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Austin Mayor Steve Adler Answers Your Questions About The COVID-19 Vaccine

Austin Mayor Steve Adler talks to media at a mask donation event in May.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Austin Mayor Steve Adler talks to media at a mask donation event in May.

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Frontline health care workers – and soon people in longterm-care facilities – are starting to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Texas. It’s the first step in a long process aimed at ending the high rate of severe illness and growing number of deaths related to the virus.

But when will regular folks in Austin get the vaccine? And how much will it cost? Y'all asked some common questions over Instagram, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler agreed to answer them.

These responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Can you still catch and spread COVID if you get vaccinated? – beautytrek

What we know about the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine is that they stop clinical illness. We don’t know if it stops you from actually getting the infection. You could get the infection and be asymptomatic. We just don’t know.

That’s why masking is going to continue for the foreseeable future. It could be the vaccine does a really good job of protecting people; they don’t have to go to the hospital and they aren’t in danger of getting really sick. But they still might be able to infect other people. We just don’t know.

How long is the vaccine effective? For life? Or do we need to get it annually? – skyeson

Well, we don’t know the answer to that question. We know it is really effective right now. We know that that protection seems to last for a significant period of time. But the vaccine is new.

We haven’t been able to do the longitudinal studies that are going to be necessary to see exactly how long it lasts.

What are potential side effects that should be watched for and how quickly would they appear? – redhotdawn

Pain at the injection site, arm soreness, or fatigue or chills are the things that are most commonly seen among people who have a reaction following the vaccination – usually after the second dose. A few people are going to develop probably a fever. A severe allergic reaction is pretty rare with these vaccines. If it happens, it usually happens within 30 minutes of getting the vaccine.

So it's recommended people monitor themselves for 15 to 30 minutes after the injection, especially if they have a history of serious allergic reactions. If you have a significant history of severe allergic reactions to injections, you have to consider whether or not this is something for you.

What happens if someone doesn't get the second shot? – redhotdawn

Someone who gets just the first shot and not the second has some protection, but not as much as getting both doses for both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines.

It looks like one dose gives you protection around 50%, but two shots gets you up to 95% effective or higher.

What's the process for reaching elderly citizens who aren't in assisted living facilities? – laura.alyce

We are going to try to get this vaccine out to people, including the elderly, as quickly as we can.

If they are not in assisted-living facilities then we will use the regular channels that Austin Public Health uses – pharmacies, clinics, doctors, hospitals.

How will the homeless community get the vaccine and how will it be ensured they get both rounds? – redhotdawn

We are going to be giving the vaccine to folks experiencing homelessness the way we currently give folks experiencing homelessness vaccines. We do that as the normal public health protocol in the city. So, we have Austin Public Health and EMS staff, a lot of social workers, who are spending a lot of time in the communities experiencing homelessness. And generally they know who people are and they know where they live and they are able to keep track of who gets a shot and who needs another shot.

What is the earliest projection for regular people to begin gaining access to the vaccine? – nickabod

We don’t know for sure how quickly the vaccine is going to roll out or what kind of supply ultimately comes in.

We are getting to the people who are most in danger of dying if they get sick, or are most in danger of getting infected. But those people who are least at risk, they should be able to get the vaccine probably late spring and early summer.

How do you know where on the list you will be? Will we have a card to prove we're vaccinated? – britnim_

It’s going to be really public – the process and the list – as we move from one class of people to the next class of people. There is going to be a lot of publicity and discussion, so it will be something people see in a lot of different places.

[As for the vaccination card,] all that is being worked out at this point. Individuals are going to receive a vaccination card similar to what you receive for other vaccinations, so that you have records for yourself. It is not going to be a card that people have as a kind of a passport to not wear a mask and not social distance, because we are still going to need to do that while people are still getting vaccinated.

How much will it cost? – molly.clack

It should be free to everyone.

When will children under 12 be able to receive the vaccine? — skyeson

At this point, the vaccine hasn’t been approved for use in young children. Usually the pediatric-related studies follow the efficacy and safety in adults. Luckily, children are at a very low rate of hospitalization and severe illness from COVID-19; I mean it is very, very low. So that is not the concern it would be otherwise.

Will it be covered by insurance like the flu vaccine? – vero20b

It should be free, but it certainly otherwise should be covered by insurance.

Can I expect these vaccines to be available at places like CVS or Walgreens? – cdorsal

Yes, eventually. CVS has the vaccine, but the vaccine they have is limited right now to people in nursing homes and longterm care. But yes, they should be at places like CVS or Walgreens – could even be at pharmacies and grocery stores.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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