Questions are pouring into the newsroom from viewers around Western Washington -- asking about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Viewer question: Do people with allergies need to be concerned about getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Are there some conditions that make people more likely to experience an allergic reaction?
Professor of Pediatrics Janet Englund works in pediatric infectious diseases at Seattle Children's Hospital. She said real allergic reactions from COVID-19 vaccines are very uncommon. She said allergies to things like bees and penicillin don’t predispose you to have allergic reactions to the vaccine.
"I think that they’re actually very very uncommon," Englund said. "The most important thing for people to do is once people get the vaccine, if they have a history of some other allergies is to stay in the vaccine room for 15 to 30 minutes that is recommended."
Viewer question: What is being done to ensure that seniors are getting connected to a provider for their COVID-19 shot -- beyond just giving them a hotline to call?
I took that question to the Washington State Department of Health. Here's what they said:
"We have several efforts planned to help people eligible in Phase 1B tier 1 find and access vaccine. This population is included in our broad statewide campaign and in targeted outreach, so they should hear about the vaccine through media sources they use.
We hope they also will hear about it secondhand via their adult children, who also will be receiving campaign messages. We’re also working directly with organizations that serve seniors, such as Area Agencies on Aging, libraries, senior centers, AARP, faith-based communities, community elders, and more to make sure people in this age group get the vaccination facts they need. We’ll also send direct mail to people."
Viewer question: When will kids get vaccinated for COVID-19?
"So the question is when are we going to have vaccines for children?" Englund said. "The answer is, 'well what age,' I think we’ll have it for children 12 to 18 perhaps earlier than for the younger children. When will that be? I think it depends on the vaccine, perhaps you know six months from now we might. I think it’s going to be a little while because we really need to establish safety and immunogenicity and each vaccine has to be evaluated separately."
Viewer question: Why aren't teachers being more highly prioritized in the vaccine rollout?
I took that question to DOH. Here's what they said:
"We understand the unique role educators and school staff play in supporting families and children through this unprecedented pandemic and we recognize they have had to make some of largest shifts in how they work. We rely on these staff to do some of the most important work there is, and we want to support them and keep them safe.
There are many essential workers and people at high risk for COVID-19 in our state, but we don’t yet have enough vaccine supply for everyone who needs it. We are working to balance those needs with available supply and make sure we’re distributing vaccine in an equitable way.
We’ve prioritized the groups in Phases 1A and 1B with the intention of getting vaccine out quickly and fairly, with a focus on getting it to the populations who are at the very highest risk and highest need. We looked at outbreak data, the exposure risk of different settings and characteristics like age and underlying conditions that put people at higher risk for severe illness. We created a specific tier in 1B to focus on the essential workers at highest risk. Based on the results of our community engagement efforts and the impacts of remote learning, we included teachers and school staff in that group.
Our goal is to reach the highest risk teachers and staff first—those over 50 years of age. They are included in Phase 1B - tier 2. We know that this doesn’t include everyone at high risk in a school environment but since supply is limited, we must make difficult decisions about which groups get the vaccine first. We are working to get through these early groups as quickly as possible and are making progress daily.
Other K-12 educators and staff who are working at the school (not remotely) are eligible in Phase 1B - tier 4. We anticipate beginning vaccinations for all tiers of phase 1B during the spring/summer—see our estimated timeline for Phase 1A/1B."
Viewer question: Should pregnant women get the vaccine?
Here's a response from University of Washington Professor of Medicine and Head of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anna Wald:
"The current recommendations is for pregnant women to get the vaccine, we have emerging data, including from Washington State, last week there was a very nice study, showing that the risk of severe disease and death is higher in pregnant vs non-pregnant women," Wald said. "So it’s pretty clear that they’re at high risk for poor outcome and therefore of course the fetus is also at risk for outcome. So the recommendation is for pregnant women to be vaccinated despite the fact that thus far there’s very little data on how well the vaccines work in that population."
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Find our entire Ask the Experts series here to answer more of your common COVID-19 questions.