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VACCINE FAQs

COVID-19 Vaccines Now Available to ALL 12+!

Make Your Appointment Today.

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services Update:

The COVID-19 vaccine is available to all who are ages 12 and above. 

Schedule your or your child’s appointment here:

Call the COVID Vaccine Helpline (Language Interpretation Available): (907) 646-3322

M-F: 9a – 6:30p

Weekends: 9a – 4:30p

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Update

If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer and an emergency room physician, answers some frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in the following video clips.

Why Kids 12+ Should Get Vaccinated

Parents, Kids, and the Vaccine

Previously Infected

Safety Protocols

Vaccine Benefits 

Vaccine Eligibility

Vaccine Impact

Protecting our Kids

Rural Alaska Vaccination

COVID Reinfection

Vaccine Benefits for 12-15 Year Olds

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Symptoms 

Vaccine Protection

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Immune Response Longevity

Alaska Overall Outlook

Vaccine Safety & Side-Effects

Vaccine for 12-15 Year Olds

Vaccine Community Benefits

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause

COVID-19 Variants

Vaccine & New Variants

Vaccine Hesitancy Changes

Why Get Vaccinated?

Vaccine for All?

The following information is the latest from both the Centers for Disease Control and State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Why get a vaccine?

Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like masks and social distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.

At first, the vaccine supply will be limited and offered only to certain groups. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has developed a vaccine distribution plan. The plan may change depending on the number of available doses. The Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force is working with federal, state, Tribal, and military partners to plan for Alaska’s needs.

FAQs

There are no known fertility impacts from the COVID vaccine. It’s worth noting that in both the Pfizer and Moderna trials, which checked for pregnancy often and required all women to be on birth control, about as many women became pregnant in the vaccine sides of the trials than the placebo sides. In the Pfizer study, 12 women became pregnant in the vaccine group and had no known adverse effects in their pregnancies. Eleven women became pregnant in the placebo group and two miscarried of that group (which is about a normal miscarriage rate).
In the Moderna study, six women in the vaccine group and seven in the placebo group became pregnant. In the vaccine group, there were no reported problems in the pregnancies. Of the seven in the placebo group, one had an abortion and one miscarried.
The CDC notes that ‘No safety concerns were demonstrated in rats that received Moderna COVID-19 vaccine prior to or during gestation in terms of female reproduction, fetal/embryonal development, or postnatal development,’ and ‘There is no recommendation for routine pregnancy testing before receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.’

As of November 24, 2020, large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials are in progress or being planned for five COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

  • AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine
  • Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine
  • Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine
  • Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine
  • Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine​

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.

New Approach to Vaccines

Within the next month, messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are likely to be some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States.

mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our 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 us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.

Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.

Most COVID-19 Vaccines Require More Than One Shot

All but one of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States use two shots. The first shot starts building protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer. One vaccine in Phase 3 clinical trials only needs one shot.  It’s important to get the second dose for the COVID-19 vaccine to be effective.

The Alaska COVID Vaccine Task Force is working to ensure all Alaskans have access to the COVID vaccine at no charge. The CDC has stated that cost will not be an obstacle to getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

After a vaccine is authorized or approved for use, many vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for adverse events (possible side effects). This continued monitoring can pick up on adverse events that may not have been seen in clinical trials. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to assess whether it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in U.S. vaccine recommendations. This monitoring is critical to help ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive vaccines.

Expanded Safety Monitoring Systems

The following systems and information sources add an additional layer of safety monitoring, giving CDC and FDA the ability to evaluate COVID-19 vaccine safety in real time and make sure COVID-19 vaccines are as safe as possible

  • CDC: V-SAFE pdf icon[644 KB, 21 pages] — A new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. V-SAFE will use text messaging and web surveys from CDC to check in with vaccine recipients for health problems following COVID-19 vaccination. The system also will provide telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically significant (important) adverse events.
  • CDC: National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) — An acute care and long-term care facility monitoring system with reporting to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or VAERS
    FDA: Other large insurer/payer databases — A system of administrative and claims-based data for surveillance and research

No, vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development. However, the goal for each of them is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

At first, vaccine supply will be limited and offered only to certain groups. Many groups of experts are considering groups of people for early COVID vaccination. In Alaska this includes:

  • Phase 1a
    • Hospital-based healthcare workers
    • Long-term care facility residents and staff
    • EMS/fire personnel
    • Community health aides
    • Individuals who are required to perform vaccinations
  • Phase 1b
    • Essential workers: police, firefighters, corrections officers, transportation and utilities workers, food and agriculture, education sector
  • Phase 1c
    • Adults with high-risk medical conditions
    • Adults 65+
  • Phase 2
    • More high-risk adults
    • Limited availability to general public
  • Phase 3
    • Widely available to the public

Vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States will not cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.

If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

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.

At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have a vaccine and more data on how well it works.

Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about.

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