With the COVID-19 Help Desk, we will respond to reader questions directly as they come in, and publish updates weekly on our website and newsletter. We will call on a list of local subject-matter experts to assure we provide the most up-to-date information. 

You can submit questions through email to brittany@thebeacon.media, or you can call or text our COVID-19 hotline at 913-608-4777. You can also submit questions through The Beacon’s social media channels — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also check out our two guides:

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine in Missouri

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine in Kansas

Once I’m fully vaccinated for COVID-19, is it safe to go to a restaurant? (April 5, 2021)

Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends still staying 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds, and staying away from poorly ventilated spaces once you have been fully vaccinated.

For indoor gatherings, it recommends only having other people present from one other household.

The CDC says we are still learning more about the effectiveness of the vaccines, especially when it comes to variants of the COVID-19 virus.

So far, in Kansas there have been 27 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, and 35 cases in Missouri.

Does getting your vaccine card laminated make it invalid? I heard Staples is offering to do it for free, but don’t know if that’s something folks should do. (March 29, 2021)

It is okay to laminate your vaccine card, according to The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, but it is recommended to make a photocopy of it first, in case the card is ruined from stickers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend taking a photo of your vaccination card to use as a backup.

Does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitals, or universities, have a list of effects the vaccine has on breastfed babies? Is anyone testing babies’ blood to see if they get immunity? (March 29, 2021)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do have a page with information for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Clinical trials for the vaccine did not include pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, so little information is known. 

But, it is unlikely that any vaccine material would enter the breast milk and be passed to a baby during breastfeeding, said the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and if it did, it would probably be destroyed by a baby’s stomach acid.

There is a chance that a mother’s immunity to COVID-19 could be passed to a baby while breastfeeding, according to the ABM, but more research is needed.
So far, COVID-19 antibodies have been detected in cord blood of a baby born to a mother who received the Moderna vaccine.

Do I need to bring “proof” of my pre-existing condition to get the vaccine? (March 22, 2021)

Doctor’s notes likely won’t be required, according to Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System, and that KU plans on counting on the personal responsibility of people.

Is the pandemic ending? (March 22, 2021)

The answer is no, according to Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection direction and control with the University of Kansas Health System. He says that we have been doing well locally, but there are surges of the virus across the county and in other nations, including other variants.

He said the virus will be with continue to be with us, but we don’t know in what capacity.

Philip Newlin, chief medical officer with Ascension Medical Group Via Christi, said that we can expect the COVID-19 to become more of a simmer, and that normal society will return.

Will Phase 3 of the vaccine rollout in Missouri be prioritized by age? (March 22, 2021)

According to the Missouri Department for Health and Senior Services, there will be no prioritization for age in Phase 3, which will be activated on Friday, April 9. 2021.

Is there a page or website with links to vaccination providers, events, scheduling, etc. for Kansas City Jackson County residents? (March 15, 2021)

Jackson County, Missouri has a website with a list of places where residents can register for the vaccine.

Kansas City also has a website with information on places to register to receive the vaccine, including mass vaccination sites and federal pharmacy partners.

When will Phase 3 of the vaccination plan in Kansas begin? (March 15, 2021)

In a tweet on March 15, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced that Kansas will move into a framework on March 22 where Kansans in both Phase 3 and Phase 4 are eligible for vaccination.

When will Phase 3 begin in Missouri? (March 15, 2021)

Missouri just moved into Phase 1B – Tier 3 of vaccine distribution. Missouri Governor Mike Parson tweeted on March 14 that  the state will begin Phase 2 within the next couple of weeks, before April.

There has yet to be a projection of when Phase 3, which includes all Missouri residents, might be activated.

However, President Joe Biden promised that all adults will be able to start initiating the vaccine by the end of May.  

Even after we’ve had both of our vaccinations, could an antibody test confirm if we’ve already had the coronavirus or not? (March 8, 2021)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once you receive your COVID-19 vaccination, there is a chance of testing positive on antibody tests. Once you have had your vaccination, a positive antibody test might not mean that you have had a previous coronavirus infection.

Realistically, when will healthy, low-risk young people be eligible for their first vaccine? (March 8, 2021)

President Joe Biden promised that all adults will be able to start initiating the vaccine by the end of May.  

Recently, David Wild, vice-president of performance improvement for the University of Kansas Health System, estimated that someone in their mid-40’s living in Johnson County, Kansas, with no health conditions, and no vaccine-qualifying occupation, could expect to have to wait until the summer to start their vaccination.

Pharmacies are beginning to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Do you have to be a resident of the state to get a vaccine at one of the pharmacies? (March 8, 2021)

In Missouri, vaccinators with state-allocated vaccines all follow a state guidance that prioritizes Missouri residents first, and are encouraged to screen for residency. Kansans who work in the state can be included in employer-organized vaccination events.

Kansas does not have this guidance, but each county can set its own residency priority rules.

Doses to retail pharmacies that are provided as part of the federal government’s program, like to Hy-Vee, Walmart, and CVS do not need to follow any residency priorities.

My husband and I have had our second Pfizer vaccinations. I am not finding clear guidance on safe and acceptable social behavior now that we are fully vaccinated. Of particular import to us is whether we can safely begin to interact with our grandchildren again. And how about adult friends who are not yet vaccinated? (Updated March 8, 2021)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now say that fully vaccinated people can be indoors with other fully vaccinated people, without masking. They also can visit indoors without masks with a unvaccinated person who is low-risk.

But, they should still avoid medium and large sized gatherings.

(March 1, 2021) Right now, it is recommended by the University of Kansas Health System to continue wearing masks, social distancing, and avoid gathering indoors. Getting the vaccine makes it less likely that you will get sick with COVID-19, but you might still be able to carry the virus and give it to others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that currently, scientists are still learning about how well the vaccines work, and that vaccinated people should still follow the same precautions they have throughout the pandemic.

What happens if your vaccine site is out of the vaccine you received for dose #1? Should you take the jab that’s available? (March 1, 2021)

The University of Kansas Health System is advising people to receive both doses of the vaccine at the same location if possible. Some health systems, like the University of Kansas Health System, are also not allowing people to get a second dose unless they also received the first dose there.

It also is best to receive both doses of the vaccine from the same manufacturer.

When you receive the first dose of the vaccine, you also should receive a card with vaccine details that you can take with you when you receive your second dose, to help make sure you are getting the correct vaccine.

If you’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19, can you asymptomatically infect others? (Feb. 22, 2021)

The current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that people who are vaccinated continue to follow guidelines such as social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands often because there is still only limited data available.

New guidance from the CDC says that you don’t need to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure if you are more than two weeks out from your second COVID-19 shot, but are within three months of receiving it, said Amanda Cackler, director of Quality and Safety at the University of Kansas Health System in a news briefing.

“However, you are still supposed to be monitoring your symptoms, and depending on that exposure, you still may be recommended to get a test,” Cackler said. “Because you can still get it.”

She said that right now it isn’t known if the virus is transmissible from people who have received the vaccine.

What is happening with the COVID-19 variants found in Kansas and Missouri? (Feb. 15, 2021)

The United Kingdom variant of COVID-19, known as B.1.1.7 has been found in two people in Kansas and one person in Missouri. In Kansas, the variant was found in Ellis and Sedgwick counties. In Missouri, it was found in Marion County.

The UK variant has been identified as being more infectious, and scientists say it is probably more deadly.

Both the Astra Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines are effective against the UK variant, said Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, at a news conference. Williams said that a normal COVID-19 PCR test can detect the variant, and if detected, gene sequencing is done to identify the type.

“(The variant) is important to us because of the concern that if you had widespread distribution of the UK variant, it might accelerate the transmission,” Williams said. “That’s why it would be even more important that we get people vaccinated as quick as we can since the virus is effective against it.”

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said that the presence of the UK variant doesn’t change their public health recommendations. They encourage everyone to wear snug masks. Wearing masks with layers or multiple masks are more effective. KDHE also says to follow isolation and quarantine guidelines, physical distance, practice good hygiene, stay home if you are feeling sick and get the vaccine once you are able to.

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Brittany Callan covered health and environment at The Beacon, and was a Report for America corps member for 2020-2021. Funding for this reporting was provided in part by the Health Forward Foundation.