COVID-19 VACCINE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The federal government, through Operation Warp Speed, has been working since the start of the pandemic to make COVID-19 vaccines available as soon as possible. Although nirvanaHealth is not actively involved in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, we are committed to providing accurate information and resources regarding your health and safety. Below are answers to commonly asked questions. Regular updates will be made as needed.
Who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccine(s)?
At this time, eligibility has been extended to everyone in the United States aged 18 and older. Additionally, as of May 2021, children aged 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Based on guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and local governments, recommendations will continue to be provided regarding COVID-19 vaccines.
The CDC has stated that there is currently limited data regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women. Additionally, the CDC has no data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in people who have received antibody therapy. Those who receive antibody therapy should delay vaccination by at least 90 days. If you have questions about your eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine, speak with your healthcare provider or check your state or county Department of Health website for more information.
Where can I get vaccinated?
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more accessible to the general public, please visit your state, county, or city’s Department of Health website or the CDC’s Vaccine Finder to locate vaccine administration sites near you. Check with your healthcare provider, health insurer, local pharmacy, or state or county Department of Health for further guidance.
Should I be concerned about vaccine safety?
No, the safety and efficacy of a vaccine is determined through rigorous evaluation of all scientific information from clinical trials, even after it has been approved. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is internationally respected for its standards in safety, effectiveness, and quality. In order for any drug to be approved by the FDA, it must meet safety standards and pose “no serious safety concerns.”
The FDA has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for both the Pfizer-BioNTech (for those age 12 and older), Moderna (for those age 18 and older), and Johnson & Johnson (for those age 18 and older) COVID-19 vaccines.
During public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, timely availability of medical products, such as vaccines, is especially important. In situations like this, the FDA has the authority to grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of medical products in order to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening conditions when certain criteria are met. EUA approvals are not full FDA approvals.
In order for an EUA to be issued for a vaccine, the FDA must determine that the known potential benefits outweigh the known potential risks. This determination is made by evaluating the clinical trials for safety and the chemistry and manufacturing information for quality and consistency. This information is also reviewed in a public meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which is comprised of external scientific and public health experts from around the country. The FDA takes into account the input from the Advisory Committee in their final determination. Even after EUA approval, manufacturers are expected to continue to gather safety and effectiveness information and pursue full approval.
Post-approval safety monitoring is a federal responsibility, conducted mostly by the FDA and CDC. The COVID-19 vaccines are no different. The CDC and FDA will conduct safety monitoring as the vaccines are distributed in order to rapidly detect safety problems if they exist. They will collect information regarding any side effects from those who have received the vaccine(s) as well as vaccine manufacturers and healthcare providers.
Are there any side effects?
Similar to any other drug, you may experience some side effects, which are normal as your body builds immunity. According to the CDC and FDA, possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccines may include:
- Muscle Pain
- Joint Pain
These side effects are routine and are similar to what you might experience after receiving the flu vaccine. After receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, pain and possible swelling may also occur at the site of injection. To minimize any pain or discomfort, wear light clothing, drink lots of fluids, and continue to use or exercise your arm. You may also apply a cool, wet washcloth over the area.
If your side effects worsen or do not go away after a few days, seek medical attention. Even if you have side effects, it is important to receive the second dose of the vaccine, unless told otherwise by your healthcare provider.
The CDC and FDA will conduct safety monitoring as the vaccines are distributed and will collect information regarding any side effects from those who have received the vaccine(s) as well as vaccine manufacturers and healthcare providers.
How do COVID-19 vaccines work?
Vaccines work by triggering protective immune responses in your body to fight against a virus. Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is important in controlling the spread of the virus. Not only does it reduce your chance of becoming infected with COVID-19, but it also reduces the severity of the virus if you do become infected despite receiving the vaccine(s). Talk to your healthcare provider to see if a COVID-19 vaccine is right for you. For more information, please visit the CDC’s website.
What can I expect when receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?
In many ways, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will be similar to receiving your annual flu shot. When receiving your vaccine, ask your healthcare provider whether you will require a single dose or multiple doses. The Janssen vaccine requires one dose while the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines currently require two doses.
According to the CDC, those who are vaccinated will be given a vaccination card with important information including the name of the vaccine, as well as the date and location where the vaccine was given. If you receive a vaccine which requires two doses, you will need to bring this vaccination card to your appointment for the next dose to ensure that you receive the appropriate vaccine. Please keep this card in a safe place so you do not lose it. Alternatively, you may take a picture of your vaccination card with your phone. Additionally, those who receive a vaccine will be given a fact sheet with more information.
If you receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you must receive the doses in the appropriate timeframe in order to receive the full benefit. Plan to get the second dose even if you have side effects after the first dose, unless a healthcare provider instructs you otherwise.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is given in two doses, 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine is given in two doses, 28 days apart. The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, second doses given up to four days earlier than recommended are still considered valid. Doses given earlier than the grace period should not be repeated. If it is not feasible to receive the second dose within the recommended timeframe, the second dose may be scheduled up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. To help remind you when your second dose is due, sign up for VaxText, a free text message service. If possible, schedule an appointment for your second dose prior to leaving the vaccination site after your first dose.
According to the CDC, mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable with each other or with other COVID-19 vaccine products. Every effort should be made to receive the same COVID-19 vaccine for both doses. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require two doses may not fully protect you until after your second dose. Even if you are fully vaccinated, please continue to follow the CDC’s safety recommendations. The CDC will continue to provide updated guidance once a large proportion of the population is vaccinated and long-term protection from COVID-19 is proven.
How much money will a COVID-19 vaccine cost me?
COVID-19 vaccines will be provided free of charge to all individuals by the federal government. Insurance companies are also committed to not charging any out-of-pocket fees or co-payments for COVID-19 vaccines. Healthcare providers who administer COVID-19 vaccines must agree to not charge patients any out-of-pocket fees or deny anyone vaccination services. You should not be charged for a COVID-19 vaccination regardless of your health insurance status at the vaccination site.
If I have already had COVID-19, should I get vaccinated?
In some cases, when people recover from viral infections, they are protected from getting the infection again and do not need to be vaccinated. However, the CDC is advising that those who have previously been infected with COVID-19 should still receive the vaccine. Vaccination should be delayed until the person has recovered from COVID-19. While vaccine supply is limited, persons who have had the COVID-19 infection recently should consult with their healthcare provider before choosing to temporarily delay.
How do I report adverse effects from a COVID-19 vaccine?
Safety is a top priority. If you experience adverse effects from a COVID-19 vaccine, please contact your pharmacist or healthcare provider. Your provider will report your incident to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This national system collects data to look for adverse events that are unexpected, appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns of occurrence.
The CDC is also implementing a new smartphone-based tool called v-safe to check on people’s health after they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Upon being vaccinated, you should also receive a v-safe information sheet telling you how to enroll. If you enroll, you will receive regular text messages directing you to surveys where you can report any problems or adverse reactions you have after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Reporting such events to VAERS and v-safe helps the CDC monitor the safety of vaccines.
Are there populations who should not get vaccinated?
More studies are needed to understand how COVID-19 vaccines will perform in specific populations. If you have questions about whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for you, check with your healthcare provider.
What if my local pharmacy is unable to process my claim?
If your pharmacist is having trouble processing your claim for a COVID-19 vaccine, ask your pharmacist to contact RxAdvance’s Pharmacy Help Desk at the phone number found on the back of your Member ID Card.
If I get vaccinated, can I go back to life as usual?
To be fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you completed the last required dose in the vaccine series. According to the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated are able to safely gather indoors without masks with people who are fully vaccinated as well as unvaccinated people from one other household that does not include high-risk individuals. Additionally, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask outside as long as they are not in crowded settings. Fully vaccinated people are also able to safely be near people who are infected with COVID-19 without quarantining or getting tested as long as they do not develop symptoms. Please note that the CDC advises that people who are immunocompromised should consult with their healthcare provider before easing caution.
Even if you have been vaccinated for COVID-19, you should continue to follow the CDC’s recommendations on how to protect yourself and others while in public, with unvaccinated people from multiple households, and around high-risk individuals. These precautions include:
- Washing your hands often;
- Avoiding close contact;
- Following the appropriate guidance for mask wearing;
- Covering coughs and sneezes;
- Cleaning and disinfecting; and
- Monitoring your health daily.
Together, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and following the CDC’s recommendations will offer the best protection from becoming infected with and spreading COVID-19. Although these vaccines are proving to be highly effective, vaccination does not guarantee that you will not spread the virus to others, even if you are not infected yourself.
These recommendations on how to slow the spread of the virus will be updated as we learn more about the long-term protection of COVID-19 vaccines. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus spreads in communities, will also be taken into consideration.
What if I want more information?
For vaccine and public health information, visit the CDC’s website.
For information on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, visit Pfizer’s website.
For information on the Moderna vaccine, please visit Moderna’s website.
For more information on the Janssen vaccine, please visit Janssen’s website.
For information on Operation Warp Speed, visit the U.S. Department of Defense’s website.
For local information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and its availability, visit your county or state Department of Health website.