The virus is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. As of March 2021, there have been over 110,000,000 cases confirmed globally. With various COVID-19 vaccines now readily available throughout most of the United States, new questions fill our daily conversations as we all try to navigate the ongoing pandemic.
1. What symptoms should I look for if I suspect COVID-19?
These symptoms, or combinations of symptoms, generally appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and may prompt you to suspect you have COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Congestion or sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
While this list is not all-inclusive, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider if you develop any other symptoms that are new, severe, or concerning to you.
2. Can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine if I am currently sick with COVID-19?
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are currently experiencing symptoms, it is not recommended for you to receive the vaccine. It is important to wait to be vaccinated until you have recovered and have met the following criteria:
- It has been at least 10 days since the symptom started
- It has been 24 hours since you have been fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications
- All other COVID-19 symptoms have improved
This recommendation also applies if you get COVID-19 before getting your second dose of vaccine.
3. Will the COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
None of the current COVID-19 vaccines or those 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.
The COVID-19 vaccine teaches our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Like the flu vaccine, the vaccination 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.
Typically, it takes our bodies a few weeks to build up protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. It is possible you 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.
4. If I have an underlying health condition, should I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccinations are an important consideration for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions because they are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Any mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions if they have not previously had any severe or allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have further questions about your eligibility and any further questions you may have before receiving the vaccine.
5. After receiving the vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?
Neither the recently released COVID-19 vaccines nor those currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on a viral test, which is a test done to assess a current COVID-19 infection.
If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccines, 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.
6. Once I have received a COVID-19 vaccine, do I need to continue to wear a mask?
The current COVID-19 vaccines do not provide 100% protection. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, both a two dose vaccine, offer 94% to 95% protection against symptomatic infections. The Johnson & Johnson’s single dose Covid-19 vaccine is now available and offers 85% efficacy against severe forms of Covid-19 and 100 percent efficacy against hospitalization and death.
Currently, there is no way of knowing who will not respond to the vaccine and whether they will still be at risk for contracting COVID-19. To reach herd immunity, 50% to 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated.
While the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are considered highly effective and a step in the right direction, it will be important to continue masking and following social distancing guidelines. By doing so, you can help reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on our healthcare system.
As the COVID-19 vaccines bring the pandemic under control, there is hope for a return to our daily lives, it may just look like a new normal. If you have questions regarding any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available, make time to visit with your healthcare provider so that you can ask questions and make an informed decision. Social distance and wear a mask when unable to maintain social distancing in public places or if you are around people who do not live in the same household, and most importantly, Stay Safe.