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Stanford Doctors Answer Parents’ Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines

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As families across the Bay Area become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines, Rocketship wanted to ensure our families have all the information they need to make an informed decision about whether to get vaccinated. We knew our parents weren’t alone in their concerns, so Rocketship partnered with Alpha, Kipp, Voices, Downtown College Prep, and ACE charter schools to host a virtual Community Cafecito: Separating Fact from Fiction on the COVID-19 Vaccines. Dr. Marina Martin and Dr. Ryan Padrez of Stanford Health Care joined hundreds of families to answer questions that were submitted prior to the event.

In this one-hour seminar, Dr. Martin and Dr. Padrez present some background on the different vaccines, the side effects, and efficacy, then answer questions from the community. While we encourage families to watch the entire webinar to help them make an informed decision, we’ve also highlighted some key questions that parents asked.

Why get vaccinated?
The doctors noted that protecting yourself also protects your family and community, and these vaccines are our best protection against COVID-19. Getting vaccinated protects those that can’t get vaccinated by slowing the spread and preventing new, more deadly variants. Dr. Martin noted that around 70% of the population needs to get vaccinated to safely reopen and Santa Clara is currently only at around 31% vaccinated.

What is a vaccine and how does it work?
Dr. Padrez describes vaccines as teachers for the immune system. They teach your body to fight off a certain kind or piece of a virus or bacteria so that if your body gets exposed to that virus or bacteria after vaccination, it already knows how to fight it and you won’t get sick. Dr. Martin gives an explanation of how the different COVID-19 vaccines work here.

Dr. Martin reiterated that for all three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S.:
• These vaccines do not have any COVID-19 in them.
• The vaccines cannot give you COVID-19.
• The vaccines do not change your DNA.

How did they make the vaccines so fast?
Dr. Martin explains here that medical trials usually take longer because there is usually only one small group working on the research. However, with COVID-19, there were many countries, companies, funding opportunities, experts and hours focused on this one virus. No steps were skipped. Other studies take years because researchers have to wait to get approval (and funding and volunteers) to even begin to prepare for each step forward. Because this was a worldwide effort, they had the next step lined up and ready to start immediately as soon as each phase was completed. Production was also ready as soon as the vaccines were approved.

How safe and how effective are the vaccines?
Very safe, said Dr. Martinm. She also noted that all three vaccines used in the U.S. have a 100% rate of prevention of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, though they have different rates of preventing infection with COVID-19, shown here in the clinical trial results. Dr. Martin also noted that there are a lot of systems in place to make sure we don’t have unexpected side effects. These systems, explained here, continue to track the longevity, level of protection, and side effects of each vaccine to ensure safety and efficacy.

What’s going on with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
From Dr. Martin’s perspective, the fact that they paused administering the J&J vaccine means that the safety monitoring system has worked as it’s meant to. The system caught that 6 women of nearly 7,000,000 recipients of the J&J vaccine had a reaction of blood clots and stopped to investigate and verify that the reaction is not going to happen more. Dr. Martin explained how rare this reaction is here and emphasized that you should not worry if you already received the J&J vaccine.

What about vaccinations for children and during pregnancy?
The clinical trials did not include those under 16 years old or pregnant, but there are studies now in the works. To learn more about when you might see those trials, listen in here.

Dr. Padrez shares here that, while those getting vaccinated while pregnant were not included in the clinical trials, doctors are following the real-world results and there have been no adverse reactions reported. Dr. Padrez suggests calling MotherToBaby at 1-866-626-6847 if you are pregnant and have questions.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Dr. Padrez said here that the most common is a sore arm. You can also feel tired, achy, or feverish.

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine and who can’t yet?
Anyone over 16 can get it in Santa Clara County, even if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have cancer or take medicine that weakens the immune system, have allergies, don’t have immigration documents, and/or don’t have health insurance. Only those under the age of 16 or with a severe allergic reaction to the first dose cannot yet get it.


Who should receive the vaccine as soon as possible?
It’s recommended that those who live or work in close contact with others or have a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 get the vaccine as soon as possible. See a detailed list of who needs to get vaccinated ASAP here.

Does the vaccine have a microchip?
Dr. Martin explains here that there is no device, microchip or any other “funny business” in the vaccine.

Do the vaccines work on the new variants?
The vaccines in the U.S. are working well against the major variants we’re seeing so far. All viruses change and mutate frequently when they replicate. The more people who get COVID across the globe, the more variants there are. This was expected. The only way to stop variants is for more and more people to get vaccinated to stop the spreading and mutating from person to person. To learn more, click here.

Can everyone get the vaccine regardless of their immigration status?
Yes. Absolutely! You don’t need immigration documents or insurance. And it’s free for everyone.

If you’ve been vaccinated and your family has not, how can you safely see your family?
Dr. Padrez reminds us that fully vaccinated means two weeks after the last dose. If you’re fully vaccinated but your family isn’t, Dr. Padrez explains here that you need to take the same precautions you would at any time during the pandemic – wearing masks, frequent hand washing, avoiding spending time enclosed indoors, and no large gatherings of people.

More resources and where you can find the vaccine
The vaccine is now widely available and free. Here are some ways to find where it’s available near you, including:
https://sccfreevax.org/ (in Santa Clara)
or call 408-992-4900 (many languages available)

Published on April 26, 2021

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