How Does the Coronavirus Vaccine Work? (podcast)

Frequently asked questions about safety, need, effectiveness

Mark Shalauta, MD, discusses COVID-19 vaccine on San Diego Health podcast.

Dr. Mark Shalauta, Family Medicine, Scripps Clinic

Frequently asked questions about safety, need, effectiveness

It appears that there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel. The COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in San Diego County. The first doses have already been distributed and more are on the way. The federal government will cover the cost of the vaccine and more mass vaccination sites are opening around the region.


In this episode of San Diego Health, host Susan Taylor is joined by Mark Shalauta, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo and member of the Scripps Vaccine Advisory Committee, to discuss the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine and what it means.

Dr. Shalauta gives an overview of how the COVID-19 vaccine works, who can get it, how safe it is and what to expect after immunization. Though the vaccine’s arrival is a big step toward eradicating COVID, Dr. Shalauta stresses that it’s still recommended to wear a mask, social distance and practice hand hygiene, at least for the time being.   


Listen to the episode on what to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Listen to the episode on what to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Podcast highlights

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? (0:53)

Short answer, yes. It is absolutely safe. People were wondering: How did this get rolled out so quickly? Were corners cut? No, corners were not cut. The science was the same and so was the scientific process. It’s just that with government funding, subsidies, or at least payment guarantees, and the technology, that they were able to roll this out.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work? (1:19)

Basically, it’s creating immunity to the disease without giving you the disease. If you get an injection, it creates this memory immune response. If ever in the future you’re exposed to the disease, your body has a way to combat that. Again, you cannot get COVID disease from the vaccine.

What are the side effects of the vaccines? (1:46)

It’s pretty common to get your body aches, headaches, feeling fatigue. Those are common reactions, but it’s important to know that means that your body is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s ramping up its immune response. Even though it may not feel that great while you’re having those, that’s actually a good thing.

If you received another vaccine, can you still get the COVID vaccine? (2:11)

Yes, you can get the vaccine, but the recommendation is to have at least 14 days in between vaccines. If you got shingles vaccine first, you want to wait at least 14 days before getting the COVID vaccine, and vice versa.

Can you get the COVID vaccine if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding? (2:37)

Even though the studies were not designed for this, some women did get pregnant during the studies and did just fine. There’s really no scientific reason why these vaccines would be harmful to pregnant mother or breastfeeding. Even the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology said it is okay to give.

Do you have to get two shots? (3:02)

It is key to get both. I mean, you may have heard that after you get one shot, you get 50% immunity, or 80, or 90, or higher even. But it’s important to note that wanes pretty quickly. Once you get that second shot, that’s where you really get the memory, and then you get that 95% immunity.

Can your second shot be made by a different manufacturer? (3:38)

You cannot mix and match. If you start with one manufacturer’s vaccine, you have to end with that, because they were not studied otherwise.

How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost? (4:00)

The federal government will cover the cost of the vaccine. If there’s any administration fees, then insurance companies will cover that. There’s no out-of-pocket cost to any patients.

If you’re a high risk patient, should you still get the vaccine? (4:18)

The only reason why you can’t get this vaccine is if you have an allergy to one of its components. Now, if you have allergies to other things like medications, foods, bee stings, whatever, it is still okay to get the vaccine. It’s just an allergy to a specific component in the vaccine. That information is available on the CDC website.

If you’re immunocompromised, can you still get the vaccine? (4:49)

Absolutely. It is okay to get the vaccine if you, yourself, have any immunocompromising condition. Since it does not cause COVID disease, that’s totally fine. If someone at home is immunocompromised, since you’re not getting the disease, you cannot transfer COVID disease to anybody at home as well. It is okay to get the vaccine.

If someone has had COVID-19, should they still get the vaccine? (5:20)

Yes, they should. But they do have a 90-day window, since once you get the disease, you’re considered immune for at least 90 days. The CDC recommends to hold off for about 90 days before getting the vaccine.

Are there circumstances where you shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine? (5:59)

If they have a direct allergy to one of the components, which again can be found on the CDC website, that’s one instance. Or if you’ve had treatment for COVID, one of the infusions where you’re in an infusion center for an hour with those monoclonal antibodies, then the CDC recommends to wait 90 days. That’s not going to be very common, but basically you’re counteracting if you get it too soon. Wait the 90 days.

Do I still have to wear a mask after I’ve been vaccinated? (6:39)

Unfortunately, yes, at least in the short-term. The vaccines are just one part of the whole battle against COVID. Until we have more people vaccinated, we still need to do all the same things: wear a mask, social distance, no large gatherings. For now, yes, you have to wear your mask.

Final thoughts? (7:06)

Just that this is a really exciting time. Something of this magnitude, we’re relying on federal, state, and county government to supply us vaccines. There’s going to be a lot of speed bumps, a lot of frustration, a lot of confusion, but we urge everybody to be patient. This will get smoother. I think things are just going to get better and better. If you haven’t signed up for the MyScripps account, definitely do that because that’s the way that we are communicating and offering appointments at this time.

Watch the video on the COVID-19 vaccine

Watch the San Diego Health video with host Susan Taylor and Dr. Shalauta discussing the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine and how it works.

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