Vaccinate California executive director Leah Russin was interviewed on CBS’s KNX 1070 radio station on Friday, Oct. 1 to discuss Governor Newsom’s announcement that the COVID-19 vaccine would be mandated for students next year. Listen below.
Posts by Katherine Falk:
How good are the vaccines at preventing COVID?
These vaccines are very good against preventing severe COVID, especially against the original variants. However, no vaccine is 100% effective, and some behaviors should still be avoided until we are able to vaccinate a large enough percentage of our population. It’s really important that we stop the spread, not just in the US, but around the world, so that new variants don’t emerge. Until that happens, we may need booster shots every year.
Do I need to pay for the vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccination providers cannot:
- Charge you for the vaccine
- Charge you directly for any administration fees, copays, or coinsurance
- Deny vaccination to anyone who does not have health insurance coverage, is underinsured, or is out of network
- Charge an office visit or other fee to the recipient if the only service provided is a COVID-19 vaccination
- Require additional services in order for a person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine; however, additional healthcare services can be provided at the same time and billed as appropriate
-> if you have insurance, they can ask you for it so that they can bill the insurance for the cost of administering the vaccine. But if you don’t have insurance, they will just bill the government and you can still get the vaccine. They also cannot bill you for anything your insurance refuses to cover (no “balance billing”). There will not be any cost to you for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Is a particular COVID vaccine the best for me?
If you are age 12-17, you can only get the Pfizer vaccine for now. All three vaccines approved in the US are all equally effective at preventing hospitalization and death. This 7-minute Vox video is a must watch that explains it well, and why efficacy data from vaccine trials doesn’t tell the whole story. https://youtu.be/K3odScka55A
- Here’s information from UCSF explaining more about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
- This is a video put together by the Greater Than COVID public information initiative and the Black Coalition Against COVID (BCAC), advising that the best vaccine is the one you can get soonest:
- This article from STAT discusses the testing and data from the clinical trials, and explains why comparisons from the clinical trial results don’t work — because they weren’t done with the same populations, the same way at the same time.
Real-world data is coming in slowly, and really the only conclusion is that as more variants emerge, we will likely all need boosters. But the sooner we all get vaccinated with something, the sooner we can shut down the spread of variants and eliminate opportunities for new variants to develop — which could evade our vaccines.
- “South African variant may evade protection from Pfizer vaccine, Israeli study says”, Reuters, 4/12/2021
What’s happening with the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine?
The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is once again available for use — but now it has additional information about a potential side effect. Because we are monitoring what happens after vaccination so carefully, regulators were able to identify a very rare side effect — a specific type of blood clot. So they recommended a pause in administration of the vaccine out of an abundance of caution to allow an investigation. That investigation has now concluded, and people can once again get the one-dose vaccine. It now will be accompanied by warnings about the small risk of blood clots, and information about how to treat them if they occur. People who have received the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine within the past three weeks who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should seek medical care right away, and should inform their health care providers that they recently received the J&J vaccine. Many people prefer the J&J vaccine because it is only one dose, and it is certainly easier to use for hard-to-reach populations since it is not as fragile as the mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.
More resources here:
- J&J vaccine update from the CDC
- CDC Recommends Use of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Resume
- “Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is delayed by a U.S. factory mixup”, New York Times, 3/31/2021
Can I get a COVID vaccine if I’m undocumented?
Yes! Please! We have to vaccinate everyone possible in order to protect everyone. The virus doesn’t discriminate based on race or nationality — so the COVID vaccine is being made available to everyone who meets the age requirements free of charge.
Is one of the COVID vaccines better for certain ethnic or racial groups?
The short answer is that we really don’t know. The data from the clinical trials was very limited, as explained in the links, and real world data is coming in as we talk. What we do know is that all three vaccines had similar efficacy at stopping all disease and effectiveness at preventing serious illness and hospitalization.
There were very few Asians in the trials. Government and companies need to do better outreach and trust-building to Asian communities (and all the different subgroups that fall under the broad category of “Asian”). This article explains the breakdown and problems with over-interpreting the trial data for ethnicities and racial groups.
Which vaccine has the mildest side effects?
No study has yet been released comparing all three vaccines, but there is a new study which did compare Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, and Moderna had slightly more people reporting reactogenicity (feeling symptoms associated with an immune response to the vaccine). (Reactogenicity Following Receipt of mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccines | JAMA Network)
If you do have a reaction, report it at vsafe.cdc.gov
Should my child get a COVID vaccine?
Yes, children ages 12 and up can get the vaccine now! Currently, only Pfizer has been approved for ages 12 through 17, but trials in younger children are happening right now. Vaccinating children and teens is an essential part of protecting them — and their communities — from the pandemic. And when a vaccine is available to them, vaccinating younger children will be important too.
Are COVID vaccines safe for pregnant people?
So far we only have one study about the vaccines and pregnancy. The preliminary results are based on reports from over 35,000 U.S. women who received either the Moderna or Pfizer shots while pregnant. Their rates of miscarriage, premature births and other complications were about the same as what pregnant people experienced before the pandemic (and thus never got the COVID vaccines)
Can I get the vaccine if I’m nursing or pumping milk for my baby?
Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use under an Emergency Use Authorization in the United States did not include people who are breastfeeding. The COVID-19 vaccines authorized now are non-replicating vaccines, which means they are able to create an immune response but do not reproduce inside host cells. Because non-replicating vaccines pose no risk for lactating people or their infants, COVID-19 vaccines are also thought to not be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. Therefore, lactating people may choose to be vaccinated. There may be benefits to both the adult and child.
COVID antibodies have been found in the breast milk of people who were vaccinated while lactating, and in the cord blood of infants born to people who were vaccinated while pregnant.
People who get vaccinated against COVID while pregnant likely pass antibodies to their newborns. One study shows that antibodies were found in the cord blood of newborns whose gestating parent had been vaccinated while pregnant. We don’t yet know how protective those antibodies are.
A study in Israel showed that COVID antibodies appeared in breastmilk six weeks after a lactating parent received vaccination. We don’t yet know if those antibodies provide significant protection to the baby, and it probably wouldn’t provide lasting immunity.
- Maternal COVID-19 vaccination may protect breastfeeding infants (Helio)
- SARS-CoV-2–Specific Antibodies in Breast Milk After COVID-19 Vaccination of Breastfeeding Women (JAMA Network)
Should I get vaccinated if I’m trying to become pregnant?
If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you.
There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems. CDC does not recommend routine pregnancy testing before COVID-19 vaccination. If you are trying to become pregnant, you do not need to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Like all vaccines, scientists are studying COVID-19 vaccines carefully for side effects now and will report findings as they become available.
Resources on fertility:
There is no evidence the vaccines affect fertility.
Resources on irregular periods:
- Can the COVID Vaccine Affect Your Period? Some Women Say It’s Changed Theirs—Here’s What We Know Right Now
Can I get vaccinated if I have a complication or autoimmune condition?
In general, COVID is more dangerous than the vaccines, but your doctor knows your condition best. There may not be specific data about your particular medical history from the trials, so you should definitely speak with your doctors. More resources can be found here.
How good are the vaccines against the new variants?
Pretty good. Definitely worth having the protection of the vaccine. This New York Times article does a good job answering questions about the variants.
How long will I have protection from COVID once I’m vaccinated?
Early results show that the protection lasts at least six months, at least for the Pfizer vaccine. It could be longer, but we just don’t know yet. We will likely need boosters to extend protection and cover new variants that emerge while the virus continues to circulate around the world. And we need to wait for data to be studied about the other vaccines.
Can I take or do anything to prevent side effects of vaccination?
Be well hydrated and rested ahead of time, but don’t pre-dose with a pain reliever. Afterwards, if you don’t feel well, you can treat symptoms as they arise with tylenol or ibuprofen. If symptoms are severe or persist past 72 hours, call your doctor. You might want to try to have a light day after your vaccine, if possible. Tips for minimizing symptoms and maximizing effectiveness. If you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, be sure to contact your doctor immediately if you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath, and tell your doctor that you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so that you can be promptly examined and treated properly if needed.
What things can I do safely once I’ve gotten vaccinated?
Many things! The European Union just announced that fully vaccinated people are even welcome to visit Europe this summer! Closer to home, vaccinated people can socialize in small groups indoors without masks. Vaccinated grandparents can hug their unvaccinated grandchildren. We still need to wear masks when indoors with groups of unvaccinated people, like at the grocery store, and in some other higher-risk situations. For more details, read guidance from these resources:
- Fully vaccinated against COVID-19? So, what can you safely do? (Harvard Medical School)
- Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People (CDC)
- I’m Vaccinated Against COVID-19, But My Kids Aren’t. What’s Safe for Us? (Time)
Should I get vaccinated if I’ve already gotten COVID?
Yes, you should be vaccinated even if you already had COVID-19. We do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible—although rare—that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Why should I get vaccinated if I am at low risk of getting sick from COVID?
Even if you are not at high risk of getting severe COVID-19 or dying, you could either be the person in whom the virus mutates to become more virulent or you could pass it on to someone who is vulnerable. We have to create a wall of immunity to stop the virus from circulating or mutating, and getting everyone vaccinated quickly is the safest way to do it.
Why do I need to continue to wear a mask after getting vaccinated?
Because there are still so many people who are unvaccinated, and because no vaccine is 100% effective, there’s still a chance you could get COVID yourself, and even if you don’t get very sick because you’ve been vaccinated, you could spread it to someone else who doesn’t yet have the protection of a vaccine and they could wind up seriously ill. We may be able to relax more as we approach herd immunity in our communities, and even more once the virus stops circulating around the world, because then new variants will be less likely to emerge that can evade the vaccine protection.
What is herd immunity/community immunity, and how many of us need to be vaccinated before we reach that level of protection?
Here immunity is how you stop a contagious disease from circulating. When enough people in a community are immune, either because they had the disease, or because they were vaccinated, the disease has no one to infect, and it ceases to spread. Because the virus that causes COVID-19 is so contagious, we need a high percentage of people to be immune to stop it from circulating. Researchers are still discussing exactly how many people need to be immune to achieve herd immunity. Because immunity from the vaccine lasts longer than from the disease, and because being vaccinated is far less risky than getting sick, it’s much better to achieve herd immunity through vaccination.
Are there long-term side effects of the vaccines?
Long-term side-effects is something people often wonder about, especially with new vaccines. Almost all adverse reactions to vaccines happen within the first 48 hours or first 6-8 weeks after vaccination. That’s why regulatory approvals aren’t given until a trial has at least 8 weeks of post-vaccination data, and the benefit of the vaccine can be weighed against whatever adverse reactions happen. Here are resources about vaccine development and monitoring for side effects.
- Long-term Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccine? What We Know (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
- How do we know the COVID vaccine won’t have long-term side effects? (The Conversation)
Are the vaccines going to be required for work or school?
So far, the vaccines have only been approved for emergency use. Some schools, like the University of California and California state school systems, are planning to require vaccines for all faculty, staff, and students once the vaccines are fully approved. As yet, those plans haven’t been finalized, and no vaccine has even been submitted for full approval by federal regulators, but we hope that will happen soon. It’s possible that some health care providers or emergency responders may require vaccination for people who work directly with patients and the public.
What’s in the vaccines?
Each vaccine has a slightly different component list. A good explanation is here: https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2021/01/11/a-simple-breakdown-of-the-ingredients-in-the-covid-vaccines/
To learn more about the ingredients in authorized COVID-19 vaccines, see:
Is there fetal tissue in the vaccines?
No. There is no fetal tissue. Various stages of vaccine development and testing did utilize fetal cell lines, but there is no tissue in the vaccines. No fetuses were harmed in the development or production of the vaccine. However, if you refuse the vaccine and inadvertently transmit the virus to a pregnant woman, you could harm that mother and her baby. More information about that is here: https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID/you-asked-we-answered-do-the-covid-19-vaccines-contain-aborted-fetal-cells
How were the vaccines developed and approved so quickly?
No safety measures or efficacy tests were skipped or short-changed in developing the vaccines. A number of things were done to speed the process, and scientists were able to leverage prior research to help.
First, Phase 1 testing, which involves just a few people and looks at how safe the vaccine is, was combined with Phase 2, which looks at safety and efficacy in more people with more diverse backgrounds and underlying conditions. Phase 1 data was collected by allowing researchers to look at a subset of the Phase 2 participants. Combining Phase 1 and Phase 2 is done when companies are willing and able to enroll more participants early. A lot of people were willing to participate in the trials — which really helped bring them to the public a lot faster.
Second, we started manufacturing the vaccines in large quantities even before the trials were completed so that we would be ready to roll it out once approved by regulators. Normally, we wouldn’t risk wasting all the funding required for manufacture until approvals were in hand.
Third, a lot of planning for distribution happened before approval, so that we would be ready to distribute to the entire population — especially communities hit hardest by the virus and most at risk — as soon as approval was granted.
Finally, the science behind both vaccines has been around for a while. The mRNA vaccine technology had been in development for almost a decade. Developed as essentially a “plug-and-play” vaccine, as soon as the DNA for the virus was known, researchers could follow the instructions they’d already developed to create an mRNA vaccine based on the specific spike protein on the novel coronavirus. And the adenovirus vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and AstraZeneca use the same technology used in the Zika virus vaccine.
What are good things for me to say to friends and family who are still not confident they should get vaccinated?
We’re glad you asked! Here are some good tips.
- The CDC has two websites with a ton of information:
- A coalition of public relations and public health professionals worked together to create this resource
- A parent-focused resource center from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- A nationwide vaccine advocacy and information group
- A resource put together by Black physicians
- Tips for how to have friendly conversations with people about vaccines
This information was confirmed as of Sunday, April 11. This is a quickly evolving situation and details will be updated with the latest information as we can get it.
Everyone age 16 and older who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to sign up for one starting Thursday, April 15, and in some places, people already can. Local demand will likely initially be higher than availability, but hopefully it will even out soon. If you want to get an early appointment, consider how far you are willing to travel, when you are available to get it, and whether you care which vaccine you get (more on that later).
If your county is NOT YET open to all, but you want to get your vaccine right now and can travel, you can go to UC Davis (appointment needed) or CSU Bakersfield (for now, they take walk-ins). Many pharmacies between Fresno and Bakersfield have excess vaccines they would love to give you if you can get to them. If you do travel for your first dose, you will likely be able to schedule your second dose locally with CVS, a large medical provider, or a county-run site.
If you are not yet eligible, but want to get ready, you still can:
✅ join regional Facebook groups to see if anyone has created a vaccine appointment notification system. In the San Francisco Bay Area, subscribe to a Telegram app notification about available appointments in the Bay Area created by volunteer developer Mukesh. This channel provides availability information from more than 200 locations in the Bay Area every hour. Instructions to set up notifications (available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog and Portuguese): t.me/bayareavaccinenotification
✅ Create accounts for the vaccine providers that require it:
➡️Download the Walgreens app, or go to the Walgreens website and create an account — you will need a separate account for each person you want to schedule a vaccine for.
➡️Your local hospitals and medical care systems will likely require you to create a profile for each person whothat needs a vaccine appointment. Create those profiles ahead of time to get ready. Some may ask for a credit card to verify your identity (you will not be charged.)
➡️Request a member number at Kaiser
(800) 464-4000, option 3, 0
and be ready to search on Thursday or call
(866) 454-8855 and get an operator, as early as 6:30 am.
➡️Create an account on Walmart. Walmart seems to make appointments available at midnight daily. If you set your phone’s or computer’s time zone to Eastern Time (east coast), you can see (and book) those appointments at 9:00 pm.
You can also look at:
- CVS (often makes appointments available between midnight and 6:00 am)
- Lucky and Safeway
- -community clinics.
There may be additional providers in your area, so check your regional pharmacies, universities, and other medical care providers.
Scheduling vaccine appointments has been very frustrating for everyone. If you want help, please call 211 for assistance making your appointment. Alternatively, you can reach out to vaccinefairy.org or 855-800-BOOK to connect with volunteer helpers, or you can join a Facebook group like Bay Area Vaccine Hunters, which is the original source of many of these tips (more of which are here).
Additional things to keep in mind:
- The vaccine is 100% free to everyone, regardless of whether you have insurance. You don’t need insurance to get vaccinated. If you have it, providers will bill it. If not, they will bill the government.
- Immigration status is NOT asked or reported to any authority, and the vaccine is free to everyone regardless of immigration status.
- ID may be requested by providers to make sure you are the person for whom the appointment was booked. Any picture ID should suffice.
- Some vaccine clinics may be intended for specific groups based on zip code, county residence, or status as a military veteran, so proof of eligibility requirements may be necessary for those.
- if you are scheduling for other people — including family and friends — you will need to provide certain information about them, like birth date, email, cell phone, address, last four digits of social security number, and possibly more. Familiarize yourself with that info or make sure you can quickly get it from them as soon as you see an appointment.
Keep in mind that the best vaccine you can get is the one you can get soonest. The sooner we stop the virus circulating, the less likely there will be more variants that can evade the vaccines.
We are deeply saddened and outraged that antivaccine and antiscience thugs have managed to obstruct and shut down a vaccination site in Los Angeles. Vaccination is the only way out of this pandemic for us, since so many, including those taking part in this action, have refused to mask and properly social distance.
Furthermore, these thugs have just proven that the “informed consent” and “medical choice” rhetoric of their movement is simply hot (infectious) air. After all, the many attendees who were patiently waiting their turn to protect themselves and others were there exercising their free choice and their informed consent — and this group denied them that.
We call on our elected officials to forcefully condemn today’s shameful event, and on law enforcement to increase its efforts to monitor and prepare for this kind of disruption and obstruction of public health events and activities.
We cannot allow science deniers and conspiracy theorists to win. Enough is enough. #ThisIsOurShot
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PALO ALTO, CA — The defeat of State Senator John Moorlach in his re-election sends a strong message to politicians who pander to the anti-vaccine extremists and put politics over the health of their constituents. Voters responded to the anti-vaccine and anti-science rhetoric of John Moorlach by soundly rejecting him in his bid for re-election.
“California is a leader in using science to guide public policy,” said Leah Russin, co-founder of Vaccinate California. “By rejecting those who embrace conspiracies while ignoring facts, voters have ensured we will continue to protect our communities by relying on science.”
“The voters are telling people holding public office — Californians want safe and healthy communities,” said Dr. Richard Pan, state senator and author of two recent California vaccination laws. “The people want to hear the truth and expect elected officials to make decisions based on facts and science to protect their families.”
In the State Senate, Sen. Moorlach not only opposed public health legislation, he pandered to anti-vaccine extremists, including Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced researcher who fraudulently claimed vaccines caused autism.
Sen. Moorlach voted against the provaccine bills authored by Dr. Richard Pan SB 277 in 2015 and SB 276 in 2019 during major measles outbreaks. SB 277 abolished non-medical exemptions for immunizations required for school entry, while SB 276 provided public health oversight over medical exemptions to ensure fake medical exemptions could not undermine vaccination rates at schools.
On the floor of the California State Senate, Sen. Moorlach made speeches repeating baseless anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, headlined anti-vaccine rallies and became a high-profile cheerleader for the movement. While vaccines must undergo rigorous testing for safety both before and after FDA approval, in Sen. Moorlach’s floor speech against SB 276, he falsely claimed vaccines haven’t been tested for safety in 32 years — a verifiably false statement made by anti-vaxxers.
While serving in the State Senate, Sen. Moorlach has taken many extreme positions against science, including his denial of climate change, voting against legislation to protect children and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases while providing support for anti-vaccine conspiracies and voting against funding for public health during a pandemic.
After serving as a county supervisor, Sen. Moorlach was first elected to the 37th Senate District in a 2015 special election held to fill a vacancy when Mimi Walters was elected to congress. He then won reelection in 2016, defeating his Democratic challenger by 14 percentage points. Incumbent GOP State Senator John Moorlach ran for reelection this year in the state’s 37th Senate District, covering traditionally conservative, central Orange County. Sen. Moorlach’s anti-vaccine, anti-science stance became a central issue in the campaign as David Min and pro-science advocates highlighted Sen. Moorlach’s positions. On November 7, UC Irvine law professor Dave Min declared victory in his campaign to represent the 37th Senate District, defeating Sen. Moorlach.
“Voters had their say on November 3rd, and the people declared they want a representative who will protect their families from preventable diseases,” added Pan.
“Vaccinate California is eager to work with Senator-elect Min on science-minded policies that will benefit our communities,” said Russin.
First Partner Jennifer Newsom expresses sympathy with those who opposed SB276/714, and explains that the Department is consulting functional and integrative “doctors.” Functional and Integrative “Medicine” are non-evidence based alternatives to traditional science. She also thinks people should be able to delay vaccines and choose among them — which by the way, they can, they just can’t delay vaccines and send their kids to school. The dialogue about SB276/714 is done — the parents whose children need protection from vaccine-preventable disease are counting on full implementation without delay.