Q: Will a COVID-19 vaccination affect COVID-19 test results?
A. No, COVID-19 vaccination will not affect the results of viral tests (polymerase chain reaction [PCR] or antigen). Vaccination may affect an antibody test; a positive COVID-19 antibody test could indicate vaccination OR previous infection.
Q. Should healthcare personnel who have been vaccinated be tested for COVID-19 if they develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19?
A. It depends. The COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose series and high efficacy (or protection) is expected 10-14 days after the second dose. Thus, a member could potentially become infected with COVID-19 before, during or after the vaccination series and display symptoms in the post vaccination period. Providers should consider the following when making testing decisions:
- Cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell are unlikely to be related to COVID-19 vaccination, and testing should be considered for these members. If antigen testing is used and is negative, confirmation testing should be confirmed by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test;
- Most systemic post-vaccination symptoms (fever, fatigue, headache, chills, muscles, or body aches) occur within three days of vaccination and resolve within one to two days after starting. Testing may be considered in these situations. Please refer to the most recent CDC Guidance for Post Vaccine Considerations for Healthcare Personnel.
Q: Is the sterilizer ethylene oxide that is used on the nasal swabs safe?
A: The sterilizer, ethylene oxide, is commonly used in the medical industry. Ethylene oxide is considered a safe and effective method that ensures the sanitization of medical devices. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ethylene oxide is used to sterilize more than half of medical supplies in the United States. Ethylene oxide has been used for decades and is considered by the FDA to be the only effective sterilizing method that doesn’t damage the object being sterilized. It is also used in a variety of industrial applications and everyday consumer products such as laundry detergent and shampoos.
Q: Is there is a residue of ethylene oxide on the COVID-19 nasal swab tests?
A: The sterilizing process leaves no residual trace of ethylene oxide on the nasal swab. The process for sterilizing COVID-19 swabs is highly regulated and completely safe. Swabs are sterilized through exposure to ethylene oxide gas for a short, controlled amount of time. The sterilization process is assessed and evaluated from beginning to end to ensure the swab meets the FDA’s rigorous safety standards. There is no residual trace of ethylene oxide on the nasal swab when it is packaged.
Q: Are there long-term health effects associated with using ethylene oxide?
A: Ethylene oxide-sterilized nasal swabs are safe and will not cause long-term health problems such as cancer. Performing swab tests sterilized with ethylene oxide will not cause long-term health effects. Because there is no trace of ethylene oxide left on the nasal swabs once it is packaged, you won’t be exposed, nor will your health be at risk.