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What would you want to ask a doctor about the COVID-19 vaccine? Get answers here

FOX43 took your questions to an infectious disease expert to get answers on the COVID-19 vaccine

What questions do you have about the COVID-19 vaccination?

FOX43 is getting answers from infectious disease expert Dr. Patrick Gavigan at Penn State Health.

Why should I get it? 

"I think there are two big benefits for it. One is it's providing protection for yourself, for the person getting the vaccine, and that it significantly reduces the chances of you getting COVID- meaning having symptomatic disease from infection of this virus. It also very likely protects the people around you. So, we don't have all the data regarding how much it interrupts or stops transmission. But it's very likely that at least to some degree it decreases the risk of transmitting this infection even if you are infected with it. So it's protective for you. It's protective for the people around you. And, really it's the big thing that's going to kind of get us back to a sense of normalcy that we had before this pandemic," said Dr. Gavigan.

Which vaccine is better?

"Essentially I would consider these both equivalent and right now we're talking about the Moderna and Pfizer one which are really the only ones you can get currently although the Johnson & Johnson one was kind of approved by the EUA (emergency use authorization)," said Dr. Gavigan. "Between the Moderna and the Pfizer one I would consider them equivalent. Whichever one you can get you should go ahead and get. Really these studies didn't compare the two vaccines so you know the 95% in the Pfizer vs the 94% that difference is you know is very much negligible."

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been shown to be 66% effective. Medical experts also note it was tested and approved after variants of the coronavirus had come out.  

Can you mix different COVID-19 vaccines? 

"No, so whatever one you get to start whether it's Pfizer or Moderna you should get that same one for the second dose as well," said Gavigan.

Why do Pfizer and Moderna require two doses and can you skip or delay the second dose?

"Right now no. All the data we have in terms of effectiveness comes with two doses and the thought is with that second dose of the vaccine is it kind of provides a booster to your immune system and antibody levels so it really increases the level of protection that you have after that second dose," he said.

Will it protect against variants?

"Yeah, that's I think probably the biggest question that we have right now. The data that we have on this so far is reassuring. That it's still, that the vaccines that we have are still pretty effective especially the ones we have here in the US. You know the research with these variants is ongoing. You never know in the future what kind of variant is going to pop up which I think only serves to emphasize how important it is to get the vaccine as soon as it's available for you because the sooner we can get everybody vaccinated you know the more it decreases the risk of these variants kind of popping up."

Is the vaccine cold when it goes into your arm?

"I hadn't heard that one. When I got it it was not cold," he said. "I haven't heard that from anyone else but ah in my personal experience and in the anecdotal experience that I've had it hasn't been cold," he said.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require specialized refrigeration due to 'ultra cold' requirements for the vaccine.

Is it okay to socialize after getting the vaccine?

"You should really still try to follow all the social distancing guidelines that have been in place. We don't know super well how good these vaccines are at preventing infection. So, all of these approval studies looked more at symptomatic disease. So, we don't have a great feel on how they work in terms of interrupting transmission yet. So, with the numbers high like they are now even after being vaccinated you should still follow the usual social distancing guidelines," he said.

Does the vaccine have a microchip?

"No, none of them have microchips- the Pfizer, the Moderna. None of the other vaccines you can get have microchips," he said.

Was the vaccine too rushed and should I be scared of getting it?

"I think this is a common concern that comes up," he said. "I think the better way to think about it is not as rushed but as more compressed. So none of the usual steps were skipped when kind of going through this vaccine process. But there was a number of them that kind of happened concurrently. So, phase II and phase III studies you know back to back as opposed to previously when you'd have to wait for the results of some before continuing into the next phase of study. And, that's really a testament to how much resources and time and work went into these vaccines and that people, governments, and companies invested a lot so the timeline could be shortened without skipping any of the usual steps."

If I get the vaccine, can I still get COVID-19?

"Unfortunately yes. So, these vaccines aren't 100% effective. You know they seem best at preventing symptomatic and especially severe disease. But there's still a risk for COVID infection so again you really want to practice a lot of the good social distancing and kind of hand hygiene measures that we've been following," he said.

Will I have to get this shot every year?

"Another great question and probably one we don't have a good answer to yet. So we don't yet know. Again we've only just started vaccinating people it's unclear how long these protections from the vaccine last for. So, that's something that's going to have to be continuously reevaluated."

How does the vaccine impact different races and age groups?

"At least based off of the Moderna and Pfizer data that we have seen really as effective across all age groups. There's always a concern in older people they may not be able to mount immune response to vaccines but these still seem to be effective in those older age groups," he said.

"There were no differences seen across different races or ethnicities. And really no reason to think that the vaccine would work better in one race or ethnicity over another."

What are the most common side effects and why don't some people experience them?

"I don't know if we know 100% why each individual person will have the side effects that they do.The common things that we're seeing are kind of pain at the injection site. Most of the side effects, nearly all, are going to be mild, short-lived. Fever- that's probably the next most common. Or, just fatigue. There's a very very small risk for anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction after these vaccines. But, for the most part they're minor, mild symptoms. Most often just pain at the site of the injection," he said.

Has anyone that you know of died or been seriously sickened from taken the vaccine?

"No, no one that I know personally," he said. "The biggest concern coming out initially was anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions to these vaccines. The data that we've seen so far these reactions are super rare. Moderna was something like 2 per million doses. The Pfizer was maybe closer to 10 per million doses. So really uncommon, really rare reactions. As far as I know there haven't been any deaths attributed to the vaccines."