COVID-19 has made itself comfortable in our communities and has continued to evolve. As this virus changes, so have the protocols and treatments (specifically the vaccines) to keep people safe and healthy. Read on for the answers to the most commonly asked COVID vaccine and vaccine booster questions.

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1. How do the COVID-19 Vaccines Work?

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Vaccines have been around for a long time and it is thanks to these developments that people live better, healthier lives. When the pandemic was in full swing, scientists took it upon themselves to develop vaccines for this deadly virus in record time. Like other vaccines, the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines protect individuals from getting severely ill or even dying from COVID.

mRNA Vaccines

Unlike other vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this type of vaccine trains the cells in our body to make a protein or “piece of protein” which then prompts an immune response. Moderna and Pfizer, therefore, protect a person without them possibly getting sick with COVID-19 from the vaccine itself.

Adenovirus Vaccines

J&J is considered an adenovirus vaccine. As Nebraska Medicine puts it, “the Johnson & Johnson vaccine delivers the virus’ DNA to your cells to make the spike protein. An adenovirus acts as a delivery vehicle used to carry the coronavirus genetic material (DNA). The adenovirus delivers the little piece of DNA to the cell that will then make the spike protein.”

Why are Second Doses Necessary?

All three vaccines protect and help your body to develop antibodies against COVID. It is also important to note why the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require multiple doses to be effective, while J&J only requires one dose.

According to the Stanford Medicine News Center the first dose stimulates a part of the immune system that gives a wide range of antiviral protection, while the second dose has “powerful beneficial effects that far exceed those of the first dose.” That is why it is stressed that the second dose of the mRNA vaccines should not be skipped.

2. Are the Vaccines Effective Against the Delta & Omicron Variants?

The quick answer to this popular question is, yes. Viruses tend to be tricky and mutate. Variants of the COVID-19 virus are being tracked globally and as the CDC website mentions, “[these mutations or variants] are to be expected.” While most of these variants appear and disappear, some like the Delta and Omicron strains are sticking around and causing more of a raucous.

The Delta variant was identified in India and tends to spread more quickly than the earlier forms of COVID-19. Not only that, but the Delta variant may cause more severe symptoms in unvaccinated people.

As of Dec. 1, 2021, the variant Omicron was officially identified. According to Very Well Health, this new variant has been found in at least 19 countries and, “contains more unusual mutations than previous strains.” They continue to explain that Omicron could spread more easily and may even be vaccine resistant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reassures its readers that the current vaccines still protect against serious illness and hospitalization when it comes to this new strain.

The Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J vaccines have been proven to prevent serious complications and even death from COVID-19. These vaccines also slow the appearance of new variants.

3. Are Vaccines Approved for Ages 11 and Younger?

As of Oct. 29, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine became available for children ages 5-11, according to the FDA. In June 2022, the Moderna vaccine became available for ages 6 months to 5 years and the Pfizer vaccine became available for 6 months and older. Click here to read the press release.

Approval for vaccinating children 11 years and younger required additional clinical trails, according to National Geographic. It is true that children’s immune systems work differently than adults. The way their bodies react to things tends to be unpredictable. As children are growing, their bodies are being exposed to things they have never been exposed to before. This is why experts took the time with approving vaccines for children, especially if new side effects were to arise. The dosage for children 11 years and younger is also different than children aged 12 and older. Click here to learn more about the COVID vaccine for kids.

4. Are the Vaccines Safe for People with Breathing Issues?

According to the CDC, the vaccines are safe as long as the person does not have any immediate, severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or its ingredients. Medical News Today also mentions that the American Lung Association, in general, recommends people with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or breathing problems, such as asthma, should get vaccinated.

In fact, they strongly suggest that people with breathing conditions get the vaccine sooner rather than later because contracting COVID may cause more serious complications in people with these underlying breathing ailments.

5. Is it Possible to get COVID if You are Vaccinated?

Yes, but the good news is that only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated test positive for COVID-19. According to the CDC, the small number of people who get the virus after being fully vaccinated have very mild symptoms. This includes those who contract the Delta variant.

However, while symptoms are tolerable, the disease can still be transmitted by those who test positive for COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated. Click here for more information on what to do if you test positive or if you were around someone who tested positive. This includes the CDC’s guidelines on when to isolate or quarantine.

6. Is the COVID Booster Shot Necessary?

Just when you thought that you knew everything there is to know about the COVID vaccines, a booster shot is approved. Over time the effectiveness of the vaccines decreases and it is for this reason that boosters are necessary. The COVID booster helps keep the immune system strong and ready to fight the virus as it continues to change.

The Delta and Omicron variants are what experts in the United States call variants of concern due to their increased transmissibility and this is why COVID booster shots are so important. The writers of Very Well Health stress that boosters are vital in keeping communities protected against the mutating virus. In fact, “if people don’t get boosters, protection from [this virus] could drop below 50% after six months.”

The Moderna and J&J booster shots are officially approved for ages 18 and older. The Pfizer booster shot is approved for ages 12 and older. The CDC recommends Pfizer and Moderna recipients wait at least 5 months after their second dose before receiving the booster. J&J recipients may receive a booster if they were vaccinated 2 or more months ago.

In March 2022, the CDC approved a second booster shot for Moderna and Pfizer recipients at least 4 months after their initial booster dose. Click here to read the CDC’s press release. In May 2022, the CDC approved a booster shot for children ages 5-11. Visit our vaccine page for more information.

The CDC recommends a third dose in the vaccine series for those who are immunocompromised at least 28 days after their second dose. This includes children ages 5 and older, according to the CDC.

Also, the interchange of vaccines for the third dose is approved for ages 18 and older. This means if your first two doses were Moderna, you can get Pfizer as your third dose.

Schedule Your COVID Vaccine Appointment Today

Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine offers the COVID vaccine in Colorado. Walk-in or schedule your first dose or receive a booster shot at select clinics. Click here for a list of our clinics that offer vaccines and to schedule your appointment.

Check out vaccination rates in Colorado by visiting the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Do you have questions about pregnancy and COVID-19 vaccines? Click here to learn more about getting vaccinated while pregnant or if you are breastfeeding.