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The Kansas City metro is expected to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses by Wednesday, according to officials at the University of Kansas Health System, and while it will be some time before the vaccine is available to the general public, Johnson County health officials say its time for residents to start thinking about getting the vaccine.
Here’s a look at some questions Post readers may have about getting the COVID-19 vaccine:
- What is the process for getting the vaccine? COVID-19 vaccinations are administered in two separate shots, spaced 21 to 28 days apart. According to the Centers for Disease Control the first shot helps your immune system recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens the immune system’s response. NBC recently reported that the Pfizer vaccine is 50% effective a week after the first dose is administered and 95% effective after the second dose at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
- Are there side effects? The FDA says the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has shown to have mild side effects, including pain or soreness at the injection site, mild headaches, joint pain and fever. Those effects are typical of many vaccines, including the annual influenza vaccine.
- If I’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, should I still get a vaccine? It isn’t clear at this time whether or not having had COVID-19 will protect you from getting it again. The CDC says researchers aren’t exactly sure how long natural immunity from having the illness will last. Because of this, the CDC has not made any formal recommendation on whether or not individuals who have had COVID-19 should get vaccinated. However, NPR reports that roughly 5-10% of participants in vaccine trials were shown to have already had COVID-19, so getting the vaccine if you’ve already been infected appears to be safe.
- Why isn’t the vaccine more widely available? There is only a limited supply of the vaccine so the first doses will be given to higher-risk populations, like healthcare workers and nursing home facility staff and residents. Currently, the U.S. has about 100 million doses, good enough to cover about 50 million individuals, since each person requires two shots. Pfizer officials have said the U.S. government turned down offers to buy an additional 100 million doses earlier this year before the vaccine was fully developed.
- How many doses of the vaccine is Kansas getting? Kansas expects to receive 24,000 doses in its first shipment from Pfizer this week. Another 100,000 doses are expected to ship one week after the first shipment.
- Will I have to pay for the COVID vaccine? No, at least initially. The CDC says, for now, the COVID-19 vaccine will be free to all Americans who get it, even if they are uninsured. Patients with private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid will have it covered, and health care providers who provide shots to the uninsured will be able to apply for reimbursements. Still, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says providers may charge an administration fee for a shot, but no one should be turned away for inability to pay a fee.
- Is the vaccine mandated by the state of Kansas? According to KDHE, the state is not mandating vaccinations. Representatives from the University of Kansas Health System also said last week that they were not requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, though getting the vaccine was strongly encouraged.
- Will we have to get COVID shots every year after this? During a University of Kansas Health System press briefing last week Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, said that while no one can really say yet what the efficacy of the immunization will be after a year or two, he expected that individuals will need to get booster shots in the future.
- Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? While the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, they still had to undergo rigorous safety testing and they would not have been made available to the public if they were not determined to be safe, according to the CDC. Steven Stites, the chief medical officer at KU Health, pointed out last week that not getting inoculated poses far more risk than getting the vaccine.
- Who’s eligible to get a vaccine in Johnson County right now? The first individuals eligible to receive the vaccine will be healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents.
- When will the general public be able to access the vaccine? The general public is expected to have access to the vaccine starting in spring or early summer of 2021.