Commonly Asked Questions about the New (Pfizer) COVID Vaccine

Should I get the vaccine?

For most people, the answer is yes. For this first vaccine, you will have to be at least 16 years of age. Those who have had severe allergic reactions (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any components of this vaccine in the past will not be eligible to receive the vaccine. We don’t yet have enough data to know whether the vaccine is safe for pregnant or lactating mothers.

When will we be able to vaccinate young children?

We don’t know yet, though I would anticipate that we may be able to do so sometime between the end of this school year and before the start of the next.

How many shots do I have to get?

Two shots separated 21 days apart.

How long until I have to get the next set of shots?

We don’t know yet, but we are anticipating that it may be as soon as a year or as long as three years. We will know better before you will be due for next year’s shots if it is a year.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes, no serious safety concerns have been identified in the clinical trials thus far. With that said, side effects with vaccines are common, and often are evidence of the body mounting the desired strong immune response we are seeking. The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, joint pain and fever.  These side effects are generally short-lived and typically resolve within several days of receiving the vaccine. These side effects tend to be very mild with the first shot and more severe with the second. Interestingly, older recipients of the vaccine tended to have milder symptoms with both shots.

How effective is the vaccine?

The vaccine is highly effective appearing to prevent COVID in 95 percent of those vaccinated, and in those few who still got infected despite getting the vaccine, they appeared to have significant protection against getting severe disease that would result in hospitalization or death.

When can I get the vaccine?

Because of demand and the fact that the vaccine is being manufactured and distributed, each state will get their vaccine in allotments every month, with the first shipments being received in mid-December. People will be divided up into priority groups that will determine when you will be eligible for vaccination. The first priority group is health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. They will be able to be vaccinated starting this month. We don’t know the schedule for when additional groups will be eligible to receive the vaccine, but we would expect that high risk individuals may be able to be vaccinated as soon as February and the general population perhaps as early as April. However, watch your local news for public service announcements as to when it is time for you to be vaccinated.

Where will I go to get vaccinated?

Your primary care provider, local hospital and local pharmacy may be offering the vaccine. Information as to vaccination sites will be made available before the time you become eligible.

Is there a cost for the vaccine?

The vaccine is free, though there may be an administration fee charged by the provider. Be sure to check ahead of your appointment for vaccination whether you will need to pay anything at your visit or whether they will bill your insurance.

Once I get the vaccine, do I still have to wear a mask? Yes, we will all have to continue following all of the public health advice about staying home when we are sick, washing or sanitizing our hands frequently, covering our coughs and sneezes, keeping a distance of at least six feet from others with whom we do not live, and wearing masks anytime we are outdoors and cannot maintain the six feet of separation from others or indoors anytime we are with individuals who are not part of our household regardless of distance until a sufficient number of Idahoans and Americans have been vaccinated for us to achieve herd immunity (likely next fall). It is not yet known whether people who are vaccinated and are exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus might be able to transmit that virus to others even though they themselves are protected from infection so these infection control measures remain important for now.

7 thoughts on “Commonly Asked Questions about the New (Pfizer) COVID Vaccine

  1. Hi, David—

    Nice job on the Jesse Tree event this week. I have a grandson on their board, and have become increasingly impressed by the work they are doing under Ali Rabe’s leadership. (Why do all these smart young women—Ali, Lauren Necochea, Alicia Lachiondo—have to run as Democrats? Especially in the Legislature they might make a difference as Republicans.)

    Good Q&A below. I think the REALLY tough thing post-vaccination will be to keep people in masks. That will require a huge educational effort, given how hard it has been to get people into masks in th first place.

    Happy holidays to you and yours—




    1. Thank you, Alice! I agree with all your points! And, a very special and safe holiday season to you and your family. So nice to hear from you, as always. You are one of my favorite people!


  2. Hi Dr. Pate, I really appreciate your sound advice and insights – thank you! I’m challenged presently around interactions with those who have recovered from a positive COVID diagnosis. In a future post could you please speak to how those who have recovered need to (or don’t need to?) follow the established protocols when interacting with those outside of their immediate household? thanks!


    1. Thank you, Christine, and thanks for following the blog. I will indeed consider a future blog post on this subject (spoiler alert – they still need to follow all the precautions that everyone else needs to).


  3. Glad I found this page!
    I am 64 2/3 years old (female) and live with and care for two high risk family members…my 73 yr old husband, type 2 diabetic, cancer survivor and currently undergoing chemo injections, pre COPD; Andy 39 yr old disabled son, type 1 diabetic, chronic kidney disease.
    When and where can I get vaccinated or do I have to jostle in line with the 16 year olds?
    Thank you


    1. Hi Nancy,
      Thank you for following my blog.
      If you live in Idaho, your husband can get vaccinated now. you can look on hour public health district’s website (your public health district is determined by where you live – if you live in Ada County, it would be Central District Health) for vaccination sites. Also, there are a number of Albertson’s and other pharmacies that are now offering vaccinations.
      You and your son will be eligible to be vaccinated right after we finish the 65+ age group – expected to be sometime in April – May timeframe. However, Idaho did just get a big increase in vaccine and we are expecting more increases, so your time may move up.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: