The Covid-19 vaccine will be open to all Montanans on April 1st! We sat down with our Medical Director, Dr. Melissa Casper, to answer some frequently asked questions about the Covid-19 vaccines.

 

If I get the COVID vaccine, am I actually getting COVID?

None of the vaccines being offered in the U.S. use the live virus that causes COVID-19, and they cannot give you the disease. Instead, the vaccines are able to train the human body to recognize and fight the coronavirus.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines deliver a little bit of genetic code to your cells to encourage your body to produce antibodies (proteins that fight off invaders like viruses, bacteria, parasites – all that not-so-good stuff). The Johnson & Johnson vaccine works differently. It uses a harmless version of the virus that can no longer replicate to send a genetic message to your cells.

 

Is there one vaccine that is better or more effective than others?

All three available vaccines are safe and effective. While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is more convenient because it only requires one shot, all three offer great protection from the potential negative health effects of Covid-19.

 

Are any of the COVID vaccines dangerous?

Millions of people across the country and world have received Covid-19 vaccines, which have undergone the most intense vaccine safety monitoring in U.S. history. The CDC reports that the vaccines are safe and effective – they have been tested in large clinical trials, and data shows that the known and potential harms of becoming infected with COVID-19 overwhelmingly outweighs potential risks of the vaccine. Safety monitoring has continued with rigorous systems in place to track problems or side effects.

 

I have heard of people getting pretty sick from the vaccine… why is that happening and should I be worried about it?

While the coronavirus vaccines will not make you sick with COVID-19, they do cause side effects in some people. Commonly reported side effects include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, fever and muscle aches. Most of the reactions are temporary and are on their way out within a few days. While these side effects aren’t exactly fun, they are a sign the vaccines are working!

If you’re more of a stats person, here’s some of the nitty-gritty data. As of January 21, 2021, more than 2 million people reported their symptoms at least once on the CDC’s v-safe after-vaccine health checker after they received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

  • Up to 70% of those people reported pain in their arm
  • About one-third felt more tired than usual, and a little less than a third reported a headache
  • Chills or fever were noted by about 11% of people in the study, with 10.4% reporting joint pain, and 8.9%, nausea

 

Throughout history, the white medical establishment has done terrible things to the BIPOC community and BIPOC bodies. How can these communities trust that this vaccine isn’t another example of abuse disguised as medicine?

Distrust in accessing healthcare for BIPOC members of our communities is absolutely understandable – our country has a long history of systemic racism in all institutions, and public health is no exception. This is not only a tragedy of the past, either – medical racism is a current problem that urgently needs to be addressed. Recent research has demonstrated many ways that patients who are people of color are treated differently from white patients.

It is also important to know that racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. These disparities are because of social determinants of health (a fancy way of saying the conditions where people live, learn, work and play that affect your wellbeing). Racial discrimination in healthcare insurance and access, housing, education, occupation, criminal justice, finance and more can lead to the factors associated with more Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The vaccines have been proven through rigorous safety testing to be safe and effective, and by getting vaccinated, you can help protect your own health, your loved ones, and your community.

 

I am thinking of becoming pregnant soon. Is it a bad idea to get the vaccine? What if I am already pregnant- is it safe for me and my baby to get vaccinated?

A COVID-19 infection while pregnant can increase the risk of severe illness that can result in ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and even death. It can also increase of the risk of adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth.  Many pregnant and breastfeeding women have safely received the vaccine already, with no problems seen at all.

Studies also show that maternal antibodies to COVID, produced after mom receives the vaccine, pass through the umbilical cord and breast milk to babies and protects them from infection.  The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM, representing the nation’s high risk obstetricians), and American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM-infertility specialists) all recommend COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant and lactating women, given the reassuring safety data.

 

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility?

The fear that the vaccines interfere with fertility has spread rapidly through social media. However, there is no evidence that there is any link between infertility and the vaccines.

 

Can you get COVID-19 through sexual activity?

Covid-19 spreads by respiratory droplets that are released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or talks. Coming into contact with a person’s spit through kissing or other sexual activities could expose you – and people who have Covid-19 could also spread respiratory droplets onto their skin or personal belongings. It can also be spread through contact with feces. There isn’t evidence that Covid-19 is transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids, but further research is needed to determine if it can be spread sexually.

Since many people with Covid-19 show no symptoms, it’s still as important as ever to keep distance between yourself and others. This includes sexual contact with anyone who doesn’t live with you.

 

How will the COVID-19 vaccine affect the effectiveness of my birth control?

It won’t! There are a very few contraindications (conditions that indicate that the vaccine shouldn’t be used in that case) to receiving the vaccine. They most relate to allergies to vaccines themselves or components of the vaccine. If you’re eligible for the vaccine, being on birth control doesn’t change whether or not you should receive it.

 

In what timeframe do you think Bozeman will reach herd immunity and we can go back to normal?

Unfortunately, no one knows the answer to this question with certainty. Given the current rate of vaccination combined with natural immunity from prior infection, some experts think that the United States will reach herd immunity (approximately 70-90% immunity) by mid-July.  However, herd immunity isn’t like an on/off switch, where all of a sudden you hit a magic number and then you’re there.  As immunity increases, both from vaccination and natural infection, virus transmission decreases – and every bit of decrease in transmission counts.

Long story short? It’s important to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and continuing to follow CDC recommendations around social distancing and masking. These steps are crucial to keep yourself, your loved ones, and community at large safe and healthy. We can do this!

 

For making your appointment here in the Gallatin Valley, head over to Healthy Gallatin for more info and sign-up!

It’s also important to note that there are still people in Gallatin County in high risk groups that haven’t been vaccinated yet – so for younger, low risk people who can travel more easily, you can travel to neighboring counties to get vaccinated. In neighboring counties, there are issues with using the supply before it expires, so it’s actually a benefit for people travel to where the vaccine is available so it doesn’t go to waste!