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Covid-19 vaccine: your questions, answered

We got hundreds of questions and tapped an infectious disease doctor who focuses on health system responses to outbreaks and pandemic preparedness to respond.

MINNEAPOLIS — We are reading as many of your questions as we can and answering the most popular ones about the Covid-19 vaccine here. 

The expert we turned to is Dr. Jill Foster - an infectious disease doctor with the U of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview whose career focuses on how health care systems respond to outbreaks and being prepared for a pandemic.

"As soon as I'm eligible, I'm going to be right there in line to get it," said Dr. Foster about the vaccine that she calls fascinating. 

She understands others are wary - like Holly. She asked on Facebook, "If I already had Covid, is it still recommended to get the vaccine?"

Dr. Foster says, "With such little supply of vaccine, we're asking people that got it already, if they've had Covid already, that they move themselves a little further back in line." 

The Doctor says people who have had Covid are protected for about three months. 

On Facebook, Cookie wants to know if the vaccine is covered by insurance.

Dr. Foster says, "The Government has pushed this and the Government has paid for a lot of the development of it and the Government has purchased the vaccine from the company, so it's free for everyone."

Daniel also asked on Facebook, "What's in the vaccine?"

Dr. Foster says, "It's like sausage making, do you really want to know what's in the sausage?" But added, "There's nothing that is something should raise alarm." The Doctor says this is a new type of vaccine called a messenger RNA that's never been used on humans before.

Dr. Foster says, "All vaccines take a piece of the pathogen and gives you a piece of it that can’t cause infection and coaxes your immune system into forming immunity. What this does is it instead coaxes your body into making something that looks like the illness and then you make the immunity to that."

And no, you can't get Covid from the vaccine.

"Absolutely you can not; it would be like getting a chicken from scrambled eggs," says Dr. Foster. 

You will probably have side effects, especially fatigue after the second dose. But that means your immune system is working. Dr. Foster says, as unpleasant as side effects are, it's not that you have the illness, it's that your body thinks you have the illness and it's mounting an immune response to it. 

So, Lisa wants to know, "When will people know it's their turn to get it?"

Dr. Foster says, "If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say for the average healthy person, I would say May, June." 

If you're in the groups following health care workers, count on the Minnesota Department of Health and your health care provider to announce the next categories. 

"So the category will go out and say it's everyone over 65, then know that you are you and can figure out however we’re getting the vaccine that you get yourself in for that," said Dr. Foster who likened the vaccine to a flu clinic with appointments. 

There's also a way to file a report if you are injured by the vaccine. There’s something called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Dr. Foster says it was set-up in the 1980s and it handles claims against every vaccine, including the Covid one. "You don't have to go to court, you just go to this board and make a claim," she says.

And yes, you will have to still wear a mask for awhile, even after getting the vaccine which is only 95% effective. But there is good news and Dr. Foster says it will be clear when we can all take our masks off. 

"There’s going to be a point when the levels go down to such a low point it’s going to be like the end of  war. There’s going to be an announcement, there’s going to be a celebration and we will know then it’s under control."

Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann also addressed community questions with KARE 11's Karla Hult.