COVID-19 vaccines have been available to all Californians over age 16 since April 15, and more and more people are getting vaccinated ahead of the state's reopening on June 15.
But people in the Los Angeles area are still asking questions about the vaccine's safety, the science behind it, the reasons they might want to get vaccinated and where they can get their shot.
Here are the answers to some of the most Googled COVID-19 vaccine questions in LA over the past week, according to Google Trends.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine FDA approved?
As of Friday, June 4, 2021, the Pfizer two-dose vaccine, the Moderna two-dose vaccine, and the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine all have what's known as "Emergency Use Authorization" approval in the United States.
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The Food and Drug Administration provides emergency use authorizations to allow the use of unapproved medical products under certain emergency circumstances — such as a global pandemic — as long as the medical product has met certain safety and efficacy criteria.
The Pfizer vaccine was given emergency use authorization on individuals age 16 or older on Dec. 11, 2020, and it was expanded to include children ages 12 to 15 on May 10, 2021.
The Moderna vaccine was given emergency use authorization on individuals age 18 or older on Dec. 18, 2020. The company is waiting for emergency use authorization of the vaccine on children.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was given emergency use authorization on individuals age 18 or older on Feb. 27, 2021.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for full approval by the FDA.
Adverse and side effects
According to California's website for COVID-19 information, California For All, common side effects of all three COVID-19 vaccines include pain, redness or swelling where the shot is injected, tiredness, a headache, muscle pain, chills, fever or nausea.
The side effects should go away after a few days, and some people who get their COVID-19 vaccine experience no side effects.
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Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused in mid-April, due to concern about serious blood clots forming in a very small number of people who got the vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is now once again in use after evaluation by a CDC advisory committee.
According to California For All, "the CDC recommends women younger than 50 years old to be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets." A number of sources have pointed out that the risk of clots from the vaccine is lower than the risk of blood clots due to commonly-used birth control pills.
COVID-19 vaccine deaths
The CDC also records any negative effects, from "anger" to "death," reported after receiving any vaccine, in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System database. That includes effects from all COVID-19 vaccines administered. The database reports are voluntary and correlational - they do not determine the cause of the reaction.
According to that database, in the entire state of California, 24 cases of anaphylactic reactions were reported after COVID-19 vaccines, 2 cases of anaphylactic shock were reported, and 238 cases of death were reported.
Out of California's 2020 census population of 39,538,223 people in total, those 238 deaths is .000006% of the state population.
Some 3,687,736 people have caught COVID-19 in California since the start of the pandemic, and 62,179 people have died of the virus.
COVID vaccine for pregnant women
The CDC states that, because the vaccines do not contain live coronavirus, they cannot cause COVID-19, and are safe for "pregnant and lactating individuals" as well as their babies, according to the California For All website.
Furthermore, pregnant people are at a higher risk of getting sick with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people.
Is it safe to take ibuprofen/Tylenol before my vaccine appointment?
Taking ibuprofen (Advil), acetominophen (Tylenol) or other over-the-counter pain medications after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, if the recipient is in pain or discomfort, is safe.
The CDC does not recommend taking those medications before getting vaccinated. It's not yet known if taking medications to reduce symptoms ahead of time will limit the body's future immune response to the virus.
Can you still get COVID after getting vaccinated?
It is possible to get COVID-19 after receiving a vaccination, in an exceedingly rare "breakthrough infection" where the virus passes through the immune response your body learns from the vaccine.
But overall, the CDC says all three vaccines the FDA has given emergency use authorization work very well under real world conditions.
The vaccines reduce the risk of infection for the person who gets the vaccine, and reduce the risk that person will pass COVID-19 to someone else if they get sick anyway. They are also highly effective against severe illness that could lead to hospitalization or death, according to research conducted so far and which is still ongoing.
They're also effective against virus variants, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
And the more people get vaccinated, and the less COVID-19 can spread between people, the fewer opportunities the virus will have to mutate into newer and deadlier variants.
According to the California For All website, employers may require vaccines as a safety-related "qualification standard that is job-related and consistent with business necessity," under the ADA.
If the employee has a disability that prevents them from meeting that qualification, the employer cannot require that employee to comply "unless they can demonstrate that the individual would pose a “direct threat” to the health or safety of the employee or others in the workplace."
A number of companies are offering incentives for people to get vaccinated, from gift cards to free food to free travel packages.
But for Californians who want to dream big, California's "Vax for the Win" incentive program is awarding vaccinated residents thousands to millions of dollars. The state lottery program for the vaccinated announced its first big winners on Friday, including four SoCal residents.
Where can I get vaccinated?
There are a number of places and ways that residents of Southern California can get vaccinated. The Los Angeles Unified School District is offering vaccines to students at schools and with mobile vaccination clinics, and adults can get vaccinated at state vaccine sites or pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens.
Visit the "Plan Your Vaccine" vaccine finder to learn more.