Pharmacy at 2409 Box Butte Ave. in Alliance
  • Ashland Pharmacy Inc. at 1401 Silver St. in Ashland
  • Clabaugh Pharmacy at 501 Court St. in Beatrice
  • Walmart at 1882 Holly St. in Blair
  • Walmart at 510 Linden St. in Chadron
  • Walmart at 818 E. 23rd St. in Columbus
  • Walmart at 1800 E. 29th St. in Crete
  • Emerson Apothecary at 1003 S. Main St. Ste 2 in Emerson
  • Walmart at 2831 Highway 15 in Fairbury
  • Walmart at 3010 E. 23rd St. in Fremont
  • Weaver Pharmacy at 1014 G St. in Geneva

Where can I be tested for COVID 19?
Testing is available from:

  • CHI Health St. Elizabeth: Autumn Ridge Family Medicine, 5000 North 26th St. and Southwest Family Health, 1240 Aries Drive.  Call either site to schedule an appointment: Autumn Ridge, 402-435-5300 and South West Family, 402-420-1300. 
  • Testing is also available without an appointment at the three Bryan Urgent Care locations, 7501 S. 27th St., 5901 N. 27th St. and 4333 S. 86th St. To check wait times, call 402-481-6343.
  • Several pharmacies including CVS, HyVee and Walgreens along with other health care provider offices and urgent care clinics also offer testing. If a person is uninsured or underinsured, they can call the COVID-19 hotline at 402-441-8006 and the health department will connect them to testing resources.

Free at-home self tests are available from several sources CDC.gov/testsMore information about self-tests from the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Do we have to continue health measures like wearing masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing, and avoiding crowded and confined spaces after being vaccinated?  
Until community spread drops to very low levels, wearing masks is advised in certain circumstances.  If you are vaccinated and received a booster against COVID-19, you can enjoy the outdoors without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart except in crowded areas. Because of the highly transmissible omicron variant, vaccinated people in counties with substantial or high transmission of the infection should still wear masks in confined spaces, crowded outdoor or indoor spaces, and where masks and distancing are required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, including local business and workplace guidance.  Healthy people people who are vaccinated and boostered are still protected against severe disease, hospitalization and death. Proper fitting KF94, N95, and KN95  masks continue to be a highly effective tool to prevent COVID-19 spread.

Are we required to get the vaccine?
No, but it is our best chance at returning to our lives by keeping ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and our economy safe and healthy.  However, employers may require employees to get vaccinated, similar to how many healthcare facilities may require their employees to be vaccinated for Hepatitis B or Influenza.

When might we expect to go “back to normal”?
Like influenza, some form of COVID may always be with us.  While COVID-19 continues to be a serious threat to public health, we have the tools to help us stay healthy. Vaccination, well-fitting masks, and testing all work to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and can help keep us on a path to ending the pandemic. Our best defense against COVID is staying up to date on COVID vaccinations.