Who might be the priority groups to get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Because vaccine supply is limited, countries must prioritize who will be vaccinated first to minimize severe disease and death. In most cases, these priority groups include essential workers - including health care workers - as well as older adults and adults with underlying health conditions.
WHO and its Strategic Advisory Group on Immunizations (SAGE) have published a values framework that provides guidance on principles and objectives and target groups for vaccination. The recommendations regarding priority groups will be taking into consideration epidemiologic scenarios, overall public health strategy, and vaccine supply scenarios. However, each country will need to adapt those recommendations to their context.
Click here for more information on the framework for the allocation and prioritization of COVID-19 vaccination.
Should people who have had COVID-19 still be vaccinated against it?
Yes, PAHO/WHO recommends that those who have had COVID-19 still get vaccinated against it, whether or not that person had no symptoms or was very ill. The vaccine further boosts the body’s immune system against COVID-19.
However, if the person has symptoms at the time of vaccination, SAGE recommends postponing vaccination until the person has recovered. This recommendation is applicable to all eligible persons, including older adults.
Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 if I am currently infected with COVID-19?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been diagnoses with COVID-19, you should still get vaccinated. However, you need to follow the local isolation guidance before going to get vaccinated, and it is best to wait to get vaccinated after your recovery. You can receive the vaccine then.
How long should I wait to get vaccinated after having had COVID-19?
WHO’s SAGE recommends that a person may choose to wait up to 6 months receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have been infected with COVID-19 before, due to the limited vaccine supply.
However, emerging data show that people who have previously had COVID-19 may fall sick again, especially in areas where variants of concern are circulating. In these settings, individuals who have previously been infected with COVID-19 should ideally be vaccinated within 90 days of infection. The length of this period may change as we learn more about immunity from natural infection.
Can pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes. Like all of us, pregnant women are at risk of contracting COVID-19. Because their immune systems change throughout pregnancy, they are more vulnerable to respiratory infections such as COVID-19. If they do become ill, they tend to develop more severe symptoms whose treatment may require longer hospitalization in intensive care units, greater need for ventilatory support, and a higher chance of dying when compared to non-pregnant people of the same age and ethnicity.
Data from 24 countries indicate that more than 200,000 pregnant people have contracted COVID-19 in the Region, and at least 1,000 have died from complications of the disease.
Although we have limited data regarding COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant people, the evidence is clear that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness and hospitalization due to SARS-CoV-2 infection, which has led the United States’ Centers for Diseases Controls and Prevention (CDC) to include all pregnant women as a group to be prioritized for vaccines. Based on the updated SAGE Roadmap for prioritization, all pregnant women (regardless of risk factors) should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination when the benefits outweigh the potential risks. Also, SAGE recommends that pregnant women consult the interim guidance document for vaccine products.
More information: SAGE recommendations for prioritizing vaccines in the context of limited supply
Can breastfeeding women get vaccinated?
Yes. Lactating women can get vaccinated and because they are as likely to benefit from vaccination as other adults their age, and breastfeeding offers substantial health benefits to lactating women and their breastfed children. WHO does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding because of vaccination. As of June 2021, there are no contraindications for this group.
Since none of the COVID-19 vaccines are live virus vaccines, it is biologically and clinically unlikely that they would pose a risk to the breastfeeding child.
Can people with underlying conditions get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes, people with underlying conditions are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they are able because they tend to be at higher risk of complications from COVID. The available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in people with known medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, pulmonary, liver, or kidney disease, as well as chronic infections that are stable and controlled.
Although further studies are required for immunocompromised persons, people in this category who are part of a group recommended for vaccination may be vaccinated after receiving information and counseling from their doctors. Since none of the COVID-19 vaccines are live virus vaccines, it is biologically and clinically unlikely that they would pose a risk to immunocompromised persons.
Can individuals who have been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) be vaccinated against COVID-19?
GBS is a rare immune system disorder that results in muscle weakness, pain or numbness, and, in more severe cases, paralysis. GBS could result from different causes, including infections, and occurs more frequently in males and persons over 50 years old. Cases may occur coincidentally following vaccination.
Yes, people who have previously had GBS may receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To date, no cases of GBS have been reported following vaccination in participants in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. The independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) general best practice guidelines for immunization do not include a history of GBS as one of the precautions to vaccination with other vaccines.
For more information visit: Vaccine considerations for people with underlying health conditions.
Can children be vaccinated against COVID-19?
As of July 2021, WHO has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in persons aged 12 or older. The other vaccines who have been approved by WHO continue to be authorized for persons aged 18 or older.
Children are less likely to suffer from the direct impact of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality compared with other age groups, even when infected with the Delta variant or other variants of concern (VOC). Nonetheless, they do have a small risk of developing severe illness and complications from COVID-19. Current evidence suggests that children with underlying conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Adolescents with underlying health conditions should be included among the high-risk groups to be prioritized for vaccination where community transmission is high, or where there is a risk of clusters of cases forming. In case of vaccine shortage, adults in the same prioritization group should be vaccinated before children with underlying health conditions.
More evidence on the short- and long-term effects of SARS CoV-2 infection in children as well as the safety profile of vaccines in children is needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of vaccinating children.
Are people with certain characteristics are more likely to have significant side effects after getting vaccinated against COVID-19?
As of June 2021, no. According to the evidence available at this time, no risk factors associated with serious adverse events following COVID-19 vaccination have been identified.
Can people with allergies or immune system problems be vaccinated against COVID-19?
In most cases, yes. If a person suffers from allergies that are not related to a component of the COVID-19 vaccines, they can be vaccinated against COVID-19 when it´s their turn.
A history of anaphylaxis to any other injectable vaccine or therapy (i.e., intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous vaccines or therapies) is not a contraindication to vaccination. For these people, a health professional should conduct a risk assessment. It is not known whether there is an increased risk of anaphylaxis, but advice should be given on the potential risk of anaphylaxis and the risks should be weighed against the benefits of vaccination. These people should be observed for 30 minutes after vaccination in healthcare settings where anaphylaxis can be treated immediately.
People with an immediate non-anaphylactic allergic reaction to the first dose (i.e., hives, angioedema without respiratory signs or symptoms occurring within 4 hours of administration) should not receive additional doses, unless later recommended by an experienced healthcare professional. Subject to individual risk-benefit assessment, the vaccine could be administered under close medical supervision if it is the only vaccine available to people at high risk for severe COVID-19. If a second dose is offered, the patient should be observed closely for 30 minutes after vaccination in a healthcare setting where severe allergic reactions can be treated immediately.
For more information: SAGE documents on COVID-19 vaccines