Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 Vaccinations

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

On this page you will see:

Guidelines and Why Vaccination Against COVID-19 Matters

The Santa Barbara County Health Department will be following guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to prioritize vaccine distribution. Vaccine production is slowly increasing in the United States. A phased approach will be used to ensure high-risk community members are prioritized as vaccine distribution continues.

The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most important tools to end the COVID-19 pandemic and getting Santa Barbara County’s local economy and our communities back to some level of normalcy while increasing our safety. 

A COVID-19 Vaccine will:

  • Reduce number of people with COVID-19
  • Reduce severity of illness
  • Reduce hospitalizations
  • Reduce deaths

This is only the beginning and we must all continue to do our part to stay safe while until the vaccine becomes widely available. Stay home as much as possible. If you must leave, continue to wear a face covering and keep at least 6 feet of distance from anyone you don’t live with. Wash your hands frequently and avoid gathering with other households.

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Residents 65+

Yes, older adults were included in all clinical trials, and the vaccine was found to be effective for this population as well. Older adults were also found to have decreased and less-pronouced side effects associated with the vaccine compared with other populations.

Per the CDC, the vaccine is considered safe for indivuduals who are immunosuppressed due to autoimmune conditions, with HIV, or who take immunosuppressant medications. However, it is recommended you consukt with your physician for guidance.

Per the CDC, the only contraindication to receiving the vaccine is a history of severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine or to any of its components (including plyethylene glycol or polysorbate). A full list of ingredients is available here: https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download

No. The presence of side effects does not mean the vaccine gave you COVID-19. In fact, mRNA vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19 because the vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19/ Any side effects are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do – working and building up protection against disease. In other words, if you feel some discomfort, this means the vaccine is doing its job.

Frequently Asked Questions

The COVID-19 vaccine will be provided free of charge. As is customary with government-purchased vaccines, healthcare professionals could charge insurers for the cost of administering the vaccine.

Currently, there are three main types of COVID-19 vaccines that are or soon will be undergoing large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials in the United States. Below is a description of how each type of vaccine prompts our bodies to recognize and protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19.

  • mRNA vaccines: Contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
  • Protein subunit vaccines: include harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that cause COVID-19 instead of the entire germ. Once vaccinated, our immune system recognizes that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins making T-lymphocytes and antibodies. If we are ever infected in the future, memory cells will recognize and fight the virus.
  • Vector vaccines: contain a weakened version of a live virus—a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19—that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector). Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.

The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. California also formed a Scientific Safety Review Work Group comprised of nationally recognized immunization, public health, academic and other experts to review vaccine safety.

The work group is staying abreast of vaccine candidate(s) trials, evidence of safety and efficacy, and other information to independently provide recommendations to California leadership as well as ensure public confidence in vaccine safety, efficacy, and implementation efforts. 

There are also several safety monitoring systems set up in the US, including:

 Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)

 Vaccine safety datalink

 Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project (CISA)

 “V-safe”

These safety monitoring systems provide methods for checking in with vaccine recipients after vaccination and allow participants to report any side effects or health problems experienced after COVID-19 vaccination.

Most of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States need two doses several weeks apart to be effective.

Yes. They are over 90% effective, when 2 doses are administered in the recommended timelines, based on vaccine efficacy clinical trial data. More information on how the COVID-19 vaccine works can be found on the CDC website.

The Public Health Department offers the vaccine at community vaccination clinics. Local pharmacies, hospitals, community healthcare centers, and some primary care providers are offering vaccinations as well.

Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like wearing masks, washing hands and physical distancing.

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. We do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have questions.

COVID-19 vaccines are a critical part of the response to the pandemic. Even as they become available, it will be important to continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and wash hands often to reduce the spread of illness. The impact of the vaccines will depend on how effective they are at combating the virus, how quickly supplies of vaccine can be manufactured and delivered, and how many people get vaccinated. The clinical trial results for the initial vaccines we expect to become available are very promising. Government experts have suggested that vaccines will be widely available in the second half of 2021. If most people get the vaccine, the pandemic could be stopped.

The focus of COVID-19 vaccine development has been on adults. A COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for children and teens until more studies are completed. 

Such studies are underway in older children and are planned in younger children. COVID-19 is generally less severe in children than adults; nevertheless, the risk of severe disease in children with underlying medical conditions, and the general desire to prevent COVID-19 in children remain compelling reasons for vaccine studies in children.

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. We do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have questions.