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COVID-19 Vaccine Series Part I: How will the vaccine protect my family from getting COVID-19?

Learn how the COVID-19 vaccine can protect you.
5 min read
January 12, 2021
Dr. Jill Lundstrom
Board-Certified Pediatrician
Dr. Jill earned her MD at the University of Massachusetts. She believes that all children deserve access to quality healthcare to learn and thrive.

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Our care team has collected all of the questions families have asked over the last few weeks, and we will be sharing weekly updates and inviting families to bring their questions to online chats with our care team. 

This week we’re focusing on helping families understand how the vaccine protects you from getting COVID-19 and why it is important for people 16 and older to get a vaccine. Be sure to read part two of our COVID-19 Vaccine Series: How does the vaccine work and is it safe?

1. Question: What vaccines are available for my family?

Answer: Currently, there are two approved COVID-19 vaccines in the US- Pfizer and Moderna. Both shots are shown to be very safe and both are 94 to 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.

2. Question: What about vaccinating children or teens in my family?

Answer: Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for teens ages 16 and up, while Moderna’s vaccine is currently approved for teens ages 18 and up.
Teenagers aren’t typically at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, so even teens who are old enough to get the Pfizer vaccine will likely be in the last group to get it.

Both Pfizer and Moderna recently began new vaccine trials that include children as young as 12. The data will need to go through the FDA review before this age group can get the vaccine.

3. Question: Why should members of my family get the vaccine?

Answer: Getting the shot will help protect your family members from getting sick from COVID-19. Even if a member of your family does get sick from COVID-19, the vaccine will help prevent them from developing serious COVID-19 symptoms.

When enough people get the vaccine, we will reach herd immunity. Herd immunity will help protect everyone from COVID-19.

4. Question: What is “herd immunity”?

Answer: Herd immunity is when most of the population (the “herd”) is vaccinated. When enough people are immune from vaccination, the virus cannot spread. With nowhere to go, the virus dies out.

Herd immunity is not the idea that most of the population gets sick with COVID-19 and then recovers. Herd immunity only applies to the vaccine.

Usually, about 70% of people must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Because these vaccines will take time to reach everyone, we will need to be patient because it will take many months to get to herd immunity with COVID-19.

Before we reach that point, we will still need to keep doing all the things we were already doing to protect ourselves (wash hands frequently, social distance, and wear masks).

5. Question: Is it better to get “natural immunity” to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine?

Answer: No.
While you may have some short-term protection from antibodies after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection lasts, or if it is stronger or more effective than a vaccine.

As we have seen, COVID-19 is unpredictable, and it is very risky trying to “catch it” in order to get natural immunity. It can cause serious illness and death, no matter the age or the health of the person. 

Remember, the vaccine is not an “unnatural immunity”. It is your own body naturally  making antibodies to protect you.

6. Question: If I get the vaccine, will I be less at risk for getting COVID-19?

Answer: Yes! These vaccines are effective and have been shown to reduce your risk for getting sick with COVID-19. Regardless of sex, race, or weight, the risk decreases very quickly. (Results from the Pfizer shot have shown a decrease within 10 days of the first shot.)

7. Question: If I get the vaccine and still get COVID-19, will I get less sick?

Answer: Yes. The vaccine has been shown to decrease severe symptoms if someone does get COVID-19. 

This is very important, because we know when people are very sick with COVID-19 it can cause a lot of long-term damage. Being vaccinated helps keep people with COVID-19 out of hospitals, which protects our health care institutions for everyone.

8. Question: Is the vaccine effective if I only get one shot instead of both?

Answer: The first dose is only 52% effective on its own. That’s why you need to get that second dose to get to the 95% effectiveness. After getting both shots, you will still need to be careful for a while longer. Your family can stay safe by continuing to wear a mask, social distance, and wash their hands.

If you have questions about getting the vaccine for your family, ask your doctor. 

Be sure to join our weekly online Ask a Doctor chat to hear more about the COVID-19 vaccine, and read the next blog in our series: How does the vaccine work and is it safe?

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