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Surgeon General RALPH L. ABRAHAM, M.D. | Secretary MICHAEL HARRINGTON
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COVID-19 Information

COVID-19 Vaccine: Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19?

In general, you are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks after you have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or two weeks after you have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).

As the science and the virus evolve, so does our understanding of what it means to be fully vaccinated.  Scientists and medical experts continue to closely watch for signs of waning vaccine immunity over time, how well the vaccines protect against new variants of the virus, and how that data differs across the population.

While additional or booster doses are recommended for some people, the CDC definition of what it means to be “fully vaccinated” has not changed at this time. More messaging guidance about booster doses can be found here.

Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID-19?

There are a few reasons why people who are vaccinated continue to get COVID-19. For one, no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing infection, and highly contagious variants have led to breakthrough infections among vaccinated people. Also, the level of protection from the vaccine decreases over time, leading to less protection against the virus. Ultimately, as the total number of vaccinated people increases, the pool of unvaccinated people gets smaller—that means proportionally, more cases will be among the vaccinated.

While vaccines are developed in part to prevent infection from disease, the main goal of vaccines is to prevent severe illness or death. The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, and can provide sustained protection when you receive a booster dose. When COVID-19 cases rise, breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals are significantly more likely to be mild cases, while unvaccinated people are more likely to become severely ill or require hospitalization. CDC data show that through December 25, 2021, the risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. was 16 times greater for unvaccinated adults than fully vaccinated adults.

What is the risk of having a severe adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?

The risk of having a serious adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine is very low—far lower than the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Common reactions to COVID-19 vaccination include mild side effects, such as limb soreness, fatigue, low-grade fever, headaches, and chills, which typically resolve within a few days.

Severe adverse reactions after vaccination are extremely rare, but can cause long-term health issues. Adverse events, such as anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions, blood-clotting syndromes, heart inflammation, autoimmune diseases impacting the nervous system, and death, have been reported within the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Of the hundreds of millions of doses provided in the US, the reports

If you have a question about the risks associated with vaccines, talk with your healthcare provider.

Why do I need a vaccine if I had COVID-19?

The CDC recommends all people age 5 and older get vaccinated against COVID-19, including people who were previously infected with the virus. Data show that immunity in people who have been infected with COVID-19 wanes over time, and scientists continue to study this. New data show that COVID-19 vaccination can provide a higher, more robust, and more consistent level of immunity to protect people from COVID-19 than antibodies from infection alone.

COVID-19 vaccination is effective in preventing reinfection in people who previously had COVID-19. One study, for example, showed that among people hospitalized with COVID-19, those who were previously infected with COVID-19 were 5 times more likely to get COVID-19 again if they were unvaccinated than people who were fully vaccinated. For that reason, even if you have already had COVID-19, vaccination is an important step to protect yourself and those around you.

Am I permanently immune after getting vaccinated? What about breakthrough infections?

Given that COVID-19 is an evolving virus, researchers and medical experts continue to monitor how long vaccines provide immunity, which groups may benefit from additional doses, and how well the vaccines protect against new variants of the virus.

COVID-19 vaccines, like all other vaccines, do not provide 100% immunity. But they have been shown to be extremely effective in preventing serious illness, and they provide continued protection during periods of peak respiratory virus spread, such as the fall and winter months.

“Breakthrough” COVID-19 infections refer to infections in people who have fully completed the recommended vaccination schedule. This type of infection is not uncommon and can occur for multiple reasons. With the benefit of protection from the COVID-19 vaccine, breakthrough infections typically produce mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. People who are not vaccinated continue to account for the vast majority of severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines are a very important tool to protect against serious health outcomes, however vaccination alone is not enough to protect the public. It is also encouraged to practice other precautionary measures such as wearing a mask, covering a sneeze with a bent elbow or tissue, handwashing, avoiding crowded and closed spaces, social distancing from others, and isolating when sick.

Those who have compromised immune systems particularly benefit from practicing all recommended health precautions, including being vaccinated. If you have questions about your risk of COVID-19, how to protect yourself, or the vaccines, consult with your healthcare provider.

Are children eligible for the shot?

Yes. Louisiana children ages 6 months and older are now eligible to receive the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

What COVID-19 vaccine is my child eligible for?

The COVID-19 vaccines your child is eligible for depend on their age and whether or not they have received a COVID-19 vaccine before. See the chart  and ask your doctor.

How Can I prove my vaccination status?

For answers to questions related to proof of vaccination status, using LA Wallet and replacement vaccination card, click here .

How can someone report an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine?

Any COVID-19 vaccine reaction that requires hospitalization should be immediately reported to the Office of Public Health (OPH) at 1-800-256-2748.

In addition, anyone can make a report to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reaction System (VAERS). This is a national early warning system designed to detect possible safety problems in U.S.-licensed vaccines. VAERS accepts and analyzes reports of adverse events (possible side effects) after a person has received a vaccination. Anyone can report an adverse event to VAERS at this link: https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html

What is the current state guidance for using a mask?

There is no longer a statewide mask mandate. We encourage people to follow the guidance in their workplaces, schools and local communities.

Who should take a COVID-19 test, and when should they be tested?

All people should take a COVID test immediately after an exposure to someone with COVID-19

  • If the test is positive, they should isolate immediately
  • If negative, they should retest again between five and seven days post-exposure.
  • If they COVID-19 symptoms develop, they should test and isolate pending the results.

If you are exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until you receive a negative test result.

Why are the vaccines so important?

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2021. More than 7,600 Louisianans died from COVID in 2020 — that’s more than the number of deaths caused by accidents, stroke and diabetes combined in Louisiana in 2017. The vaccines are critical to ending the pandemic and getting our lives back to normal.

Who is eligible for the vaccines?

Everyone in Louisiana ages 6 months and older are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Having a large portion of the population vaccinated is our best shot at a return to some form of normalcy. Based on conversations with our federal partners, we are encouraged that Louisiana will receive enough doses to vaccinate everyone who wants a shot.

Can the vaccines affect my fertility?

There is zero evidence that COVID vaccines affect fertility. The vaccines tell the body how to fight the protein that is on the outside of the coronavirus, but this protein is completely different from the protein that allows for successful reproduction. The antibodies your body produces to fight the coronavirus will not attack reproductive proteins.

How do the vaccines work?

Unlike many vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines do not contain a dead or a weakened virus that triggers an immune response. Instead, these vaccines contain a genetic instruction manual that tells your immune system how to respond and protect you from exposure to the actual virus.

The technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is not new. It is called mRNA, or messenger RNA, and it has been around for decades. This is the first time mRNA has been used in a vaccine, but the effect is the same as other vaccines: Your body gets protection without the serious consequences of a severe illness due to COVID-19 exposure.

The J&J vaccine works like many vaccines you are already familiar with. It uses an adenovirus vector, (in this case, a harmless cold virus) that carries the blueprint for the spike proteins on the virus’s surface. This virus works like a Trojan horse, infecting cells and replicating the coronavirus spikes. If you later become infected with the coronavirus, these replicated spikes are how your immune system recognizes and knows how to fight the real thing.

Are the vaccines effective?

Based on evidence from clinical trials, all three vaccines are 100% effective at preventing serious hospitalizations and deaths. That’s our most urgent, important goal. A recent CDC study of essential workers in real-world conditions found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines reduced the risk of infection by 80% after 1 dose and 90% after 2 doses. The CDC will continue to provide updates as it learns more about how the vaccines work in real-world conditions.

Are the vaccines safe? What does FDA authorization/approval mean?

Yes, the vaccines are safe and effective. FDA grants “full approval” for a vaccine after the manufacturer demonstrates the product is “safe, pure, and effective” which generally means completing robust, well-controlled clinical trials. By contrast, an “authorization” for the emergency use of a vaccine is granted to allow an otherwise unapproved product to be used during a public health emergency.

All three COVID-19 vaccines used in the US were authorized last year to be used to address the pandemic. Authorization for these vaccines followed clinical trials and an extensive review of the results of those trials.

Today, the Pfizer vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA. This approval is expected soon for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Are the vaccines OK if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

The CDC advises all pregnant people be given access to the vaccines. In Louisiana, anyone currently pregnant is currently eligible to be vaccinated.

While specific studies are ongoing, there has been no indication that there are negative effects for this population. Pregnant and breastfeeding people should discuss whether they should receive their vaccine with their providers.

What is the risk of COVID-19 to children?

COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (multi-inflammatory syndrome in children) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During a 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold.

COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Louisiana. Since the beginning of August, 25% of all new COVID-19 cases in Louisiana were in children. 

Tragically, LDH reported 9 pediatric deaths tied to the recent Delta surge alone. A total of 18 children in Louisiana have died of COVID since the pandemic began. 

Nationally, according to the FDA, at least 94 children ages 5 to 11 have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 8,300 have become so sick they needed to be hospitalized. In fact, COVID was the eighth-leading cause of death in the age group over the past year, after accidents, cancer, malformations, murder, heart disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, and flu or pneumonia. 

MIS-C is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 13. Since July 1 of this year, 107 cases of MIS-C have occurred in Louisiana children. (Nationally, by early October, 5,217 kids had come down with MIS-C, including 2,034 between 6 and 11, according to the CDC.)   

Why should you consider getting your child vaccinated?

Vaccination, along with other preventative measures, can protect children from COVID-19 using the safe and effective vaccines already recommended for use in adolescents and adults in the United States. Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 among children ages 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm. 

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone - and will continue to undergo - the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Vaccinating children will help protect them from getting COVID-19 and therefore reducing their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications. 

Getting your children vaccinated can help protect them against COVID-19, as well as reduce disruptions to in-person learning and activities by helping curb community transmission.