Your most common coronavirus questions answered

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — If I’ve had the virus, will the vaccine protect me from reinfection? Should I still get my flu shot if I’m slated to get vaccinated for the coronavirus? Does it matter which vaccine I get? 

News 8 spoke with Dr. Richard Pan, California state senator, chair of the California Senate Committee on Health and pediatrician, to answer your most common coronavirus questions. 

Q: Can I still get the flu shot if I’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine? If so, how long should I wait between vaccinations?

Pan: You can still get a flu shot, but we do recommend that you not get the coronavirus vaccine at least 14 days until after you’ve gotten any other vaccine. So, if you’re in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine, you’re going to want to wait until you have that vaccine first before getting your flu shot. 

If you’ve gotten the flu shot, great job. Thank you. Our flu numbers are pretty low for that reason and from people wearing masks and other things, so the risk of flu right now is low. I do want to encourage people to get their flu shot. But if you are in a high-risk category and you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet and it looks like you’re in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine then you’re going to want to get your COVID-19 vaccine first. 

Q: Will the vaccine keep me 100% protected and will it protect me from reinfection?

Pan: Unfortunately, nothing is 100%. The good news on the COVID-19 vaccines so far is that the studies say they are 95% effective. So, that’s pretty good. In addition, if you get the vaccine and you do get infected with the coronavirus, the infection will be milder and will provide some sense of protection if you do catch the virus. 

We don’t know if you get the vaccine if you can get reinfected or if you might still be able to transmit the virus. So, we’re still collecting data on that. But what we do know is that it does provide protection for the person who has gotten the vaccine. Hopefully we’ll be getting more information on whether it prevents you from transmitting the virus. That is why it’s so important right now, while we still have a lot of coronavirus out there, that even if you’re vaccinated, please continue to wear your mask, wash your hands and keep that distance so we can reduce the spread of the virus. 

Q: Does it matter what vaccine I get? 

Pan: Both of the vaccines are equally effective and safe. So, you should get the first vaccine available to you. The two main differences between the two vaccines people are receiving is that there is a difference in the time interval for the second dose. For the Pfizer vaccine, it’s 21 days and for the Moderna vaccine, it’s 28 days. But aside from that, they are essentially equivalent in terms of effectiveness. So, whichever one is available, that’s the one you should get. 

Q: What about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that is given in one dose? It’s slated for FDA emergency authorization. Is that one just as good?

Pan: They are studying the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and trying to determine whether it can be given as one dose or two. So, we have to look at the data and see if a one-dose vaccination is effective. But until that data comes in and that approval comes through, we need to wait and see what the recommendation is on that. 

But given the fact that it doesn’t have such strict storage requirements — it doesn’t require such ultra-cold storage — it may be easier to distribute and get around to people in different places. So, we’re certainly very excited to have a potentially third vaccine that’s available for people. But we do have to wait until approval to find out exactly what the recommendations will be to ensure that it is effective when you get the vaccine. 

Q: Is Moderna’s push to half-dose the public safe?

Pan: The vaccine was studied in 30,000 people and we’ve given it based on full doses. So, while there has been some discussion about stretching the existing amount by giving people half-doses, I would say that the data is being generated based on full doses and that is the way we should be giving it: the full doses, two doses, because that’s where we know it’s absolutely effective.

Q: I’m hesitant to get the vaccine … .

Pan: The coronavirus vaccine has been studied in clinical trials to be sure they are safe and effective and we’re continuing to monitor them afterwards to be sure that they are still safe. You should feel confident when it’s your turn to get the vaccine that it will be safe and that it’s going to work. And that is why you should go ahead and get the vaccine. We’ve had too many people die or get very ill from this virus, including people who are still having symptoms. Let’s not have that happen to you or your family. When the opportunity is there, please pledge to get the vaccine. 

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Facebook @DrMaryGillis.