Doctors Answer Patient Questions About COVID Vaccination

(StatePoint) The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging Americans to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible and continue precautions against COVID-19 infection. But patients have many questions.

“For more than a year, physicians and public health officials have asked us to mask up, physically distance and do all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 in an effort to save lives while scientists developed vaccines to help bring us back to normal,” says AMA President, Susan R. Bailey M.D. “With vaccines here and available to all Americans over 16, it’s your turn.”

Here are the AMA’s answers to top patient questions.

• How do we know COVID-19 vaccines are safe? COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials with participants of different races, ages, ethnicities and medical conditions to ensure they meet safety standards. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed all trial safety data before authorizing vaccines for emergency use and are continuing to monitor their safety to ensure even very rare side effects are identified.

• Which vaccine should I get? Three vaccines are now available in the United States: those made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals. All are safe and highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalizations and death. The vaccines were studied at different times, in different countries and under different conditions, making comparisons difficult. However, the best vaccine is the first one available to you.

• Should I get the vaccine if pregnant or breastfeeding? There isn’t definitive data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women, but no untoward effects have been reported. Data suggest when pregnant individuals contract COVID-19, they have increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death, along with risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. All pregnant individuals should have an opportunity to receive a vaccination. If you have questions, speak with your physician and make decisions based on risk of exposure to COVID-19.

• How do I know when I’m eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine? As of April 19, all people age 16 and up in every state are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Additional information about eligibility and timeline can be found at your local public health department website found at www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/. Vaccination information changes quickly, so check back frequently.

• Will COVID-19 vaccines be available for young children? Vaccines aren’t currently authorized for anyone under 16, as only adults participated in clinical trials. As trials are completed in younger populations, vaccines may become available.

• Once I’m vaccinated, can I stop wearing masks and practicing physical distancing? The CDC has phased out certain prevention measures for fully vaccinated people allowing them to resume some lower-risk activities. The CDC guidance allows fully vaccinated people in non-health care settings to visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing. They no longer need to wear a mask outdoors while walking, running, hiking or biking alone, or when in small gatherings, including with members of their own households. However, masks are still necessary in crowded outdoor venues like sports stadiums, the CDC says. Additionally, fully vaccinated people should continue taking precautions -- wearing masks, physical distancing and adhering to other prevention measures -- when in public and when visiting unvaccinated people at increased risk for severe disease or who have an unvaccinated household member at increased risk. Follow CDC and health department guidance as it updates at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html.

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