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The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines, also known as mRNA vaccines. These are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases, but they have been known and researched for decades. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein from the virus—or even just a piece of that protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies later.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is similar to mRNA vaccines. They all use a piece of the virus’ genetic code for a piece of the virus’ outer shell. After getting vaccinated, the muscle cells make that piece of the virus, then our immune systems react to that and remember it for the future if we get exposed, killing the invading virus and stopping the infection. With the Janssen vaccine, however, that piece of the virus’ genetic code is inserted into an adenovirus (think common cold) that has been modified so that it cannot replicate and cannot make you sick. Our cells open up the adenovirus, make the piece of the virus’ outer shell, and the process continues as described above. The benefit of this adenovirus vector is that it permits for easier storage and handling of the vaccine because it does not have to be stored frozen like the mRNA vaccines.
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There are multiple COVID vaccines at various stages of the development, approval and distribution process. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are FDA approved and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered under Emergency Use Authorization. Clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed more than 90% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID. That means the rate of catching COVID in vaccinated participants was less than 10% of the rate seen in those who received placebo. There is still a chance of infection post-vaccination.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine has been shown in clinical trials including over 40,000 subjects to have a 66% efficacy rate in preventing symptomatic COVID. It has a 93% efficacy rate in preventing hospitalization >14 days after vaccination. No hospitalizations occurred in vaccinated subjects >28 days after vaccination. Seven COVID-related deaths occurred in the placebo group and none in the vaccinated group. This means that those who are vaccinated, if they do get COVID, are extremely unlikely to get a severe enough illness to require hospitalization or become fatal.
As with other vaccines, the more people who get immunized, the greater the community-wide protection against the disease.
While the COVID vaccines are relatively new, the clinical trials and vetting vaccines go through are not. The speed of the vaccine development process may make people wary, but there have been multiple layers of safety and quality assurance. As was the case for other vaccines in the past, oversight and review of the COVID vaccine authorization process by the FDA and CDC was led by panels of independent experts. Washington was also a member of the Western States Pact, which created the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup for another layer of scrutiny and expert review to this process.
Side effects that have been reported with the COVID-19 vaccine include:
For the two-dose vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer), one or more of these side effects are to be expected in up to 1-in-4 people after the first dose and 1-in-2 after the second dose. They generally occur the day after vaccination and are normal signs that the vaccine is working. You can take fever or pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen if needed or apply a cool compress to the injection site. Contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned or if the symptoms don’t go away within two days (48 hours).
About half of those receiving the Janssen vaccine experience one or more of the side effects listed above.
There is a remote chance that the vaccine could cause a treatable but severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This was not observed during the clinical trials, but has been observed very rarely following the first doses of Pfizer (11 per million) and Moderna (2.5 per million). This is similar to the rate of anaphylaxis for other vaccines. Anaphylaxis usually occurs within 30 minutes after getting a dose of the vaccine and most persons with anaphylaxis have a prior history of allergies or allergic reactions, including some with previous anaphylaxis events;
Prior allergy or anaphylaxis is not a reason to avoid vaccination, though. Only allergy to the COVID vaccines themselves or their ingredients are a reason to not get vaccinated. Vaccination sites are prepared to handle this reaction and observe patients for an appropriate period of time before releasing them. If you have a history of anaphylaxis and are concerned about getting the COVID vaccine, discuss this concern with your health care provider.
If you have a severe allergic reaction, and are not still at the vaccine clinic, seek medical attention or call 911 immediately. The CDC has also created V-safe, a platform for people to share information on their side effects and reactions. All vaccine recipients are encouraged to sign up for this system to provide additional information about the vaccine’s side effects as vaccination is implemented. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/vsafe.
No. The vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and cannot give you COVID-19.
There are multiple COVID vaccines, so be sure to check with your medical provider for specific instructions. The Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine requires two (2) doses, with the second dose given at least 21 days after the first one. The Moderna vaccine also requires two (2) doses, with the second dose given 28 days after the first one. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine initially requires one dose, followed by a booster after two months. Certain immunocompromised individuals may also receive a third dose of a mRNA vaccine as recommended by their medical provider.
Boosters are now available and recommended for anyone who is more than six months past their second dose of Moderna or Pfizer, or at least two months past their first dose of J&J vaccine.
If a person received vaccines in another country, we only provide boosters for those that are licensed in the U.S.
There are, unfortunately, already scams circulating related to COVID-19 vaccine. Know how to spot vaccine scams. Remember that there are no pre-payments required to “get in line” for vaccination, you cannot pay for early access, vaccines are not available for purchase online, and vaccines must be administered by licensed medical professionals. Turn to your doctor, clinic, or other reliable sources if you are uncertain whether a message or email about COVID vaccine is legitimate. If you receive a vaccination-related communication from someone other than your health care provider, health insurance provider, or employer, you have reason to be suspicious.
You can check back at www.snohd.org/covidvaccine for additional tools to find reliable vaccination options in Snohomish County. These will be added as they become available. You can also reach the Snohomish Health District COVID call center at 425-339-5278 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.
Vaccine is now readily available through a number of providers in Snohomish County. To find more information and provider near you, go to www.snohd.org/covidvaccine.
The FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 12 years of age or older and it may be administered to those ages 5 to 11 under the existing Emergency Use Authorization. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for those 18 years of age or older. Tell your vaccine provider about all of your medical conditions. You should not get the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of the same vaccine or a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine.
Yes, when you are eligible to get the vaccine, it is recommended that you do so. We are still learning about COVID. While reinfection appears to be rare so far, it is possible to get COVID more than once. If you currently have COVID, wait until after your isolation period is done to get vaccinated. Talk with your healthcare provider for additional guidance.
Right now, only the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been approved or authorized for distribution. You may see the Pfizer vaccine marketed or referred to as Comirnaty, and the Moderna vaccine as Spikevax. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Washington State Department of Health have recommended getting one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) over the J&J vaccine. All of the vaccines that have been approved or authorized are shown to be safe and effective in multiple rounds of clinical trials.
There may be a vaccine that is more appropriate for you than another. We encourage you to talk with your healthcare provider to know what is recommended for your circumstances. While you do have the option to watch for availability of the vaccine you want to get, it is best not to wait if another vaccine brand is available sooner, unless you have talked to your doctor and there is a medical reason to avoid a certain brand of vaccine.
The Secretary of Health's mask mandate requires everyone age 5 and older, even those that are fully vaccinated, to wear a mask in most indoor public settings. Masks are strongly encouraged in crowded outdoor settings, as well.
There is a lot of great information out there on masking, including from the Washington State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, the Department of Labor and Industries, and Governor Jay Inslee. We encourage you to check out those resources.
As of June 30, 2021 most pre-pandemic activities have resumed. Please continue to check state guidance if you are uncertain.
No. They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way, and no microchip is present. The genetic code of the coronavirus never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the foreign virus’ code soon after it is finished using the instructions.
You may see some rumors about ingredients listed online or in social media. These are generally myths. The ingredients in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are pretty typical for a vaccine, as are the ingredients in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They contain the active ingredient of mRNA or adenovirus along with other ingredients like fat, salts, and sugars that protect the active ingredient, help them work better in the body, and protect the vaccine during storage
There is a lot of misinformation or disinformation circulating about the COVID-19 vaccines. Reliable sources include your local public health agency (Snohomish Health District), the Washington State Department of Health, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you have specific questions or concerns, please talk through them with a professional healthcare provider.
Information addressing some of the most common misinformation about the COVID vaccines can also be found at www.snohd.org/vaxupsnoco.
You should receive a CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Card at the time you are getting vaccinated. As the CDC provides a limited amount of cards with each ancillary kit that is supplied with vaccine, for accountability purposes, Snohomish Health District provides CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Cards at the time of vaccination only. Replacement cards are not available.
The Washington State Department of Health is in charge of maintaining vaccine records in the Immunization Registry known as the Washington State Immunization Information System (WAIIS). Residents are able to access their records through the resident portal to print official COVID-19 Vaccine certificates on MyIR at MyIR.net. For any issues, a hotline specialist can be reached at 833-VAX-HELP. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. Snohomish Health District can also provide the official WAIIS record to any resident in the county, or any person that was vaccinated by Snohomish Health District regardless of county of residence. If you are having trouble accessing your record on MyIR, please submit a request for your official WAIIS record by emailing email@example.com.
If you were vaccinated outside of Washington state, please go here for a list of contacts that can assist you in locating your vaccination information.
In the case that you lose your physical card, the following may be used as proof of vaccination:
The Washington State Department of Health has more information about what qualifies as acceptable proof of vaccination here.
Booster doses are recommended for everyone 12 and older who is at least five months past their initial series of Pfizer-BioNTech, and for everyone 18 and up who is at least six months past their initial series of Moderna or at least two months past their initial Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Pfizer and J&J’s boosters are both full doses, while Moderna’s booster is a half dose. Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. According to the FDA and CDC, studies found “mixing and matching” boosters is safe and effective. This means your booster shot does not have to be the same COVID-19 vaccine type your primary vaccination was. For example, someone who received the J&J vaccine can receive a booster dose of J&J, Pfizer, or Moderna. Likewise, someone who received two doses of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) can receive a Moderna, Pfizer, or J&J booster. People should talk with their healthcare provider if they have questions on which vaccine is best for them.