Frequently Asked Questions
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Basics
Coronaviruses are family of virus which include mild virus like the one that cause the Common Cold all the way to the virus which cause the SARS epidemic of 2002.
How is COVID-19 spread?
The COVID-19 virus is spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Studies suggest that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing any symptoms. Maintaining good social distancing (6 feet or more) is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms can be very mild to severe and can show 2-14 days after exposure to COVID-19. Symptoms can include fever greater than 100.4, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, sore throat, chills or repeated shaking with chills, unexplained muscle pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, new loss of taste or smell, fatigue, congestion/runny nose and headache. <gdiv></gdiv>
How can I prevent myself and others from getting COVID-19?
The CDC says that the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a mask, socially distance (at least 6-feet apart from unassociated individuals) and avoid crowds. The CDC recommends that masks have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, completely cover your nose and mouth, fit snuggly against all sides of your mouth with no gaps, and have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking.
- Avoid close contact with people outside of your household when possible
- If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
If you do get sick, you can help stop the spread of illness and protect your loved ones by doing the following:
- Stay home if you are ill except to get medical care. Please call your health care provider before visiting them and let them know that you may have COVID-19.
- Separate yourself as much as possible from other people in your home to prevent spreading to them.
- Wear a face mask when going to seek medical care. The mask will minimize the spread of droplets through coughing or sneezing.
- Do not share personal household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, towels, or bedding unless they are thoroughly washed.
- Follow any additional guidance from the health department or a medical provider.”
What cleaners and disinfectants effective against COVID-19?
What does social distancing mean?
Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings (or busy public spaces), avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
Exposure to COVID-19
What if I was exposed to someone who has developed symptoms of COVID-19?
What should I do if I was exposed to someone who is awaiting test results?
What should I do if I was exposed to someone who tested positive?
If you are fully vaccinated and develop no symptoms you do not need to take any actions.
What is a close contact?
Per the CDC, a close contact is someone who was within six feet of the patient for a prolonged period (15 or more cumulative minutes) during that person's infectious period. Or were directly exposed to the patient’s infectious secretions (such as respiratory droplets). <gdiv></gdiv>
When can someone, who tested positive for COVID-19, return to work?
If someone tests positive for COVID-19, a public health nurse will let them know when they can return to work. If someone has symptoms, but doesn’t test positive, they can return when symptoms resolve; however, if a medical professional says to stay home for longer, follow their instructions. We encourage people to remember that this is evolving and that guidance may change as more information becomes available. <gdiv></gdiv>
Would I still be considered a close contact if my exposure was outside?
Would I be a close contact if I was wearing a face covering and the person with COVID-19 was wearing a face covering?
Yes. We know that the face coverings are not 100% effective at preventing transmission of COVID-19. Even if you were both wearing a face covering, if you were within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for a cumulative 15 minutes or more, you would still be considered a close contact.
Frequently Asked COVID-19 Vaccine Questions
Can a first shot of AstraZeneca vaccine be followed by Pfizer or Moderna?
If someone is fully vaccinated (both doses) they don’t need another.
If someone is partially vaccinated (1 dose of AstraZeneca) they should complete a full vaccination when they arrive. Either 2 Pfizer, 2 Moderna, or 1 Johnson and Johnson
What is v-safe?
V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. And v-safe will remind you to get your second COVID-19 vaccine dose if you need one. <gdiv></gdiv>
I do not have a smart phone, how can I enroll in v-safe?
You will need a smartphone with a modern browser and access to the internet to participate.
Is v-safe free?
How do I stop participating in v-safe?
Participation is voluntary and you can opt out at any time. To opt out, simply text “STOP” when v-safe sends you a text message. You can also start v-safe again by texting “START.”
Is there a time limit to sign up for v-safe?
If you would like to participate in v-safe, you must sign up within 42 days of getting your first COVID-19 vaccine dose.
How long do v-safe check-ins last?
Is my health information safe on v-safe?
Yes. Your personal information in v-safe is protected so that it stays confidential and private. To the extent v–safe uses existing information systems managed by CDC, FDA, and other federal agencies, the systems employ strict security measures appropriate for the data’s level of sensitivity.
How does my participation in v-safe make a difference?
By participating in v-safe, you can tell CDC if you have any side effects after a COVID-19 vaccine. This information helps CDC monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in near real time. If any serious health problems are reported, they can be quickly investigated by CDC’s medical experts and scientists. In addition, traditional vaccine safety systems, such as Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), will also be used to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. These systems are part of the nation’s comprehensive approach to vaccine safety.
What if I have a health problem I think is related to my COVID-19 vaccination between v-safe check-ins or after I’ve finished v-safe?
If at any time you have symptoms or health problems following COVID-19 vaccination that concern you, please contact your healthcare provider. In addition to your participation in v-safe, you can also report your experience to VAERS.
How do I report a bad reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine?
How do I know if I am at risk for anaphylaxis shock from the COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC recommends that residents who have allergies that are unrelated to vaccines or injectable therapies get vaccinated. If you have ever had an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Residents with allergies unrelated to vaccines and injectable therapies should still get vaccinated. People who are allergic to PEG or polysorbate should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. If you have additional concerns about allergens of your reaction to vaccines, your doctor is your best resource to advise if you should get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Safety Before, During and After Vaccination
Do I still need to wear a mask and social distance once I get both vaccine doses?
Once you are two-weeks post your final vaccine shot you do not need to wear a mask or social distance according to the CDC. Essentially, getting vaccinated means you can resume your pre-pandemic life. <gdiv></gdiv>
Do I still need to wear a mask while getting the vaccine?
The Health Department will continue to require a face covering while patients visit the COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic or mobile clinics. The CDC recommends that during the pandemic people wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact with others outside your household, when in healthcare facilities, and when receiving any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine.
I just recently got another vaccine, is it okay for me to still get a COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC recommends individuals do not get any other vaccine two weeks before or two weeks following their COVID-19 vaccination. This applies to the first dose and the booster dose.
Is it safe for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying health condition?
Residents with underlying health conditions can receive the COVID-19 vaccine provided they have not had an immediate allergic reaction to other vaccines or injectable therapies. Vaccination is an important consideration for those with underlying conditions due to their increased risk of complications due to COVID-19. You can learn more about vaccination considerations for persons with underlying medical conditions.
Are existing vaccines effective against the new strains of COVID-19?
In an alert sent to all health care providers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration noted data suggests current COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the latest reported variations of the virus. The available vaccines offer such a high immune response that some decrease in efficacy is acceptable and will still offer protection.
If I receieve the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, Is my second dose guaranteed?
DPHHS plans for second doses when they administer first doses to a vaccine distributors. They have a system in place to make sure there will be a second dose for you. Most vaccine distributors in the county will schedule your second dose during your appointment for your first dose. If your provider hasn't mentioned a process for your second dose appointment, before or during your first dose appointment, you should reach out to them and get clarification on their process for booking second dose appointments.
If I am a minor, can I come to my vaccine appointment unattended?
Minors ages 16 and 17 can come to their appointment unattended, so long as their parents have filled out the unaccompanied minor paperwork (found on the homepage). Twelve to 15-year-olds are not eligible to attend appointments as unaccompanied minors and must have a parent present. <gdiv></gdiv>
Child, Pregnant, Breastfeeding Vaccination Questions
Will a COVID-19 vaccine be available to children?
The CDC approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children ages 12 and older on May 12, 2021. Pfizer says it will apply for Emergency Use Authorization for ages 2 and older in September of 2021. <gdiv></gdiv>
I am pregnant, is it okay for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
I am breastfeeding, is it okay for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
There is no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or on milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. People who are breastfeeding and are part of an eligible phase to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, may choose to be vaccinated.
I am a minor, can I go to my COVID-19 vaccine appointment alone?
Sixteen and 17-year-olds can come to their appointments alone so long as their parents or guardians fill out the unaccompanied minor paperwork which can be found on our home page. Twelve to 15-year-olds must have a parent/guardian present and are not eligible to attend their appointments as unaccompanied minors. <gdiv></gdiv>
What are mRNA vaccines?
How was the vaccine development timeline accelerated while ensuring safety?
How long will my COVID-19 vaccine be effective for?
The CDC says the vaccines last at least six months. Scientists hypothesize the vaccines last much longer than this, based off their clinical trials, but want to confirm this trend under real-world conditions before estimating how long the vaccine protection lasts. <gdiv></gdiv>
Is there a difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are RNA-based vaccines that will require two doses. The Pfizer vaccine doses must be taken 3 weeks apart; the Moderna doses, four weeks apart. These second doses will not be interchangeable. For example, if someone gets a Pfizer vaccine first they will need Pfizer for their second dose. Studies show the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 94% to 95% effective once both doses have been administered and had time to take effect in the body.
How long will the vaccine take to kick in?
The CDC says vaccines take a few weeks to “kick in”. In those weeks, your body is building an immune response against the virus. While a single dose of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine will provide a small amount of immunity, the second booster dose is critical for a person to get their maximum protection against COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine offers protection from a one-dose regiment, but this vaccine still takes a few weeks to develop its full immune response.
If I have had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?
According to the CDC, “Due to the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have a vaccine and more data on how well it works.”
Will a COVID-19 vaccine give me COVID-19?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19, so they cannot give people COVID-19. However, the goal for each vaccine is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.
Will a COVID-19 vaccine cause me to test positive on a COVID-19 test?
What is the purpose of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
According to the CDC, “While many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness or they may even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you are not at increased risk of severe complications. If you get sick, you also may spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you while you are sick. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience sickness.”
Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?
According to the CDC, “mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can most easily be described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.”
Will the vaccine be free?
You won't have to pay for the vaccine itself. The CDC confirms vaccine doses purchased with U.S. Taxpayer dollars will be free to the public. However, you may be asked to pay for costs, mostly staff, that are needed to administer the vaccine. If you have insurance, a claim can be filed by your provider to recoup a small fee from your insurance provider for costs associated with administering the vaccine. This fee will not be passed on to you. Whether you have insurance or not, you will not need to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine.
If masks and social distancing work, why do I need the vaccine?
The CDC says stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated for herd immunity?
Experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. As a result, everyone within the community is protected even if some people don’t have any protection themselves. The percentage of people who need to have protection in order to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.
If your doctor is in Missoula and you live in a different county, can you get immunized in Missoula County?
If your doctor is in Missoula and has chosen to give COVID-19 vaccines, you may be able to get vaccinated by your doctor even if you live out of county.
You will NOT be eligible, however, for vaccines administered by the Missoula City-County Health Department and the mass vaccine clinics it may offer.
I am an American Indian, where should I get vaccinated?
While American Indians are eligible for clinics ran by Indian Health Services, that is not their only option. American Indians are also welcome to get vaccinated at all public clinics in Missoula County. Your private health care provider may also be registered to give COVID-19 vaccine. <gdiv></gdiv>
I lost my COVID-19 vaccine card, how can I replace it or prove I have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine?
You should contact the provider who administered your first dose. You will need/want to replace the card which includes the date(s) of your doses and the type of vaccine you received.
I missed my appointment for my booster shot, how do I schedule another one ASAP?
Contact the provider who administered your first shot and schedule your 2nd dose.
I missed my appointment for my booster shot, how soon do I need to get another shot so that it still takes full effect?
For Moderna – the Emergency Use Authorization provides information for efficacy when 2nd dose received at 28 days after the first dose. It can be administered up to 4 days earlier without any change in efficacy. There is no data on the efficacy if the second dose is administered after the 28 days.
Does it matter if my booster is a different brand than my first shot?
Vaccine Scheduling & Logistics
How do I schedule a vaccine?
Do I have to get my first shot and booster at the same place?
What if I forget which brand of vaccine I got for my first shot?
Am I required to wait 15 minutes after receiving vaccine to be monitored for adverse reactions?
What do I need to bring when I am scheduled for the vaccine?
Where are all the places I can go to receive the vaccine in Missoula County?
Several pharmacies and the Health Department have the vaccine. <gdiv></gdiv>
Can I travel out of the County to get the vaccine?
What’s the time between the first and second shot for the vaccine?
I have health insurance, do I bring my card with me to get the vaccine? Is there a copay?
I’m uninsured—is there an out-of-pocket expense?
Is one vaccine better than the other approved vaccine(s)?
What is the difference between a mRNA vaccine and a Ad26 vaccine?
Which vaccine is most effective against the variants?
All of the approved vaccines are satisfactorily effective against the major variants. Initial studies suggest the Pfizer vaccine is slightly more effective against certain variants, such as the South Africa variant. However, all vaccines produce such powerful levels of immune protection that they can withstand some drop in potency and still guard people from getting sick. Additionally, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only vaccine tested globally and proven to be effective on a global scale. Variants are a rapidly developing situation and it is useful to have a diversity of vaccines. Thus, it is difficult to compare clinical studies in the context of variants.
Will the approved vaccines be effective against variants?
Variants are a rapidly developing situation. While the vaccines may be slightly less effective against some variants, vaccines still offer promising protection from variants. Importantly, vaccines also protect recipients from severe illness and death in the event that they do get sick.
Johnson & Johnson
Why was the Johnson & Johnson distribution paused?
The FDA & CDC and Missoula County paused the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccines out of an abundance of caution on April 13, 2021 after 6 women developed blood clots 6 to 13 days after getting the vaccine.
While only 6 people out of 6.8 million (less than 1 in a million) developed blood clots, the type of blood clot developed (cerebral venous thrombosis) requires special treatment. The CDC and FDA have now provided health care workers with proper guidance to treat patients who develop this special blood clot, as the normal treatment for it may not work well with a patient who was recently vaccinated.
J&J is now in use again. Both the CDC and FDA agree the benefits of this vaccine greatly outweighs the extremely rare side effects it may have in some individuals.<gdiv></gdiv>
I got a J&J vaccine, what are the signs of a blood clot?
The CDC says those who have received the J&J vaccine who develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after their vaccination should contact their health care provider.
Those who do not have a health care provider, but have these symptoms, should still seek treatment. Urgent care or the emergency room are good options for patients with no health care providers.
Does the J&J pause prove COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous?
The benefits that these highly effective COVID-19 vaccines provide far outweigh the risks of the COVID-19 virus itself. The vaccines are the key to ending this pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 560,000 Americans and sickened many more with long-lasting effects.
Can a third shot substitute for a booster?
No. Right now individuals can only receive the recommended dosage size permitted by the CDC.
Are booster shots made with the same ingredients as the original vaccine?
According to Yale Medicine, whether or not the booster will be identical to the COVID-19 vaccine is still undecided. However, there are some avenues that scientists can take to ensure the efficacy of the vaccine. They can produce a booster vaccine identical to the original or they can tweak the booster a bit to improve it's effectiveness.
When will booster shots be available?
If needed, booster shots could become available. As of right now, we do not have any instruction from the CDC on when that could potentially happen.
Since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was one dose, does that mean I will not need a booster?
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has stated that as of right now, Johnson & Johnson vaccines do not need a booster.
Can individuals who had a Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a second dose through Pfizer or Moderna?
The safety and efficacy of interchangeable vaccine doses has not been researched. The CDC recommends that individuals complete the COVID-19 vaccine series with the same vaccine.
Quarantine & Isolation After Vaccination
I’ve had my first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, but now I’m a close contact, do I still need to quarantine?
If I’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do I still need to quarantine?
No, so long as they meet the following criteria:
Note – MCCHD is requiring emailed documentation of the completed vaccine series, once documentation is received and confirmed by our team, individuals will be formally released from quarantine and offered a release from quarantine letter.
If I’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and test positive do I need to isolate?
Yes, the CDC does not yet know if those who are fully vaccinated can still transmit the virus to others and they recommend that those who are fully vaccinated isolate if they contract COVID-19.
If I’ve received one COVID-19 vaccine dose and test positive do I need to isolate?
Yes, one dose does not provide full protection against COVID-19, so if you contract COVID-19 after getting one dose you will need to isolate to ensure you don’t pass on the virus to others. Those isolating for COVID-19 should not break isolation to get their second dose. Please let the provider you scheduled your second dose with know that you cannot make your second dose appointment due to isolation, and figure out an alternative date with your provider for your second dose. <gdiv></gdiv>