Expert answers to your COVID questions

As the pandemic continues to alter everyday life, people have many questions about COVID-19, social distancing and vaccinations. 

Gabriela Maradiaga Panyotti is a pediatrician at Duke Children’s Primary Care on Roxboro Street and executive member of LATIN-19, an organization working to support Latinx communities that are disconnected from healthcare networks. She answered The Pirates’ Hook’s questions last week. 

Gabriela Maradiaga
photo courtesy of

Pirates’ Hook: Do you still have to wear a mask and social distance if you have received the vaccine?

Dr. Maradiaga Panyotti: We recommend that you continue to wear a mask and social distance after you get the vaccine. The vaccine protects the person who received it from getting really sick or from dying, it doesn’t mean you don’t get the virus, so you could have gotten the vaccine and still get the virus and potentially spread the virus to other people who don’t have the vaccine. That’s one of the reasons why we recommend you still wear a mask and protect other people from transmitting it to. 

Another important reason is that even people who are vaccinated could still get partially sick. Until enough people are vaccinated there’s still a chance you can get the virus, so for now we are encouraging folks to still wear a mask when they are around people outside of their house, with strangers that you don’t know where they’ve been or whether they are vaccinated or whether they might have health problem that would make them sicker.

Does the Covid vaccine last forever?

I don’t know. There are different vaccines that children get some of them all you need is one dose or a couple doses and it lasts for a long time. There are some vaccines where you need a booster every year because the virus changes quickly like the Influenza vaccine. We don’t know with covid which way is gonna be, so right now were just waiting to see what happens. 

Can I get the Covid vaccine while having Covid?

They say you should wait. You’ll get more out of the vaccine if you wait until you’re past your sickness. It’s recommended 2 or 3 weeks after of having Covid 

Should the vaccine be mandatory?

I think it’s tough to balance because it is important to respect everybody’s decisions and make their own decisions for themselves and their family. Forcing people to get the vaccine can make a lot of people distrust doctors and governments. At the same time we know that we make other vaccines mandatory for kids. 

It’s a tricky question. I don’t have a narrow answer. I think we should all try to educate everybody on the pros and cons and hope that most people will make decisions that will protect each other.

What happens if you don’t get your second dose on the right day?

Well right now we don’t think anything necessarily bad will happen. When they did the experiments they tested to see what the effects would be four weeks later for Moderna and two weeks later for Pfizer and so that’s what the research says but the body isn’t so precise so getting it a few weeks later probably still works.

Why did the  FDA recommend the US stop giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The reason they did that is because there have been a few reports of a dangerous blood clot in some people who’ve received the vaccine, and so out of an abundance of caution they investigated whether or not those blood clots are related to the vaccine. It’s part of the safety measures in place to catch any potentials after effects from the vaccine 

Editor’s note: The FDA lifted the pause on the J&J vaccine on April 23. People are receiving the shot again throughout the US. 

Who is eligible in NC to get the vaccine? 

Right now I believe anyone in North Carolina who meets the criteria for the vaccine is able to receive it. For Pfizer that is everybody 16 and up and for Moderna that is 18 and up and. 

Do students need parent approval to get vaccinated? 

So 18 and up you don’t need approval from your parents because you are an independent adult, so you can make your own decisions. For children it is the same process as your other vaccines. We want the child to agree to it but at the end it is the parents’ decision to allow it or not because they are still a minor.

What are the easiest ways to get a vaccine appointment? 

The easiest way to get a vaccine appointment is to go the the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website. It’s called and you just type in your zip code and which vaccine you want and it gives you a map. You can see which place is close. There’s all other sorts of types of vaccine events happening all the time, too. People get them off social media, facebook, so you can probably hear them from other people. But if you want one good, centered location it would be the one I mentioned

What is LATIN-19?

LATIN-19 is a multi-sector coalition that advocates for the Latino community and is working to support the health and wellness for the Latinx community. We started a year ago in March as a group of people figuring out how we can help our community during the pandemic because we knew there would be many barriers. We are a group that works together to find things people need, like testing appointments and vaccine spots. A lot of times the information is only in English so we figure out how to get it out in Spanish and connect people doing projects to help each other. We got on the news, in the newspaper, on social media. We’re still doing stuff to make sure the information is in a language people can understand.

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