HOUSTON - FOX 26 asked Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine, your top questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.
If mRNA vaccines like the ones by Pfizer and Moderna are new, how do we know they are safe?
"We sort of had the technology ready then it was applied to this particular new coronavirus," said Dr. Kulkarni. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines have been studied for more than a decade.
Can I get COVID-19 from the mRNA vaccine?
No, the mRNA vaccine does contain the live virus. "It's really not the whole viral genome. It's really just that small segment of the viral genome that encodes for the so-called spike protein, which is on the outside of the virus," he said. "That is actually biologically impossible because you're only getting one part of the mRNA so you cannot get the disease."
With a name like Operation Warp Speed, how can people be sure the Pfizer vaccine is safe?
"What I'd like to reassure folks is that before a vaccine can get emergency use authorization from FDA, it still has to go through three phases of trials," Kulkarni explained. "The review process was a little bit expedited but the concept of what was studied was the same as it has always been for other vaccines in the past."
Pfizer clinical trial results can be viewed here.
How long is the Pfizer vaccine good for?
"The honest answer, truthful answer right now is we just don't know," Kulkarni said. "If you look at natural immunity after getting COVID-19, meaning they got over COVID-19, even that is a fluctuating target."
What ingredients are in the Pfizer vaccine?
The FDA has that information online. Dr. Kulkarni says one of the ingredients is potential allergen.
"There's a substance that we sometimes take for constipation called Miralax," he explained.
That ingredient polyethylene glycol. However, he says, it's a very small amount, and the vast majority of people are not allergic to it.
"Overall, it's very unlikely that people will have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine," Kulkarni added.
Who was part of the Pfizer vaccine trials? Were people of different races included? What about people with preexisitng conditions?
On Pfizer's website, there's a summary of the participants -- 49 percent were women, 9 percent were Black, 28 percent were Latino, 35 percent were obese, and 21 percent had at least one underlying health condition. The median age was 52.
The full clinical trial findings were published in the New English Journal of Medicine last week.
What if you have COVID-19, can you get the vaccine?
Dr. Kulkarni says you should wait until after you are out of the infectious period of the disease, as recommended by CDC. How long to wait after this has not been specified. If someone received convalescent plasma or another antibody-based therapy as part of their treatment, they should wait at least 90 days before receiving the vaccine.