How COVID-19 vaccinations support continued in-person learning this school year

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) have recommended layered health and safety measures for the protection of all children and staff in Oregon schools. How much protection do these measures provide?

We know every layer matters, but vaccination against COVID-19 is still the strongest protection available. This is why COVID-19 vaccinations are mandated for all staff, contractors and volunteers working at or for Oregon schools and strongly recommended for all children ages 12 and up.

Why student and staff COVID-19 vaccinations are important

As ODE shared in its most recent School Health Advisory, COVID-19 vaccination:

  • Protects both staff and students.
  • Helps prevent additional disruptions to classroom learning.
  • Reduces spread of COVID-19 in the school community.
  • Reduces the number of students and staff who need to quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19.

The vaccines are safe and effective

We know people have concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

  • The vaccine is new. Is it safe? Yes. While the three vaccines available for use in the United States were developed quickly, that doesn’t mean they are unsafe. The U.S. Food and Administration (FDA) reviewed each vaccine for both safety and effectiveness. The authorized COVID-19 vaccines enrolled tens of thousands of participants. They were followed for two months after receiving the second dose, which is common with vaccine trials.
  • How do we know about long-term side effects? For the COVID-19 vaccines, side effects do not appear to last longer than 48 hours. They include pain at the injection site; body aches; headaches or fever. These are signs that the vaccine is working to stimulate your immune system. Allergic reaction (anaphalaxis) is a rare side effect that has also been reported, and occurs within 15 minutes of vaccination. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, increased risk of blood clots and Guillain-Barré Syndrome have been reported; but these side effects are also rare, and the risk of blood clots is found in women age 18-49. Also, only the Pfizer vaccine is currently authorized for children age 12 and older.
  • What about myocarditis and pericarditis? These conditions have been reported in a small number of cases after receiving a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and more often occur in males ages 12-39 than in females or older age groups. Medical researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have studied these cases and determined the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is much greater and more severe than the risk of developing one of these heart conditions after vaccination.
  • Do the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines alter DNA? No. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA, which gives your cells instructions on how to build an immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19. But it doesn’t enter the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides, so it cannot change DNA. Instead, it quickly breaks down and leaves your system.
  • Were the COVID-19 vaccines manufactured using fetal tissue? No. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines do not contain fetal cells and do not use fetal cells to produce the vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine uses  an adenovirus vector that requires the use of cell lines (new generation of cells) grown in a laboratory from historical fetal cells from the 1970s, but it does not contain embryonic cells. No embryonic cell lines or cells are in the final vaccine product.

To learn more, read these frequently asked questions:

The best protection: COVID-19 vaccines

If you or students in your care are in contact with other school-age children, you should make a plan to get vaccinated for anyone who is age 12 or older. The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for children.

  • Additionally, if anyone in your household is fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster dose or third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, they should also plan to get their additional dose.
  • We expect federal authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in a diluted form for children ages 5 through 11 later this year. Full approval of a vaccine authorized under Emergency Use Authorization is expected usually six months or later after the initial authorization.

If you care for students age 12 or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon web page to schedule their vaccine appointment today.