COVID-19 Vaccine Information

VACCINE SMARTS 


Vaccine Smarts is written by Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences faculty members Drs. Megan Berman, an associate professor of internal medicine, and Richard Rupp, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch.


COVID-19 vaccine odds on favorite

We Americans are not good at calculating risk. Some feel that if something bad is going to happen, it will happen to them.

The interpretation of probability varies from person to person and depends on many factors: our emotions, personality traits, experiences and the seriousness of the event of concern.

The odds that something will occur, however, is not a prediction but rather an estimate that something might happen. For example, the odds that you are reading this right now is 1 in 1. The odds of catching a ball while at a major-league ball game is 1 in 563. The odds of fatally slipping in the bath or shower is 1 in 2,232. The odds of being struck by lightning is about 1 in 500,000. We all understand it is unlikely we will catch a baseball, slip and die or be hit by lightning.

Recent news is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be associated with an extremely rare but serious condition of a blood clot associated with low platelet counts, also known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome.

To date in the United States, more than 200 million COVID-19 vaccines have been given; of these, 8 million are Johnson & Johnson. So far, there have been 15 cases of thrombocytopenia syndrome diagnosed following a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All cases are in women, 18 to 59 years of age, 6 to 15 days after vaccination. The overall odds of suffering this complication are 1 in 500,000 doses, but for women under 50 years old, the rate is 1 in 140,000.

Just to be absolutely clear, there is no association between mRNA vaccines and these rare thrombocytopenia syndrome events. More than 95 percent of the vaccines given in the United States have been the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna.

While other countries do not have adequate vaccine supplies, we are fortunate in that we have quantities that allow those who want to be vaccinated to choose among vaccines. We recommend concerned readers discuss with their doctor which vaccine is best for them. It is perfectly reasonable for a young woman to choose a mRNA vaccine to avoid any risk of thrombocytopenia syndrome.

What is not reasonable is to avoid COVID-19 vaccination altogether. COVID-19 is a serious illness. Not surprisingly, thrombocytopenia syndrome has been reported with COVID-19 infections (in women more often than men). Additionally, nearly 9,000 of the 560,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been in women less than 50 years old. Do not forget other risks from COVID-19 such as hospitalization, damage to the heart and lungs and the prolonged fatigue and brain fog following some infections known as “Long-COVID”.

The odds of an aspiring athlete making it into the pros are 1 in 22,000. While that may seem like a long shot, the odds of avoiding SARS-CoV-2 in the long run if unvaccinated are much worse. Vaccination is the odds-on favorite for keeping people safe.

Vaccine Smarts is written by Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences faculty members Drs. Megan Berman, an associate professor of internal medicine, and Richard Rupp, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch. For questions about vaccines, email vaccine.smarts@utmb.edu.

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COVID-19 General FAQs

FAQs

  • What is COVID-19

    Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus, now known as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

    While COVID-19 causes only mild illness in some infected individuals, it may cause serious lower respiratory infection leading to hospitalization and even death.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this factsheet highlighting important information you should know about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-10).

    Last modified on 3/16/2020

  • How do I help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if I am sick?
    • Stay home unless you need medical care
    • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
    • Call ahead before visiting a clinic
    • Wear a mask
    • Cover your coughs and sneezes
    • Clean your hands often
    • Avoid sharing personal household items
    • Clean all “high touch” surfaces every day
    • Monitor your symptoms

    Last modified on 3/10/2020

  • Can I get tested for the coronavirus? What’s the process?

    Patients with symptoms of respiratory illness, including cough, fever or shortness of breath, can schedule online or contact the UTMB Health Access Center at (800) 917-8906 to speak with our 24/7 nurse hotline.


    • Patients should follow recommendations for testing, self-isolation and management of symptoms.
    • Any patient experiencing a worsening of symptoms—particularly shortness of breath—a few days after first becoming ill should contact the Access Center IMMEDIATELY. To keep our patients and employees safe, UTMB tests our patients for COVID-19 in advance of any procedure or hospital admission.
    • To keep our patients and employees safe, UTMB tests our patients for COVID-19 in advance of any procedure or hospital admission.
    • You may also wish to check with your local county health officials for testing available through local government. In Galveston County, Health District testing information is online.

    Please note: Our process and procedures may be updated as the COVID-19 situation develops in our region.

    Last modified on 10/16/2020

  • Can COVID-19 spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects?

    It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

    How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

    The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.

    Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

    Last modified on 3/16/2020

  • Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
    • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
    • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

    Last modified on 3/5/2020

  • If someone has minor symptoms and tests positive for COVID-19, can they be isolated at home instead of a hospital?

    At this time, patients testing positive for COVID-19 who have mild symptoms, are not over age 60 and do not have an underlying medical condition are advised to isolate at home. If a patient with COVID-19 is concerned, begins to experience shortness of breath, starts feeling worse a week or so into the illness, is over age 60 or has an underlying medical condition, they are strongly encouraged to call their doctor or the UTMB Access Center at (800) 917-8906 to speak with our 24/7 nurse hotline.

    Last modified on 3/16/2020