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Chief State Epidemiologist Answers COVID-19 Vaccine Questions

What you need to know about the virus here in East Texas.
Credit: TEGNA

TYLER, Texas — More than one hundred thousand Texans have received the coronavirus vaccine. As this number increases, so do the questions that surround the virus. We spoke with Chief State Epidemiologist Jennifer Shuford to get some answers. 

From how the vaccine works to the new mutation, here's what you need to know. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity. 

How long does the vaccine last once you take it?

Initial studies they have right now show that that protection is lasting, for a few months anyway. But we need just a lot more information before we can start making recommendations about how long it lasts and if we need boosters.

Does the vaccine prevent the asymptomatic spread of the virus?

We know that these vaccines are really effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. We still have to figure out whether it’s as efficacious at preventing asymptomatic infections.

Credit: TEGNA

Can pregnant women take it?

Because we don’t have data to say it’s not safe, and there’s no good theoretical reason why it should be unsafe for them, we’re allowing them to get it as we go through these priority groups.

RELATED: Experts fear the holidays will fuel the US coronavirus crisis

Is there a new mutation of COVID-19?

So for most viruses, there are mutations that happen all of the time. So with this particular one in London, they had identified it back in September, but it was just a little bit and like a lot of the other mutated strains. But then in October, they saw that it was a higher proportion and then in November and December, so at this point, it’s making up about 60% of these SARS-CoV-2 viruses that they’re seeing in London.

Credit: TEGNA

This strain, known as b.1.1.7. has not been identified in the United States yet and researchers have also yet to determine if this mutation affects the effectiveness of the vaccine.

RELATED: Texas health experts discuss new coronavirus variant found in the UK

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) predicts that 60-70% of our population will need to have those COVID antibodies in order to reach herd immunity. In the meantime, that means it’s still crucial to wear your mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.