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COVID-19 FAQ Vaccines, Testing, and Treatment for the PH Community2021-08-23T15:15:51-04:00

FAQ on Vaccines for the PH Community

(August 23, 2021) Several vaccines to prevent COVID-19 are available either through FDA approval or under emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for vaccination. Everyone 12 years and older is now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Throughout the vaccine distribution process, PHA will address questions from the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community. We will update this information as scientific and medical consensus emerges about COVID-19 and vaccines. In the meantime, we urge everyone to:

  • Talk to your PH health care team about your medical conditions and about getting vaccinated.  Visit Vaccines.gov to find a location near you to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Stay safe if unvaccinated by wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining physical distance from others.  If you are fully vaccinated, the CDC indicates that you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.  Visit CDC to learn more about activities that you can resume once you are fully vaccinated.
  • Get informed by visiting PHA’s COVID-19 webpage for current and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines. Find more information on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Q: Who should get a booster (an additional dose of the vaccine)?2021-09-30T12:15:03-04:00

A:  Studies show that protection against COVID-19 may decrease over time for vaccinated individuals. To increase protection against severe illness, the FDA amended its Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to cover booster shots for those at highest risk.

The CDC now recommends individuals should receive a single booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after completing the primary vaccination series if they are:

  • 65 and older.

CDC recommends individuals may receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months after completing the Pfizer-BioNTech primary series if they are:

­­­­­­Currently, CDC recommendations address only those who have received the Pfizer vaccine. More data on the effectiveness and safety of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen booster shots are expected soon. The CDC doesn’t recommend a booster dose for any other populations.

For more information on COVID-19 vaccine boosters, visit the CDC website.

Q: How can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?2021-06-14T14:13:35-04:00

A: Three COVID-19 vaccines have received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization (EUA). As of May 10, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received expanded EUA to include children 12 years and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J/Janssen) vaccines are available for people 18 years and older. See the CDC website for more information.

To get the COVID-19 vaccine, check with your local pharmacy website for available walk-in vaccinations or appointments. Check with your primary care physician or health care team to see if they offer the COVID-19 vaccine. Search the “Find a COVID-19 Vaccine” website , text your zip code to 438829 or call 800-232-0233 to find a vaccination location near you.

Q: How do I know when I am considered fully vaccinated and are there any situations when I should take extra precautions?2021-08-10T07:31:22-04:00

A: According to the CDC, you are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after your second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

To receive the most protection from the vaccine, you should receive all the recommended doses.

You will want to talk to your health care provider if you have a condition or taking medications that weaken your immune system as you may not be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated.

The CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor areas of substantial or high transmission to maximize protection from being infected with the Delta variant and potentially spreading it to others.

The CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker is a tool to determine the level of COVID-19 transmission in communities throughout the U.S.

For more information about vaccines, visit the CDC.

Q: COVID-19 vaccines are being developed very fast. How will I know they are safe and effective for me?2021-05-18T11:53:41-04:00

A: Millions of people in the U.S. have now received COVID-19 vaccines under what the CDC calls “the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history” and these vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective.

The shorted timetable doesn’t mean scientists or regulatory agencies are taking shortcuts when evaluating the science, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Usually, the process of moving a vaccine through clinical trials takes years. But several factors led to a significantly shorter-than-usual approval process for the COVID-19 vaccine:

Some clinical trials combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies so researchers could quickly evaluate safety and efficacy in a larger population of people at one time. Millions of people were infected worldwide and available to participate in Phase 3 studies.

Distribution began soon after approval because many companies and the U.S. government ramped up manufacturing capabilities before clinical trials were completed. Usually, manufacturing doesn’t begin until all clinical studies are completed, and FDA has reviewed and approved the vaccine.

Learn more about the vaccine development process from Johns Hopkins University.

Q: What vaccines are currently available?2021-08-23T15:48:47-04:00

A: All COVID-19 vaccines that have received full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or approval for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) have been shown to be safe and effective.

  • The FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech first COVID-19 vaccine, marketed as Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The Pfizer vaccine is available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for adolescents 12 through 15 years of age and for a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. To learn about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, read the FDA’s COVID-19 FAQ.
  • The FDA has issued an EUA for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for use in individuals 18 years of age and older and for an additional dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. For information about the ModernaTX Inc. COVID-19 vaccine, visit the FDA website.
  • A third COVID-19 vaccine from Janssen Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson, has received an EUA approval from the FDA for individuals 18 years and older. For more information visit the FDA’s website.
Q: When is an additional dose of the vaccine (a booster dose) recommended?2021-08-26T06:31:38-04:00

A:  The CDC recommends booster doses for people who are immunocompromised since they are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This includes people who received an organ transplant or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system. The CDC recommendations they receive an additional dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after the initial two doses. If the same dose type is not available, a different brand of mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) can be administered. There is currently not enough data for the CDC to recommend a booster dose for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC does not recommend a booster dose for any other populations.

If you are immunocompromised, talk to your health care provider to determine whether you would benefit from an additional vaccine dose. See CDC for more information.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and medical experts on COVID-19 announced plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans in the fall, starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. HHS anticipates that a booster shot will also be likely needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. To learn more, visit the CDC website.

Q: Can I spread the COVID-19 virus after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine? Will I need to wear a mask and stay physically distant from family and friends once I am vaccinated?2021-08-10T07:35:27-04:00

A: The CDC updated mask guidance on July 27, 2021.  If you are fully vaccinated, the CDC says you can resume many of your pre-pandemic activities.

The CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public in areas of substantial or high transmission to maximize protection from being infected with the Delta variant and potentially spreading it to others.

Continue wearing a mask or physical distancing where required by federal, state and local regulations.

Check your specific state and local regulations for more details since stricter guidelines may be in effect. The CDC states unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart. Visit the CDC website for more information.

Q: How long will the vaccine protect me from COVID-19?2021-06-14T13:58:13-04:00

A: There isn’t enough information yet about how long a vaccine’s protection against COVID-19 will last. Many vaccines, such those for the flu, need to be periodically readministered. Over time, scientists will learn more about long-term protection. People might need multiple doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for broader protection.

All of the COVID-19 vaccines were shown to be very highly effective (90% or higher) at preventing COVID-19 in clinical trials and in real world conditions. However, some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may still get sick because no vaccine is 100% effective.  These breakthrough infections are rare and appear to result in less severe illness and less hospitalization. CDC is continuing with studies to understand how often this occurs, how severe the illness, and how likely a vaccinated person is to spread COVID-19 to others.

Visit the CDC website for more information.

Q: Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant?2021-08-17T06:19:22-04:00

A:  The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines for all people over 12 years old including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding and trying to get pregnant. Pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective during pregnancy. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.  See CDC for more information.

Q: Is it safe for me to travel after being fully vaccinated?2021-08-17T06:21:17-04:00

A:  According to CDC, fully vaccinated people can safely travel within the United States and do not need to get tested or self-quarantine. During travel, wearing a mask is required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the U.S.  When traveling, follow all state and local recommendations and requirements, including mask wearing and social distancing.

If you will be traveling internationally, visit CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination before planning your trip.

Visit CDC for the most updated travel guidelines and resources.

The CDC recommends delaying travel if you are unvaccinated.

Q: Will I need a vaccine if I already had COVID-19?2020-12-17T09:56:43-05:00

A: Talk to your health care provider. It’s unknown how long people are protected from re-infection after contracting COVID-19. Some people have been re-infected, so more studies are needed.

Learn more.

Q: Will I have side effects or allergic reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine?2021-03-02T13:01:24-05:00

A: All three vaccines report similar common side effects of pain, redness and swelling at the injection site and general sides effects of may include headache, feeling very tired, muscle aches, nausea and fever. There is a remote chance that the vaccines could cause a severe allergic reaction within a few minutes to one hour after getting the vaccine dose.

Learn more at the FDA website.

Q: What types of vaccines are being developed for COVID-19, and how do they work?2020-12-17T06:02:02-05:00

A: More than 10 vaccines are in development to fight COVID-19. The vaccines trigger the immune system in various ways to produce proteins called antibodies. The antibodies fight infection and prevent the virus from spreading throughout the body. None of these vaccines will cause COVID-19. Several types of COVID-19 vaccines are in development:

  • In one type, the virus is inactivated (killed) so it can’t multiply but still can trigger an immune response. That type is used for polio, hepatitis A and flu vaccines.
  • Another type uses only part of the virus to trigger an immune response. For COVID-19, the vaccines target a protein on the surface on the virus called the spike protein.
  • A third type, known as a viral vector vaccine, uses part of the virus to trigger an immune response. For the COVID-19 vaccine, the spike protein is inserted into another virus. That virus can infect human cells and trigger an immune response but doesn’t cause a severe reaction.

Learn more.

Q: How does the vaccine approval process work?2021-01-04T13:18:02-05:00

A:    New vaccines in the U.S. must undergo a thorough FDA approval process. The CDC makes recommendations for use. These processes are deeply rooted in science and data and are independently assessed for safety and efficacy to protect the public.

  • An independent advisory panel of experts called the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met Dec. 10 to assess data from clinical trials about the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The CDC adopted recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices about access and allocation of COVID-19 vaccines. The committee voted Dec. 12 for to approve the EUA for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The FDC, CDC and other federal agencies will monitor long-term effects of the vaccine on public health. Learn more about vaccine safety monitoring.

FDA approved an EUA for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 18, 2020, for adults 18 years and older. For more information, see the FDA fact sheet.

Q: What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?2020-12-17T06:08:52-05:00

A: An EUA permits rapid response during a health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. An EUA allows the FDA to approve medical products to diagnose, treat or prevent life-threatening conditions when no approved alternative is available. FDA scientists review safety, effectiveness, quality control and manufacturing data to confirm that known benefits outweigh potential risks.

Additional data and clinical trial results are needed before the FDA fully approves a vaccine. Researchers continue to study safety and efficacy data in additional populations, such as in young children. Researchers also will track long-term safety and efficacy after vaccination.

Q: Will I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?2021-01-08T14:48:24-05:00

A:   Vaccine doses purchased by the U.S. government will be provided to the American people at no cost, according to the CDC. Vaccination providers can charge administration fees for giving shots, but the federal government and private insurance companies will reimburse them for the fees. For uninsured patients, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund will reimburse providers for the fees.

Q: Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as I receive the flu vaccine?2021-08-10T07:46:07-04:00

A:  The CDC indicates that people can receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as another vaccine such as the shingles or influenza vaccine. Learn more.

Q: Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine while I am waiting for a lung transplant?2021-08-10T07:57:45-04:00

A: The International Society for Heart and Lung Transplant (ISHLT) has issued a statement supporting patients with advanced heart and lung disease to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Transplant candidates are encouraged to get vaccinated while they are waiting for a transplant and to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before transplantation surgery.

COVID-19 Testing

Q: What types of tests are available for COVID-19?2020-12-17T06:17:58-05:00

A:  There are multiple types of COVID-19 tests.

  • The most common type analyzes samples from your respiratory tract for the presence of the COVID virus in your system. You might be asked to spit, or someone will swab the inside of your nose.
  • Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests detects the presence of viral genetic material, nucleic acid.
  • Antigen tests detect the presence of a specific viral protein or antigen. The antigen test for detecting the COVID-19 virus is relatively inexpensive and fast but generally is less sensitive than the RT-PCR test.

Test results may take hours to several days. The results show your infection level at the time the sample was collected. A negative result doesn’t mean you definitely are virus-free. A negative result can occur if you’re tested early after infection and there isn’t enough virus in your system to be detected. During that time, you can transmit the virus to others.

You can be infected with the COVID-19 virus even after receiving a negative test result for current infection, so it’s important to continue wearing a mask, keeping physical distance from others and frequently washing your hands.

An antibody test indicate whether you previously were infected with the COVID-19 virus. Antibodies are proteins that your body produces to help fight infections. The antibody test analyzes a blood sample for antibodies against COVID-19. It is unknown how long antibodies remain in your body after infection.

More research is needed to determine how long after infection antibodies can be detected. It is not known if a positive antibody test means that you will be protected from becoming reinfected by the COVID-19 virus or how long that protection will last.

Learn more about COVID-19 tests.

Johns Hopkins University has a COVID-19 testing tracker for monitoring changes in COVID-19 cases and testing capacity throughout the United States .

Q: How do I know if I should be tested for COVID-19?2020-12-17T06:20:24-05:00

A:  Testing is appropriate if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or if you know you were in contact with someone infected by the virus. Because some people don’t have symptoms, testing helps you know whether to isolate yourself and prevent infecting others.

Your city or state might have specific testing recommendations. In some areas with high infection levels, people are asked to quarantine and avoid health care facilities unless they experience severe symptoms. You might have to take a COVID-19 test before undergoing certain medical tests. Talk with your PH health care team to determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19.

Q: Where can I get tested for COVID-19?2021-08-10T07:37:35-04:00

A: COVID-19 testing is available at health care facilities, select pharmacies and community-based and/or drive-through sites. Visit the Department of Health and Human Services webpage to locate testing sites near you.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures that COVID-19 testing is free to anyone in the U.S. included those without health insurance.

Q: As a PH patient, will I have to pay to get tested for COVID-19?2020-12-17T06:26:02-05:00

A:  Government and private insurance companies are required to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. While the law provides funds to cover costs accrued by uninsured patients, patients without health care insurance and those tested without orders from a health care provider might have out-of-pocket expenses.

Q: What do I do if I test positive for COVID-19?2021-03-02T10:36:21-05:00

A: Many people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and can recover at home. If you tested positive for or think that you were exposed to COVID-19, contact your PH health care team for guidance. Follow these steps if you have COVID-19:

  • Stay in touch with your health care provider. Monitor your symptoms and follow instructions from your PH health care provider and local health department.
  • Stay at home and away from public areas.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Isolate as much as possible from others in your household, avoid sharing household items and frequently clean commonly touched surfaces.
  • Inform others with whom you have been in close contact about your illness.

If you have COVID-19, you can be with others after:

  • At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
  • At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medications and
  • Other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving.

The CDC  has a self-tracker tool to help you make decisions about seeking emergency medical care. Visit the CDC website for more information about what to do if you or a family member has COVID-19.

Q: What are COVID-19 variants? Are they more dangerous?2021-08-10T07:40:03-04:00

A: Viruses often undergo genetic changes or mutations over time, leading to new versions or variants of a virus. Multiple variants of the COVID-19 virus that appear to spread more easily and could cause more severe cases have been identified worldwide including in the U.S. including the Delta variant. The CDC has reported that recent data has shown that it is possible for fully vaccinated people to transmit the Delta variant to others. The CDC reports that the Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms of the COVID-19 virus. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoors in locations with a substantial or high number of people infected with COVID-19. The CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker is a tool to determine the level of COVID-19 transmission throughout the U.S. 

Scientists and doctors are studying the new variants to understand how they spread from person to person, cause  illness, how well current COVID-19 tests detect them, and the efficacy of current COVID-19 treatments and vaccines for these variants. Research continues to show that the current COVID-19 vaccines are effective in reducing serious illness, hospitalization and death caused by these variants.

For the most up to date information on COVID-19 virus variants, visit the CDC website.

COVID-19 Treatment

Q: What treatments are available for COVID-19?2021-06-15T06:34:59-04:00

A: Veklury (remdesivir) is the one FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment for hospitalized patients. Other medications are being studied as potential treatments for COVID-19. Ventilators, corticosteroids and convalescent plasma from people who recovered from COVID-19 may also be used on an emergency basis in the hospital.

FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for a number of therapeutic products and medical devices to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients at risk of severe illness or hospitalization. For the most up to date information, visit FDA.

For more information about therapies to treat COVID-19, visit the CDC.

Health insurance plans aren’t required to cover COVID-19 treatment. Out-of-pocket costs for treatment vary by insurance plan and by individual.

Be aware of products that falsely claim to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure COVID-19. To help patients protect themselves, the FDA lists warning letters sent to companies selling fraudulent products.

Q: What risks are associated with medication for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) or chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) when infected with the COVID-19 virus?2020-09-01T13:19:05-04:00

A: The use of PAH and CTEPH medications hasn’t been studied in PAH or CTEPH patients who contract COVID-19. Stopping or modifying your medication isn’t recommended because that could make your PAH or CTEPH worse. Talk about medication concerns with your PH health care team.

Q: What do I do about routine tests for refills?2020-09-01T13:27:32-04:00

A: Certain PH medications may require blood and/or urine tests to refill your prescription. If you are concerned about going to the hospital for tests but are short on medication, contact your PH care provider and/or specialty pharmacy. Your specialty pharmacy might require home visits for some medications. Most have temporarily halted home visits, but speak to your healthcare provider and specialty pharmacy about changes in services.

Q: What about herbal or vitamin supplements?2020-09-01T13:29:16-04:00

A: Don’t take herbal supplements, high amounts of vitamin supplements or any “antiviral cures” without consulting your PH care team. Herbal therapies should be viewed as drugs and can be harmful.

Q: Can I use at home a pulse oximeter to accurately monitor my blood oxygen level?2021-06-15T06:37:43-04:00

A: A pulse oximeter is a device used to estimate the amount of oxygen carried in the blood and pulse rate. It can be helpful for COVID-19 patients to monitor their illness at home.

The FDA suggests that changes or trends in oximeter measurements may be more relevant than relying on one single reading. Do not solely rely only on a pulse oximeter to assess your health condition or oxygen level.

If you are concerned about your pulse oximeter reading or if your symptoms are getting worse, contact your PH health care team.

Pulse oximeters cannot be used to diagnose COVID-19.  If you think you may have COVID-19, contact your PH care team or local health department about getting a diagnostic test for COVID-19.

Talk with your PH health care teams about your health risks and safety measures to protect yourself from COVID-19 infection.

For more information about how to stay safe and prevent infection during the pandemic, the symptoms of COVID-19, medical appointments and managing stress and anxiety, visit the COVID-19 FAQ for the PH Community.

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