FILE—Sherriann Miller, left, receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Kim Bersing, emergency services director at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, Friday, April 2, 2021 in Yakima Wash.

As many Yakima Valley residents weigh whether to get vaccinated, they’re asking questions about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as other methods of intervention.

Earlier this month, state public health experts fielded some of those questions in a candid online question and answer forum.

Here are answers to vaccine questions from Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, and Kathy Bay, the state Department of Health’s clinical and quality assurance section manager.

This is the third of three parts.

Is it safe to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breastfeeding?

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month urged all pregnant women to get vaccinated.

“The CDC is very clear: You are safe to get this whether you are thinking of becoming pregnant, you are pregnant or you’re breastfeeding,” Lindquist said.

He said early on, there was no definitive guidance as data was still being collected. But the CDC and state Department of Health have that information and are now confident in the vaccine’s safety for those who are pregnant.

Bay reinforced that, saying that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the fetal medical providers group — both of which are experts in providing care for individuals who are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breastfeeding — strongly recommend getting the vaccine.

A pregnant woman who gets COVID-19 is at higher risk of severe illness, Bay said. Research shows pregnant people who get the virus are more likely to be admitted to intensive care, receive invasive ventilation and die than people who aren’t pregnant.

Is there accountability if there is a serious side effect from the COVID-19 vaccine?

Detailed clinical trials before the emergency release of the vaccines monitored for safety concerns, and there are databases that continue to do so, Bay said. There are programs that people can turn to for support in covering medical costs believed to be associated with the vaccine, she said.

Lindquist said he had personally vaccinated thousands of patients against COVID-19 and not seen a single person harmed by it. The risk of COVID-19 is much greater than the risk of the vaccine, he said.

Do mRNA vaccines change something inside people, like their DNA?

No. Messenger RNA or mRNA is injected into the muscle and sends a message to the muscle and cells to make a protein — a capsular antigen, like what is on the surface of COVID-19, Lindquist said.

“It’s not infectious. It’s not a piece of COVID. And the minute it instructs your cells to make that protein, it gets dissolved by your tissues,” he said. “So no, it doesn’t integrate into your DNA. Number one, it’s RNA, so it won’t get into your DNA. It only delivers the message … to make a protein that then your immune system recognizes as not-human and it makes antibodies.”

Lindquist said no part of a COVID-19 vaccine becomes a permanent part of you. Instead, it tricks the body into making antibodies.

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