COVID-19 Vaccination Information

COVID-19 VACCINATION FAQS

AVAILABILITY, DISTRIBUTION, AND COST

When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The first vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) arrived in Virginia in December 2020 and will be provided to a total of 370,650 healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Additional doses are expected in early 2021 and will be provided to more Virginians but the timeline is not yet known. Availability will increase in the coming months.

Who will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

The goal will be to vaccinate as many people as safely possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Certain groups of people will be prioritized to receive the vaccine in phases based on recommendations from the CDC.

Who will get the vaccine first?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that the first vaccines go to healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities, people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illnesses due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 and older. Virginians who do not fall into priority categories will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when it is more widely available. Children and pregnant adults will be offered vaccines only after the vaccine is tested and authorized for those groups. Learn more about the CDC’s priority groups and phased distribution plan.

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The vaccine itself will be free, although providers will be permitted to charge an administrative fee.

Will there be a choice of which vaccine I get?

No. While there may be more than one vaccine available to Americans, your healthcare provider will likely have only one brand available.

What is VDH doing to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution throughout Virginia?

The CDC and U.S. Department of Defense are coordinating vaccine distribution nationally. In Virginia, VDH is ensuring that the vaccine is distributed to all areas of the state so when you get the vaccine depends on whether you are identified as high-risk, not on where you live.

In December, the vaccine will begin to be distributed to healthcare workers and long-term residents in every part of the state. People in these groups will be vaccinated at their places of employment or through the facilities where they live.

Once the CDC makes recommendations about the next group of people who should receive vaccinations, VDH will ensure the vaccines are distributed to those people regardless of where they live in Virginia.

How will VDH make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably and to those who most need it?

Virginia’s registration system will allow the facility to identify the need for the vaccine and an estimate of the population they serve by risk factor. These data will be used to prioritize vaccine shipments in accordance with CDC recommendations.

Where will people go to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

VDH is enrolling a variety of providers to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. These include hospitals, long-term care facilities, local health departments, and urgent care centers. More information about vaccine availability will be communicated as soon as it becomes available.

How do I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Long-term care facility residents will be given vaccines on-site at their facilities by CVS and Walgreens teams, who are partnering with the CDC to bring vaccines directly to the facilities so residents do not have to travel.

Healthcare workers will receive the vaccine at their places of employment.

VDH is currently enrolling providers to administer the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes more widely available. These providers include hospitals, long-term care facilities, local health departments, health systems, outpatient centers and urgent care centers. More information about vaccine availability will be communicated as it becomes available.

Will I need more than one dose?

The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines will need two doses. Your vaccine provider will let you know when you’ll need an additional dose and help provide a way to remind you to return in time to get your second dose.

Will I need a yearly COVID-19 vaccine?

Maybe. COVID may end up circulating each winter alongside the flu even after we are out of the pandemic phase. Since the vaccine is so new, we aren’t sure yet how long immunity lasts, though data is being gathered constantly to help us understand our future vaccine needs.

I’m a healthcare worker – can I get a vaccine right away?

The first Virginians who will receive vaccines are healthcare workers who care directly for COVID-19 patients. These workers will receive the first batch of 72,150 Pfizer vaccinations expected in mid-December for healthcare facilities all over the state.

Additional batches of vaccine will be coming later in December and all healthcare providers who provide direct patient care will receive the vaccine. Virginia will get 370,650 vaccines in December and they will be distributed to the 500,000 healthcare workers and long-term care residents in Virginia.

Who is considered a phase 1a Healthcare Provider?

  1. CDC Definition: HCP refers to all paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials, including body substances (e.g., blood, tissue, and specific body fluids); contaminated medical supplies, devices, and equipment; contaminated environmental surfaces; or contaminated air. HCP include, but are not limited to, emergency medical service personnel, nurses, nursing assistants, home healthcare personnel, physicians, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students and trainees, contractual staff not employed by the healthcare facility, and persons not directly involved in patient care, but who could be exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted in the healthcare setting (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing, and volunteer personnel).
  2. Performing a role that is patient-facing
  3. Performing a role as a first responders, such as firefighters or law enforcement that are acting as EMS-extenders through dealing directly with patients

 

SAFETY AND EFFICACY

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is being developed and tested the same way as every other vaccine in the United States. Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines have gone through a careful trial process with several phases. For every vaccine in the United States (including COVID-19), trials start with Phase 1, when small groups of people are vaccinated and then monitored. Phase 2 expands the trial to more people and in Phase 3, tens of thousands of people are vaccinated to be sure the vaccine is both safe and effective for all types of people. After a vaccine is authorized or approved, it goes through a Phase 4 trial, where long-term effects are studied. These trials, which include people at high risk for COVID-19, help identify any common side effects or other safety concerns.

How many people were included in the study proving that the vaccine is safe? Did it include all genders, races, ages, etc.?

All Phase 3 trials had at least 30,000 participants and included people from various races, ethnicities, age groups, and genders. Both Pfizer and Moderna — two of the companies making COVID-19 vaccines — report that at least 30% of their trial participants are Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.

How was the COVID-19 vaccine determined to be effective?

In order to be effective, a vaccine trial has to look at many factors, including age, race and ethnicity, gender, and risk factors. For example, healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus and are more likely to be exposed to large amounts of it. People with chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma may be less likely to come into contact with the virus, but are more likely to become seriously ill if they do get it.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are a type of vaccine called “mRNA vaccines” and they are being held to the same high standards for safety and effectiveness as all other types of vaccine in the United States.The only COVID-19 vaccines the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow in the United States are those that meet these standards.

What is mRNA, and how does it work to provide protection?

mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid. mRNA does not get into the nucleus of your cells and it does not put germs into your body. Instead, it teaches your cells to make a protein that creates an immune response. That immune response produces antibodies that help keep you from becoming infected if the virus enters your body.  Like other types of vaccines, vaccines that use mRNA will not change your DNA or cause any permanent alteration of your body’s genetic material.

The COVID-19 vaccine was developed faster than most other vaccines. How do I know it is safe?

Public health officials have been preparing for this vaccine since the virus was first discovered in 2019. The COVID-19 vaccine has been produced faster than any other vaccine, but it has followed the very same process as any other vaccine, including studying tens of thousands of participants of different races and ethnicities.

After the FDA approves a vaccine, an independent immunization committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will decide whether to recommend it and for whom. In all stages of the process, the most important factor is safety.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has the safety of the Commonwealth and its citizens as its number one priority. VDH works closely with the CDC to make sure the vaccine(s) that become available are safe and effective.

What is an EUA?

An EUA is an “Emergency Use Authorization,” a process that allows a drug company to apply for use of a COVID-19 vaccine with a limited amount of efficacy, effectiveness and safety data. This means that the vaccine can become available for use more quickly than the usual approval and licensing process would allow.

Before it allows an EUA, the FDA must decide that the known and possible benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of approving it before it has been studied long term.

EUAs are approved when the FDA agrees that the current situation is so dangerous that there is not time for long-term studies. Even in an emergency, however, the short-term studies and trials must show that the vaccine is effective and as safe as possible.

The first COVID-19 vaccines will be approved as EUAs so they can be distributed quickly to as many people as possible. The drug companies will still need to obtain the regular BLA (biological license authorization) approval later to continue marketing the vaccines, but a BLA requires up to a year of studies

What are the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccination? Are there any long-term side effects?

While we do not yet know all of the side effects of the vaccination, some people in the trials have had arm pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, or other body aches and some had a fever for a few days. This short-term discomfort is the effect of your body developing immunity and is normal. This does not mean that the vaccine has given you COVID-19. If you experience discomfort after the first dose of the vaccine, it is very important that you still receive the second dose a few weeks later for the vaccine to be effective.

In some cases, a person may already be infected with COVID-19 when they get the vaccine but are not showing symptoms of COVID-19. If they later have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for it, it does not mean they got COVID-19 from the vaccine.

Because the vaccine is so new, we do not have any information that shows long-term effects. As that information becomes available, we will let you know.

Should I be getting the vaccine if I have other medical conditions?

If you have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, or obesity, you are at higher risk for COVID-19 and can get sick more easily. When the vaccine is available, we urge you to get it to protect yourself and your loved ones.

How can I find out if I am allergic to the vaccine?

If you have concerns about taking the vaccine, talk to a healthcare provider.

Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine when you are pregnant? Should children receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Only non-pregnant adults have been studied in the early clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, so it is not yet known if the COVID-19 vaccine will be recommended for children or pregnant adults. However, clinical trials are continuing and more types of people are being studied in the next trials. The recommendations could change in the future.

How is vaccine safety monitored after the vaccine is licensed?

Vaccines undergo strict regulatory control by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VDH works closely with CDC to conduct active surveillance and review of vaccines to ensure the recommendations the agency follows are of sound science. During Phase 4, the CDC and FDA continuously monitor the safety of vaccines after approval. If the CDC and FDA identify a problem with a vaccine, the agencies inform health officials, health care providers, and the public. CDC uses three systems to monitor vaccine safety:

  • The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): an early warning system that helps CDC and FDA monitor problems following vaccination. Anyone can report possible vaccine side effects to VAERS. VAERS cannot determine whether a vaccine caused the side effect. VDH participates in VAERS.
  • The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD): a collaboration between CDC and nine health care organizations, which allows ongoing monitoring and proactive searches of vaccine-related data.
  • The Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Project: a partnership between CDC and several medical centers that conducts clinical research on vaccine-associated health risks.

Additional vaccine safety monitoring systems, such as V-SAFE, the use of National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) data, and continued monitoring through clinical trials will also be utilized to ensure vaccine safety.

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I GET THE COVID-19 VACCINE?

Will I need more than one dose?

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will require more than one dose. Your vaccine provider will let you know if you need an additional dose and will help provide a way to remind you when it’s time to return for the second dose. It is important to complete the vaccination series for complete protection against COVID-19.

Do I have to be extra cautious between the two doses?

In between doses you should continue taking steps to protect yourself and others, such as covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others.

Do I have to quarantine during the vaccination injections?

No, but you should continue taking steps to protect yourself and others, such as covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others.

May I go to work if I am healthcare personnel and am having side effects after receiving a dose of vaccine for COVID-19?

This depends on what signs and symptoms you are experiencing.

  • If you had an immediate hypersensitivity reaction (e.g., urticaria, anaphylaxis) or localized symptoms (e.g., pain, swelling, or redness at injection site) alone, then you may go to work following normal protocols.
  • If you have signs and symptoms unlikely to be from COVID-19 vaccination (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, rhinorrhea, sore throat, loss of taste or smell) you should not go to work until you are evaluated for possible etiologies, including SARS-CoV-2 infection, as appropriate.
  • If you have signs and symptoms that may be from either COVID-19 vaccination, SARS-CoV-2 infection, or another infection (e.g., fever, fatigue, headache, chills, myalgia, arthralgia) you should consult your provider or occupational health. You can return to work if you do not have a fever and signs and symptoms are limited only to those observed following COVID-19 vaccination (i.e., do not have other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell). If symptoms persist for more than 2 days, you should not work, should be further evaluated, and a viral test for SARS-CoV-2 should be considered.

For more information see here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/post-vaccine-considerations-healthcare-personnel.html

Will I be contagious with COVID-19 after I receive the vaccine?

The vaccine will not give you COVID-19 or make you spread it to others. However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after a vaccination so, during that time, you could still get the virus from another person and spread it to those around you. That is why you should continue to practice safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others.

Can I stop wearing a mask?

No. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide, it will be very important for everyone to continue taking steps to protect themselves and others, such as covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others not in your household.

Will I still need to physically distance during/after vaccination?

Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide, it will be important for everyone to continue taking steps to protect themselves and others, such as covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others.

Does my entire household need to be vaccinated?

For the vaccine to be most effective and for everyone in your household to protect themselves and each other, everyone should receive it. However, the vaccine may not be available immediately to children or pregnant adults.

Does the vaccine give me full protection from COVID-19?

A single dose of one of the two-dose vaccines will not provide full protection. We do not yet know how long immunity lasts after a two-dose series until we have a widely available vaccine and more information on how well it works. With other vaccines, most people do not get the disease at all and those who do, have only mild cases. More information on the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available as scientists learn more about the long-term effects.

How will I know the vaccine has worked?

We don’t know yet how effective the vaccine will be or for how long. In trials, all of the vaccines being studied are more than 90 percent effective after two doses, but their protection could wear off over time. More studies are needed to better understand this.

Will I still have symptoms if I get COVID after the vaccine?

It is possible that some people who are vaccinated will still get COVID-19 from other people. If this happens, they may have symptoms, but the symptoms will be milder. This is true of many vaccines, particularly the flu vaccine, which keeps most people from getting the flu at all and ensures that those who do only have mild symptoms.

What are the side effects?

While we do not yet know all of the possible side effects of the vaccine, some of the people in studies have had arm pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache or other body aches, or fever for a few days. These side effects are also experienced after receiving other types of vaccines, such as the flu shot. This does not mean that the vaccine has given you COVID-19. Rather, this means that the vaccine is causing your body’s immune system to react and create antibodies to fight off the virus.

Could a new strain of coronavirus appear in the future, causing another coronavirus pandemic?

Vaccines can stop working well once a virus changes. This is why we need new flu vaccines every year – because the flu virus changes so quickly that the vaccines need to be changed to keep up with it. While the coronavirus has shown the ability to change, it does not do so quickly, which is good news for a viable vaccine.

 

 

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The COVID vaccine is on its way to Virginia! … Now what?

JAN 2021 UPDATE: For the latest information regarding the availability and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Richmond, Virginia region, please visit our COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution page.     DECEMBER 11, 2020 This week, Virginia is scheduled to receive its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. It may feel like things are moving so … Continue reading The COVID vaccine is on its way to Virginia! … Now what?

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