vaccine
COVID 2021

ASK LOOKOUT: ‘Can I pick which brand of vaccine I want?’ and your other questions, answered

We want to help you navigate this extraordinary moment in time so send us questions you have about anything related to COVID-19 or the vaccines that are rolling out to eliminate it and we’ll do our best to track down answers for you and post them here.

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Ask Lookout

Lookout wants to help you navigate this extraordinary moment in time so at the bottom of this story, ask us anything related to COVID-19 or the vaccines that are rolling out to eliminate it and we’ll do our best to track down answers for you. For more coverage, visit our COVID 2021 section and sign up for COVID Text Alerts and our COVID PM newsletter.

Q: What is the proper definition of “fully vaccinated”?

A: Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines entail two doses, administered weeks apart, while the newly arriving Johnson & Johnson vaccine needs only a single shot.

Q: My second dose was scheduled for 2/23 and canceled. I call Sutter’s number twice everyday and am told all Sutter sites are closed. I’m 79 with COPD. I have until next Tuesday to hit the six-week date. What do I do?Marsha B

A: So sorry to hear this, Marsha. It must be very scary. The answer might be CVS, which will provide an option to schedule second doses only. Go here and please check back with us and let us know how it goes.

Q: Where in Santa Cruz county can I find the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?Virginia E

A: There’s no way to go looking for a specific vaccine, unfortunately. You will just have to see where you can get an appointment and see which vaccine they are offering. We know 1,300 doses arrived to the county’s health department Thursday but we don’t know how doses — if any — arrived to the MCEs.

Q: I live in Santa Cruz County and provide child care to my grandchildren who live in Marin county. Am I eligible to receive the vaccine?Christine B

A: The county is helping facilitate vaccines for all childcare providers. Call Diane Munoz, Childhood Advisory Council Coordinator at (831) 466-5822

Q: Can friends who have all had both doses of COVID vaccine get together without masks indoors? Better outdoors without masks? If so, how long after getting second dose? — Harriet M

A: The best guidance we found comes from a Jan. 27 article in the Atlantic penned by Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. Marcus warned that because vaccines aren’t perfect, people who have received them shouldn’t let down their guard in any way — not even at gatherings with just a few other vaccinated people. “Based on science and how vaccines work, it certainly is likely that [such a gathering] will end up being lower-risk,” a pharmacologist from Johns Hopkins University told The Washington Post. “But right now, we just don’t know.” Government officials are no more upbeat. In response to the question of whether a vaccinated person needs to continue taking precautions, the CDC states that “not enough information is currently available” to say when — or even if — it will stop recommending the use of masks and distancing.

Q: What’s the verdict on pain relievers and the vaccine? — Sarah G

A: Timely question. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announced Tuesday (Feb. 16) that it’s urging people not to take pain relievers like Tylenol or Motrin before getting a COVID-19 vaccination. They say there is concern that taking such medications before the vaccination could dampen the body’s immune response. After is fine, but not before.

Q: My husband works in a food industry (Sunridge Farms). Is he eligible to get the Covid vaccine yet? — Marisol C

A: He is technically eligible now under the sectors of Phase 1B (workers in education, childcare, food & agriculture, fire, law enforcement, emergency services) but there is limited supply of vaccine and those 65-and-over still have priority locally. The link here might help clarify when he can get vaccinated.

Q: I’m over 65. Were do I go to get the vaccine. Thank you. — Junior R

A: Go to the latest updates provided by the county here and look through the options based upon whether you have insurance or not. Readers have been telling us that Sutter/PAMF will give appointments to those 65+ whether they are patients of there’s or not — though many of those have been several hours outside the county.

As part of Lookout’s COVID 2021 initiative, we’re answering readers’ questions. These questions about variants of the...

Q: Will be 69 at the end of March, dealing with cancer, can’t get an appointment. Tried Sutter, can I try any place in Santa Cruz? — Linda M

A: Go to the latest updates provided by the county here and keep trying Sutter’s website, especially if you’re willing and able to travel a distance for the vaccine.

Q: Is it true that even after you have received the 2-shot vaccination for COVID19, you may still infect others if you have been exposed to someone with COVID? — Sandor Nagyszalanczy

A: Because the vaccine trial period was so short, they just don’t have enough data to say for sure. BUT there are reasons to be hopeful. The FDA says “Most vaccines that protect from viral illnesses also reduce transmission of the virus that causes the disease by those who are vaccinated. While it is hoped this will be the case, the scientific community does not yet know if the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine will reduce such transmission.” Apparently there are some results from the Moderna and AstraZeneca trials that suggest they might protect against transmission. This article provides a great overview.

Here’s a breakdown of all the places a person might go to get vaccinated in Santa Cruz County now that eligibility is...

Q: One thing I’d like clarified is whether doses of vaccine are being saved as second shots — John H

A: (Answer via county health official Dr. David Ghilarducci) We have competing interests: We want to get vaccine out the door as fast as possible, it doesn’t do any good sitting in our freezer. On the other hand we want to make sure there is a second dose available. So we’ve struck a compromise where we are holding on to 50 percent of doses that are otherwise allocated as second doses, with the anticipation that we will get a new shipment that can sort of fill the balance of that 50 percent for second dose. So far we have not had to miss any second doses. We’ve heard some reports from other counties that they’re having some trouble using that method, so we’re watching that very closely.

Q: How well protected are people who have had the first of the two vaccinations? i.e. Is there ANY protection before they get the second one, or are they only protected after both shots? — Dianne Dryer

A: According to the FDA’s analysis of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, a single injection of either of the two-dose vaccines appears to provide strong protection against the coronavirus. While Pfizer says the efficacy of its vaccine after the first dose is about 52 percent, some experts estimate it to be much higher. In effect, the second shot acts as a booster.

Masks have been effective in slowing the coronavirus’ spread, but there has been debate about whether one-layer cloth...

Q: There are rumors or ideas going around that the vaccines could cause infertility and also questions about whether people should get it if they’re pregnant.

A: (Answer via County Health Officer Gail Newel) “The American College of OBGYN strongly encourages pregnant women to get a vaccine. They do recommend speaking with their obstetrician or midwife, or whoever’s doing their prenatal care prior to that. But they do recommend that they get vaccinated. Breastfeeding, same, but if you’d like to talk with your pediatric provider that would be a good idea, as well. In terms of fertility, I’ve just started hearing these rumors. There is no medical reason why this vaccine would create infertility, or any other problems. It definitely doesn’t cause gender change. That’s another thing that’s going around. It doesn’t cause ... RNA mutations. And so there’s, there’s just no evidence that, just the way the vaccine works, that any of these things could even be possible. Not even conceivable.”

Q: Has the new variant been detected in SC County? — Lisa Jensen

A: It has not. B.1.1.7., as the more contagious variant of COVID-19 that originated in the UK is known, has now been found in 49 countries though. And our content partner the LA Times reported Monday that the variant has now been detected in nine states and “that scientists expect that number to rise in short order.” California currently has more confirmed cases (32) than any other state, according to the CDC. Florida is next, with 22. It was first discovered in San Diego on Dec. 30, the second known case in the U.S. No cases have yet been reported north of Big Bear.

As part of Lookout’s COVID 2021 initiative, we’re answering readers’ questions. These questions about the spread of the...

Q: What about people who are high risk because of health issues such as leukemia? Will they have any higher priority? — Kim

A: (Answer via county spokesman Jason Hoppin. “Unless they are over 65, those individuals are currently in phase 1C. However, the state is shaking up the system as far as we know, so we will have to wait and see what comes forth.”

Q: Why does Santa Cruz County have a far worse positivity rate than ANY other Bay Area County. Santa Clara used to be worse off than we are. Now only Monterey has a positivity higher than Santa Cruz. — Johanna Bowen

A: Positivity can be an imperfect measure of virus spread because it depends on how many people are being tested. Pre stay-home order, people were getting tested before traveling; that has since declined. Our Mallory Pickett did a deep dive on this and other issues related to positivity. To read it, click here.