AUGUST 25, 2021 UPDATE
Click here to read our COVID strategies, FAQs and guidelines for the 2021-22 school year.
JULY 28 UPDATE
This from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS):
COVID-19 Cases are on the Rise
Here in Wisconsin, the seven-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 351 cases per day, which is 2.6 times higher than where we were two weeks ago when our 7-day average was 137. The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors now about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn the facts and find a COVID-19 vaccine near you.
DHS encourages anyone age 12 and older to get their COVID-19 vaccination now so they will be protected against COVID-19 in time for the 2021-2022 school year. For children ages 12 and up, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine currently available for this age group. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, spaced 21 days apart. Anyone ages 18 and up is eligible for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which also requires two doses, spaced 28 days apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also authorized for those ages 18 years and up, but only requires one dose. Full protection against the virus requires an additional two weeks after receiving the final dose for each of the three vaccines.
In order to be fully vaccinated by September 6, your child should receive their:
- First dose of the Pfizer by August 2
- First dose of the Moderna by July 26
- Johnson & Johnson by August 23
To find a COVID-19 vaccine location in your community visit Vaccines.gov, or call 2-1-1 or 877-947-2211. Select daycares are offering free childcare during your COVID-19 vaccine appointment, and select CVS and Walgreen pharmacies are offering extended hours on Fridays. Learn about these resources at the DHS Find a Vaccine Appointment webpage.
JUNE 7 UPDATE
WHO DO I CALL IF I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT COVID?
Anyone that has questions about COVID-19 vaccines or appointment locations can call 211 or 877-947-2211. Wisconsinites can also text COVID to 211-211 for county-specific information on COVID-19, vaccination clinics, and other resources.
REMINDER: GET YOUR CHILD VACCINATED
Don’t forget to get your children ages 12 and older vaccinated against COVID-19. There are many ways to find a vaccine appointments such as searching on Vaccines.gov, calling 2-1-1, or visiting the DHS vaccine webpage. To learn more about COVID-19 and how it impacts children, visit our COVID-19: Resources for Parents and Guardians.
WHAT IF I LOST MY VACCINATION CARD?
Try any of the following:
- Call the provider where you were vaccinated to see if they can give you a new card.
- If you received your vaccination in Wisconsin, access your vaccination record using the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR).
- If you have a social security number, Medicaid ID, or Health Care Member ID, you can access your record through the Public Immunization Record Access
- If you do not have one of these numbers, you can access your record one of two ways:
- Option 1: Fill out the Wisconsin Immunization Registry Record Release Authorization, F-02487 and have your records sent to you.
- Option 2: Ask the organization that vaccinated you to assign you a chart number in WIR. The chart number field is linked to the Health Care Member ID.
- Then, visit the Public Immunization Record Access webpage and enter the chart number assigned to you in the Health Care Member ID field.
- If you received your vaccination in another state, go to that state department of health’s website to search their vaccine registry.
*Please note, DHS cannot issue COVID-19 vaccination cards.
10 Common Questions About the Covid-19 Vaccines - By Bill Lieber, MD (medical advisor to Kettle Moraine School District)
As we turn the page into a new year, we are all happy to see an end to 2020. It has been a year unlike any other we have ever experienced. The announcement of several
vaccines effective against Covid-19, along with their rollout in December, helped usher in 2021 with the hope that life can, and will, eventually return to normal. While the vaccine hopefully does signify the beginning of the end of Covid-19, the days of wearing masks, social distancing and quarantining are certainly not behind us yet. In this article, I aim to address some of the common questions I have been asked regarding the vaccine.
1. How does the vaccine work? I’ve heard it can alter my DNA. Is that true?
The currently available vaccines use RNA to make the spike protein that is found on the outside
of the Covid-19 virus. RNA is ribonucleic acid. It carries the instructions for the synthesis of
proteins. When the vaccine RNA is injected into our bodies, it bumps into ribosomes in our
cells. Those ribosomes then “read” the RNA and build the Covid-19 spike protein. Our body
recognizes this protein as a foreign substance (an antigen) and generates an immune response
to it. As part of that immune response, our bodies make “memory cells” whose job it is to
produce antibodies against the spike protein, should we be exposed to it again after
vaccination-- for example, should someone with Covid-19 cough on us at the grocery store. As
you can see, the RNA definitely does NOT alter your DNA. It is a clever way of using our own
bodies to produce the antigen that we want to fight.
2. Are these vaccines safe? Were important safety steps skipped in developing and testing
While the technology used to create the Covid-19 vaccines is new, the medical community has
been developing and administering vaccines for hundreds of years. The first vaccine was
developed in 1798 and used to treat/prevent smallpox. What we have learned over the last 220
plus years of vaccinations has allowed us to safely accelerate the process. Our understanding
of infection and immunology has grown tremendously and put us in a position to rapidly develop
these vaccines. The vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use by the FDA have
gone through the same trial process as previous vaccines. The process was given expedited
review by the FDA and therefore allowed to proceed more quickly from phase 1 to phase 2 and
then to phase 3. None of the steps were skipped. We found that the risk of a serious adverse
event in people who receive the vaccine is not significantly higher than those who receive a
3. Once I get the vaccine, how long until I am protected from Covid-19? Does just one
dose of the vaccine give me protection?
We think that it takes about 2 weeks after the second dose of vaccine to achieve maximum
protection. That protection is not 100% effective. Studies have shown the current vaccines to
be about 95% effective. While that is outstanding for a vaccine, it doesn’t guarantee that you
won’t get Covid after being vaccinated. The effectiveness of the vaccines has been shown to
be around 89%, starting 15 days after the first dose. Some people, and countries, are
suggesting that we should vaccinate everyone with one dose before beginning to distribute and
administer any second doses. However, because the studies were done by giving a second
dose at either 21 days (Pfizer vaccine) or 28 days (Moderna vaccine), we don’t have any
information as to whether or not a single dose offers protection beyond the 21 or 28 day period.
Therefore, most physicians and scientists feel we should not alter our vaccination process from
that of the studies.
4. Once I am vaccinated, do I need to wear a mask? Can I visit my friends and family?
Can I go back to “normal life?”
We know that the vaccine offers 95% protection for those vaccinated. What we unfortunately do
not know is whether the vaccine prevents a vaccinated person from spreading Covid. If you are
vaccinated and are exposed to Covid-19, your likelihood of having symptoms is very small.
However, as your body is fighting off the disease with its shiny new memory cells, thanks to your
vaccine, you may still be able to transmit the disease to people who have not been vaccinated.
Therefore, it really isn’t safe to ignore the preventative measures we currently have in place,
such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and avoiding large gatherings. Remember, the main
function of a mask is to prevent an infected person from spreading the disease, rather than
preventing the person wearing the mask from contracting the disease. So, even after receiving
your vaccine, it’s important to do your part to keep others safe.
5. Once I am vaccinated, can I safely get together with others that have been vaccinated?
This is the best case scenario for getting back to normal. If everyone in a group has been fully
vaccinated, it would be very unlikely for anyone in that group to contract a significant Covid
infection. This is basically the way in which herd immunity works-- vaccinate enough people
and the disease won’t have enough hosts to continue infecting. This would essentially kill off
the virus for good.
6. How many people need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity?
We don’t know for sure, but Dr. Fauci has estimated that it is likely between 70 and 90 percent
of the population. So, that means that the US would need about 265 million people to be
completely immunized to reach herd immunity. We have two currently available vaccines and
more on their way to being authorized. The difficulty lies in vaccine distribution. Getting 80% of
the people in the country to do something once is a hard task. Getting them to do it twice within
a 4 week period is even harder. People certainly are motivated to get back to normal, so I am
hopeful that the distribution goes off without a hitch. Some experts think we will have
widespread vaccination by spring/summer, while others feel it won’t occur until summer/fall.
7. Is the vaccine effective against different strains of Covid-19?
Fortunately, Covid-19 does not mutate rapidly and it’s mutations thus far have been minor. All
indicators are that the vaccine is effective against the new strains of Covid-19 that have been
popping up around the world. The spike protein is what the virus uses to gain access to our
cells. It is what the vaccine targets. As long as there is not a major mutation in that protein, the
vaccine should be effective. Most of us are used to getting a flu shot every year. That is
because the influenza virus mutates quickly and we get a new strain every year. These new
strains of flu are different enough from the previous year that our bodies' memory cells don’t
recognize them. We must therefore come up with a new flu vaccine every year. Hopefully this
does not become the case for Covid-19.
8. If I already had Covid-19, do I need to get vaccinated? Shouldn’t I already be immune?
Natural infection does indeed impart some immunity. The problem is, the degree of immunity
can vary widely from individual to individual. Sometimes mild infection doesn’t initiate enough of
an immune response to produce adequate memory cells. On the other end of the spectrum,
severe disease can sometimes exhaust the immune system and cause it to not adequately build
lasting immunity. We feel that natural infection provides immunity for at least 90 days. For
some people it is likely longer. The medical community believes that vaccine induced immunity
is more effective and longer lasting. How long your shot will protect you from Covid is yet to be
determined. It is possible you may need a booster every 6 or 12 months. Regardless, the
immune response derived from the vaccine is more dependable and less variable than that of
natural infection. The studies done in phases 1-3 of the trials did not test the vaccine in people
who had already had Covid. However, we have been administering the vaccine to health care
workers and there have not been any adverse events reported in workers receiving the vaccine
who have already had natural infection. It appears very safe, and recommended, to get the
vaccine, even if you have already had Covid.
9. Will vaccination cause me to test positive for Covid in the future?
No. In short, Covid testing tests for active disease. The vaccine does not cause active disease.
Therefore, it will not cause a person to test positive. This is true for both the antigen and the
PCR tests. The vaccine should cause an “antibody test,” to be positive. That is the blood test
that is done to look for evidence of prior infection. A positive antibody test is a good thing as it
10. When can I expect to get vaccinated?
Right now, each state determines its vaccine prioritization. Therefore, it can vary widely across
the US. In many states, frontline healthcare workers and those in group living situations (i.e.
nursing homes, rehab facilities, etc), are the first in line for vaccination. These groups will likely
be followed by elderly and those with high risk pre-existing conditions. To determine what
groups your state is prioritizing and how the process will work, you should reference your state’s
department of health services or its equivalent institution.
I hope that helps answer some of the questions you may have about Covid vaccines. I am
hopeful we can have some return to normal by the end of 2021, but, until then, we will all have
to deal with fogged up glasses and trips back to the car for the inevitably forgotten mask.
Reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in schools and their surrounding communities hinges on carefully following the recommended school exclusion criteria. We understand the challenges that isolation and quarantine can place on families and schools, but the challenges will be even greater if the recommended steps are not taken to control transmission in schools.
People with symptoms of COVID-19 and people who test positive must be isolated as quickly as possible, and their close contacts must be identified and quarantined to minimize additional spread of the virus. Failing to control transmission in schools could increase transmission, potentially affecting how schools deliver curriculum and leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths in the surrounding communities.
For more information refer to DHS’s Guidelines for the Prevention, Investigation, and Control of COVID-19 Outbreaks in K-12 Schools in Wisconsin and DHS’s Returning to School After COVID-19: Information for Parents and Guardians.