Your vaccine questions answered

An infectious disease expert at UT answers your questions
Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 10:19 AM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - There are a lot of questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. WVLT News is taking your questions straight to Dr. Mark Rasnake, an infectious disease expert at UT Medical Center.

Q: What are the side effects of the vaccine?

A: “Standard symptoms that are just side effects of the vaccine would be fever body aches, headache, just feeling tired, especially after the booster dose. If those things are tolerable and mild you don’t need to contact anyone. You can take some medicine, like Tylenol, and those will get better. Anybody that gets respiratory symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, that could be someone that’s developing COVID. We’ve had people that were exposed to COVID right before getting the vaccine and a few days after the vaccine has gotten sick. And that’s because they were already incubating the virus and so any kind of respiratory symptom, that’s not from the vaccine, that’s, that’s an infection,” said Dr. Rasnake.

Q: Is the vaccine safe for children?

A: “So right now, the only vaccine that is approved for children would be the Pfizer vaccine is approved for 16 and up. There are studies being done in younger children. Children right now aren’t even in a category that they would have access to the vaccine. Hopefully, the studies in children will be complete by the time the under 16 come up as a priority group for vaccine access, and we’ll know a lot more. There’s no reason to suspect it would be harmful in children we just don’t have the studies to say what the side effects or other, you know, benefits of the vaccine would be in that group yet,” said Dr. Rasnake.

Q: How is this vaccine’s technology different than say, the flu vaccine?

A: “The mRNA vaccines are the ones that we’re currently administering, and those are really novel technologies basically takes a little piece of the genetic material of the virus, only the genetic material that tells the body how to produce one of the proteins, and it packages that in this little lipid envelop like a little ball of cholesterol and fat to get it inside of the cells. And once it’s inside the cells, it tells your body how to make the spike protein, one of the proteins of the coronavirus that we’ve developed immunity to. And so when that protein is produced, your body’s immune system reacts to that almost like it’s a natural infection, but it can’t make the whole virus, and so you can’t get infected from it but you do make those proteins that basically teach your body how to respond to the COVID. So that’s a novel technology. This is the first time those mRNA virus vaccines have ever been used,” said Dr. Rasnake.

Q: Should people with food allergies take the vaccine?

A: “So at this point, people with allergies to food or oral medications can still receive the COVID vaccine without any special precautions. The only people that really need to take extra precautions are those that have had anaphylaxis to any type of injectable medication so IV antibiotics or another type of vaccine. They need to be observed for 30 minutes after their vaccine instead of the usual 15, but otherwise, they can still receive the vaccine,” said Dr. Rasnake.

If you have a question about the vaccine, send it to our COVID-TEAM at

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