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COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ: Your questions, answered

It’s been over a year since COVID-19 exploded across the world and disrupted life as we knew it. Since then, there have been numerous quarantines as labs and governments worked together to study and create vaccines to bring an end to this chaotic time. The Hallmanac asked Upper School students and faculty what some of their biggest questions were regarding these vaccines as they relate to Dana Hall and the world. Below we’ve provided answers to your frequently asked questions, as well as links to current articles for further reading.

How do these vaccines actually work?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to develop immunity against COVID-19. The mRNA (an information code strand of the RNA molecule) in these vaccines helps the healthy cells recognize the proteins found in the coronavirus disease and strengthen immune systems to fight the virus.

Moderna and Pfizer require two shots because the first dose is making a very weak introduction to the immune system. The second dose acts as a booster to the first, strengthening the immune response and producing enough antibodies to protect against the full force of the virus. 

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine uses similar technology to the flu shot. It injects a trace amount of the inactivated virus (so it cannot get someone sick) into the cells, familiarizing the cells with the virus so that they can produce antibodies and fight it should the person contract COVID. As recently as April 13, there have been six extremely rare cases of blood-clotting in connection with this vaccine. I want to stress that those affected are six out of the seven million people vaccinated with the J&J vaccine, so there is a very low risk of this being an issue. The CDC temporarily paused J&J distribution, but after further investigation, last week reinstated the use of the J&J vaccine. 

For further reading:

Why Two Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine for Pfizer and Moderna? 

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine – Efficacy, Side Effects, How It Works 

US Calls for Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After Blood Clotting Cases 

How well will the vaccines protect against the variants that are becoming more widespread by the day?

So far, the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) have shown that they are still providing a safe “cushion of protection” for the P.1 variant (Brazil) and are highly effective for the B.1.1.7 variant (UK). These vaccines, as well as the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, are still racing to adapt to the South African variant, B.1.351. 

Read more about the different variants and what the World Health Organization (WHO) knows about them here:

Where Do COVID Vaccines Stand Against the Variants? ( 

If vaccinated, can you visit people who are unvaccinated safely? How normal will life be after vaccination (masks, etc.)?

If you are fully vaccinated, you can gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from ONE household (ex: visiting relatives who all live in the same house) without masks or social distancing, as long as they are not at increased risk of COVID-19. 

What level of normal will we return to? There isn’t a definitive answer to this question. No one really knows how the end of this pandemic is going to come about, so the focus is primarily on handling variants and vaccines. Currently, the CDC is recommending masks unless you’re fully vaccinated and in the presence of other fully vaccinated people. I would imagine that when we have reached herd immunity or majority vaccinated, there will be fewer regulations surrounding masks, and things will reach a point of  “new normal”. Only time will tell.

For further reading:

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination 

COVID-19: When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated 

Dana Hall-specific vaccine policy questions answered by Director of Health Center, Pia Manna:

Will Dana be providing vaccines, or will students and faculty need to find an out-of-school place to receive the vaccine?

Currently, faculty and staff are vaccinated at one of several vaccination locations in Massachusetts. It remains to be seen if we will have the ability to vaccinate our population on campus as the vaccine is not easily secured by private institutions. If there comes a time when the vaccine is more widely available, It would be reasonable to think we would hold vaccination clinics on campus similar to the flu clinics we provide each year.

Will vaccination be required for all students?

Many vaccines are required for students to attend school in Massachusetts. The vaccines that are required for school entry are decided by government agencies, such as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, as well as the  Massachusetts Department of Public Health. We would follow the requirements of those agencies for our own immunization practice, but we don’t have any further information about a COVID vaccine requirement at this point.

How can boarding students take the vaccine?

Currently, those boarding students who meet the requirements for COVID-19 vaccination and choose to receive it will be vaccinated when they are home.  Since common side effects can include mild cold or flu-like symptoms, it is important that students are vaccinated while under the care of their parents or guardian.

When will everyone be vaccinated?

The current vaccine administration data states that 2.71 million doses are given out every day. If the United States stays on this path, by the beginning of July, 75% of Americans will be vaccinated. I would say, based on data and reports, that we should expect the majority of the country to be fully vaccinated by August, and those who aren’t vaccinated will likely have herd immunity by December 2021.

When will everyone be vaccinated for COVID-19 and reach herd immunity? 

How long after I sign up will I be able to get the vaccination?

It really depends on how Massachusetts structures this next phase of vaccination distribution. The state certainly learned what did and didn’t work during the first few rounds, but don’t expect an instant booking.

When can my child get the COVID vaccine? 

If I get the vaccine, do I still need to get coronavirus testing? 

At Dana Hall, yes. Elsewhere, if you have been fully vaccinated, you do not need to continue getting tested, unless you are coming into the United States from another country. If you’re fully vaccinated and traveling within the U.S., you do not need to get tested at all. Maintain a safe distance and wear your mask in crowded public areas, and you’ll be all set. 

COVID-19: When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated 

Which vaccines would be the best for teens to take?

The only vaccine currently approved for teenagers under 18 is the Pfizer vaccine. Pfizer just completed study trials on children aged 12-15 and found that their vaccine is 100% effective in protecting against COVID-19. They are seeking FDA approval in the coming weeks as more states open their vaccination stations to the general public. Johnson & Johnson just began their trials on 16 and 17-year-olds. Children’s doses are different from adult doses because their bodies are still growing and developing at a rapid rate, so these tests are centered around safety, which takes more time. Some professionals are predicting vaccine approval in early 2022, but as with a lot of things related to COVID, timing is fluid. 

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine 100% Effective in Study of 12- to 15-Year-Olds, Companies Say 

What are the most common side effects and how long do they last?

Side effects will be slightly different for each person as their immune system begins to produce antibodies, but the most common side effects include fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, chills, and sometimes a low-grade fever. Side effects after the second shot are likely to be stronger because your body is taking on more information about the virus, and needs time to adjust. These side effects should only last a couple of days. 

Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine 

I haven’t heard much from anti-vaxxers recently. Is there still a large population of US residents that refuse to get a coronavirus vaccine?

In a National Public Radio survey, 30% of people said they wouldn’t get the shots. This can stem from many different things: religion, misinformation, conspiracy theories, etc. According to the CDC, we need 70-80% of Americans to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, so even if this 30% don’t get vaccinated, we still may be able to end the pandemic. That being said, it’s really important to make sure that you are well informed from reputable sources about this virus and the vaccines. This prevents misinformation from spreading and will allow you to make an informed decision when it comes to getting vaccinated. 

Vaccine hesitancy: Why millions of Americans won’t get COVID-19 shot 

How many vaccines are there globally and how well are countries sharing information they find about the use of different vaccines?

There are currently 82 different vaccines worldwide being tested for efficacy against COVID-19, as well as safety and side effects. The leading vaccine worldwide is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, followed by the Moderna vaccine. According to the CDC, the United States is only using the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines (after J&J’s reapproval).

As of April 7, there have been 693 million doses administered. You can keep up to date with this information in the link below, provided by the New York Times. In terms of international communication, most news regarding vaccines comes through national news channels and the vaccine companies themselves. There are still some countries that are withholding information about how many people were actually infected in their country, but so far, vaccine news has been very mainstream. 

Covid World Vaccination Tracker

Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker: Latest Updates

Information on the Different COVID-19 Vaccines

Are the vaccines being distributed equitably?

Initially, in many states in the U.S., including Massachusetts, there was vaccine distribution inequity. Vaccination sites were largely limited to neighborhoods that were not easily accessible for people in minority communities, especially Black communities. More recently, Boston established a “Boston’s equity in vaccine access” phone number, and posts on social media have been spreading this information. It is providing easier access to vaccines for Black communities in and around Boston, with less of a waiting time. 

MA COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative 

Boston residents can call the equity and vaccine access line at 617-635-5555 to help schedule an appointment or provide their contact information online.

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