Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine

Updated 9/6/2021 Pfizer now FDA approved for 16 and older.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?teens with covid vaccine

The US has three COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is now FDA approved for ages 5 years and up. It is approved for adolescents age 5-12 and recommended for Emergency Use Authorization in response to the pandemic.  In light of the current COVID surge, we highly recommend vaccination for all eligible patients. While we list the rare risks of vaccination in this post, the benefit to individuals, families, and the public at-large far outweigh the negligible risks. We strongly feel that Widespread Vaccination is our only hope at ending this pandemic and ask that our patients and families strongly consider vaccination. Thank you to those who have already chosen this life-saving option.

There are two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines with good safety and efficacy profiles. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is approved in persons aged ≥5 years and Moderna’s mRNA vaccine is approved in persons aged ≥18 years. The vaccine series reduces COVID by up to 100%.

There is ongoing data for long-term protection with both antibody and cellular immunity after the COVID-19 vaccines but data looks good so far, including protection against the Delta Variant and serious illness.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID Vaccine uses an inactivated cold virus to introduce a piece of the COVID spike protein DNA to your body, which then mounts an immune response. The vaccine reduced the original COVID virus by 70% and decreases hospitalizations in those who do get sick. This vaccine is approved in adults only.

We feel that the COVID-19 vaccine is the best hope for ending the pandemic. We recommend the vaccine in all eligible patients and adults. As the COVID virus mutates, younger populations are facing much more serious illness and act as stronger vectors for the spread of the virus. While widespread vaccination efforts are being made to protect our population as a whole, many parents question the risk versus benefit of the vaccine when it comes to their own children.

For females, the vaccine hasn’t caused fertility issues. I honestly don’t even know why this became a concern. Thus far, the vaccine has been safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding. The latest studies even show antibodies crossing over to baby, which offers protection to little ones who can’t protect themselves.

Although the relative risk remains low, caution should be taken in females under 50 years with the J&J vaccine. There are reports of blood clots and low platelets after receiving the J&J vaccine in women age 18-49 years of age. For this population, I prefer the mRNA vaccine options.

For adolescent and young adult males, there are reports of myocarditis after the second Pfizer vaccine. Most cases have been mild and recovered easily.  After analysis, ACIP put out a statement that the benefit of the vaccine outweighs any potential risk. I don’t have a strong opinion on this statement. On one-hand, the full 2-dose series is required for reasonable protection against variant strains of the COVID virus, but even one dose of the vaccine seems to offer protection from serious illness with the Delta Variant. This causes room for consideration that we should weigh the risks and benefits of COVID vaccination in our adolescent male population. For COVID-naive patients with co-morbidities, including obesity, or those living with adults who cannot get vaccinated, the benefit of the full two-dose vaccine series outweighs the risk. For healthy adolescents with a normal BMI, especially those who have recovered from COVID and still show natural immunity to the virus, choosing to get the first dose of the vaccine and waiting on the second may be the best option for the individual. Although, this vaccine strategy causes gaps in widespread immunizations, the short-term data is still lacking not to give families an alternative approach.

How do I protect my child who isn’t eligible for the vaccine?

As people unmasked and practiced less social distancing, we saw a rise in respiratory infections, such as  RSV. The SARS-2 DELTA VARIANT then surged, and the virus continues to mutate. Variants can cause more serious disease and are more resistant to vaccination. Until more of our population can receive the vaccine, we must continue to be cautious and try to limit exposures. This includes practicing social distancing, wearing masks, staying home when you are sick, and washing hands frequently. We have to remember that we are all in this together, and together, we can make a difference. Thankfully, our office is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In an effort to combat serious illness this Fall, I recommend getting the COVID Vaccine NOW and the Influenza Vaccine once it is available.

How does the M-RNA COVID vaccine work and is it safe?

Currently, Pfizer and Moderna have brought mRNA COVID vaccines to market. While it seems like an overnight sensation, mRNA technology has been researched for 25 years. Even more, SARS vaccine research has been in place since 2003, which helped in the timely development of the COVID-19 vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.

Vaccines, as we know them, introduce a viral protein to your body and induce an immune response that is similar to natural infection. mRNA vaccines, on the other hand, simply give the body instructions to produce one very specific part of a virus — in this case the so-called spike protein found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 — to then induce an immune response.

The mRNA is wrapped in a lipid nanoparticle, which helps it get in the cells of your body before it is quickly broken down. mRNA is just a messenger. It does not get into the nucleus of the cell, it does not get into our genes, and it cannot change our genetic make-up or make you infertile.

When you get an intramuscular injection of mRNA, the muscle tissue at the site of the injection and the corresponding lymph nodes (if given in the arm, the lymph nodes in your armpit), the spleen and to some extent the liver make the COVID virus spike protein. Since only the spike proteins are produced, the vaccine will not and cannot cause the COVID-19 infection. The majority of the spike protein is produced in the first 2-3 days after injection. mRNA only survives for a short time. After a few days, routine mechanisms in our cells shut down the mRNA and thus the spike protein production stops. Our immune system then makes antibodies against the COVID virus spike proteins.

If the vaccinated person then encounters the real, live COVID-19 virus, our immune system recognizes the spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and mobilizes the antibodies that were produced when you received the vaccine. Those antibodies are ready to help you fight the infection.

The COVID-19 vaccine is our best hope for ending the pandemic. The vaccine is new to market and poses a lot of questions. I hope we’ve answered some of them #PhillipsPediatrics #OxfordMommyDoc #vaxupms #thisisourshot #covid19.

COVID Vaccine in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talking with a healthcare provider may help you make an informed decision. While breastfeeding is an important consideration, it is rarely a safety concern with vaccines.

Thus far, mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have been safe in pregnant and lactating women and are showing benefit to infants.

To make sure that more information is gathered regarding the safety of these vaccines when administered during pregnancy, pregnant people are encouraged to enroll in v-safe, CDC’s new smartphone-based tool being used to check-in on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. If pregnant people report health events through v-safe after vaccination, someone from CDC may call to check on them and get more information. Additionally, pregnant people enrolled in v-safe will be contacted by CDC and asked to participate in a pregnancy registry that will monitor them through pregnancy and the first 3 months of infancy.

Can children get the vaccine?

The vaccine is only approved for adolescent patients 5 years and older.

Where can I get my COVID vaccine?

You can visit the Mississippi State Department of Health website for vaccine sites and other information on the COVID-19 vaccine.

We recommend the Lafayette County Health Department or local pharmacies (Chaney’s, G&M, Oxford Rx) for adolescent vaccines.They are also available at commercial pharmacies (CVS, Kroger, Walgreen’s).