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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Coronavirus Vaccines: Your Questions Answered

Ernest Grant, the president of the American Nurses Association, is taking part in a Moderna coronavirus vaccine trial. He says he wants to increase trust in science.
Ernest Grant, the president of the American Nurses Association, is taking part in a Moderna coronavirus vaccine trial. He says he wants to increase trust in science.

Health News Florida is answering your questions about vaccines for the coronavirus.

A Vaccine for the Coronavirus has arrived and some Florida residents are among the first to get it.

WUSF and Health News Florida are reporting on each step of the process and we've been asking you for your questions. Were posting answers to those questions below.

Please share your questions on our form at the bottom of the story. If you're willing, a reporter may contact you.

Here are answers to some of the questions we've already received:

GETTING THE VACCINE

I am a 68-year-old snowbird that lives in Florida from November to April. However I am a Pennsylvania resident. Will I be able to receive a vaccination in Florida when it is available for elderly people?

From William Schaffner MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases:

The short answer is yes. You should be able to get the vaccine in Florida when it is available. But be mindful that you have to get 2 doses separated by 3 weeks and it has to be the same vaccine (i.e. Pfizer or Moderna). It would be most advisable for you to go back to the same provider because the records there will be the clearest and there will be no confusion. If you get the first vaccine in Florida, stay there for 3 weeks to get the second vaccine there as well.

I am 65 and live in a 55-plus community. When do you feel I can realistically expect to be able to get the vaccine?

From William Schaffner MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases:

The determining factor will be your age, not your community. You’ll be in the second or third group to receive a vaccine, likely by sometime this spring. We know healthcare providers are first, and then residents of long-term care facilities. We are waiting on advice from the CDC Advisory committee on who should go next -- essential workers, or people who are 65 or older.

WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS AND EFFECTS ON SPREAD?

[What are the] side effects [from the vaccines] for people with underlying health issues. Do they even know?

From Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center:

Both [Pfizer and Moderna vaccines] use messenger RNA technology, a really novel vaccine platform. ...There still remain many questions to be answered as we go forward. At this juncture, we're only going to know about short-term side effects, but we need to know whether there are any potential rare, long-term side effects. Short-term side effects that we know of now appear in about 5% to 15% of participants. They include inflammation, soreness at the injection site, a low-grade fever, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue. These can last from 12 to 36 hours after vaccination.

Can I get or spread COVID-19 from the vaccine?

From Side Effects Public Media:

No. The COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna ... has been in development for about three decades, but is only now being used for COVID-19. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines teach your cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects you from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

WHAT IF I’M IMMUNOCOMPROMISED OR HAVE OTHER PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS?

Is it safe for patients with autoimmune disease who take immunosuppressive medications to be vaccinated against COVID? Is it effective?

From Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center:

There's no doubt that we're going to have to look very carefully at data on both the safety and efficacy because that too can be impaired in immunocompromised individuals. The vaccines that are typically not recommended routinely for severely immunocompromised individuals are what we call attenuated viral vaccines, where we take the natural virus and make it weaker. And this is a very old way of making vaccines. But for example, our measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines are attenuated viral vaccines. None of the front runners for COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 are that type of vaccine. So I don't anticipate problems with safety ... but that will need to be studied going forward.

Should organ (liver) transplant recipients who are taking anti-rejection medications (Prograf/Tacrolimus) be vaccinated for COVID-19?

From William Schaffner MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases:

The short answer is yes. Although this population hasn't been studied, we don’t think there is any chance of harm. It may be that the immune response is somewhat blunted, but it could do some good. The CDC advisory committee said it probably won’t hurt but it might help.

Do any of the manufacturers know if their vaccine is safe for people with HIV?

From William Schaffner MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases:

It probably won't hurt, but it could help. The second vaccine in line -- the Moderna vaccine -- included a small study of people with HIV infection and we expect to see that data shortly. But in the meantime, if people with HIV are offered the Pfizer vaccine they should take it.

I am a health care worker. I will be 62 years old next month. I have intrinsic asthma maybe twice a year. Can I/should I prep for the vaccine with just Benadryl? I have taken the influenza vaccine for the last 2 years without issue or prep.

From William Schaffner MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases:

No preparation is necessary for someone with asthma. That person should have the same sort of response of any 62-year-old without asthma.

WILL I HAVE TO PAY FOR THE VACCINE?

From Side Effects Public Media:

No. Vaccine providers will be able to bill insurance for a fee to administer the vaccine, but will not be able to charge you. They can seek reimbursement for uninsured patients from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

EMPLOYER’S RESPONSIBILITY

What responsibility does an employer have to all its employees when an employee tests COVID positive? Aren’t they obligated to inform everyone? No employer can possibly know all the employees the infected employee came in contact with!

From Zack Flood, an associate attorney specializing in labor and employment law, and Bob Simandl, chair of the Labor and Employment Group, both at the Milwaukee-based law firm von Briesen & Roper:

Zack Flood: There is a patchwork of state and local guidance across the country with regards to employer responsibilities. The most important thing is the general duty under federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration laws to create and maintain a safe workplace. The employer's responsibility to other employees when they find out that they have a positive test is first to make sure that person is not coming into work, because that is going to create a threat. But also communicating to the rest of the workforce that there has been a positive test, but not disclosing the identity of that employee. The identity of the individual must be kept confidential.

Bob Simandl: The employer should already have a policy that addresses what its role will be as it relates to an employee testing positive and in communicating with fellow employees about the risk and ways to remain safe. The overarching responsibility for the employer is to provide a safe workplace and to keep employees informed about those policies. The employer needs to communicate with employees where the exposure took place and how they are working with authorities to safeguard employees and families. Ultimately there has to be a post-mortem done on how the policy worked.

This FAQ sheet is being updated daily and is compiled with the support of the America Amplified initiative.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Updated: December 14, 2020 at 7:30 AM EST