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What To Know About COVID-19 Vaccines

Jan 15, 2021
By Spencer Blackman
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Updated January 15, 2021.

At this time, there is an unprecedented logistical effort by federal, state and county agencies to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines to essential frontline workers and people most at risk of severe complications from COVID-19. At One Medical, we are committed to keeping our members informed every step of the way until the COVID-19 vaccine is available to everyone. Here are our answers to some of your most commonly asked questions:

When will One Medical have a vaccine?

We are working with local, state and national authorities to ensure that we have a supply of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible. Currently, distribution is determined by local authorities based on prioritization of those at highest risk such as frontline health care workers, people living in nursing homes and prisons, and those with certain medical conditions . We’ll continue to update our members here with the latest information.

Can I sign up for a vaccine waitlist?

At One Medical, we will offer vaccination to everyone we can, according to the plans established by our public health partners, so a waitlist isn’t needed. We understand that the media has differing reports daily, and rest assured we'll let all our members know as soon we have vaccines available. In the meantime, please continue to check back in here for the latest information.

Who will get the vaccine first?

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have both been issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA. Through a distribution plan developed by the CDC, vaccines are being allocated to high priority groups including healthcare workers, people at very high risk of severe complications or death from COVID-19, people over the age of 65 who live in group settings, and essential workers. It will likely take several months to vaccinate these high-priority groups and also get enough vaccines produced and distributed to the broader population. Kids under the age of 16 were not in the vaccine studies and so more safety data is needed before they will be included. Pregnant or lactating women, and people who are immunocompromised are able to get the vaccine. Those with questions should discuss with their PCP before receiving it.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The two vaccines being used in the U.S. (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) use messenger RNA (mRNA) which delivers a small genetic “message” that causes your own cells to make a protein that resembles the spike on the outer shell of the tiny COVID-19 virus. Your immune system then recognizes this protein as foreign, and produces specific antibodies and specialized immune cells (T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes) that quickly spring into action if the virus itself shows up in the future. The AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK uses a modified cold virus that carries the same spike protein of the COVID-19 virus, causing a similar immune reaction.

How will the vaccine be administered?

The vaccines are administered the same way as the flu shot, injected into the muscle of the upper arm. Both are a series of two vaccinations given at least 21 or 28 days apart (depending on which vaccine you’re getting.) Full immunity is reached approximately 7 days after the second dose.

What are the common side effects?

Common side effects may include pain around the area of the injection, feeling tired, headache, muscle aches, and less commonly, fever. So far, severe side effects have been reported to be very rare with these current COVID-19 vaccines. As with all vaccines, there have been rare reports of serious allergic reactions to the vaccine. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to any ingredient in either of the COVID-19 vaccines, it is not considered safe to get that specific vaccine. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, please speak to your healthcare provider for guidance before being vaccinated.

How much will the vaccine cost?

The federal government has said it will cover the cost of all vaccines, and intends to vaccinate everyone who requests it. According to Operation Warp Speed (OWS), a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, and the Department of Defense, the objective is to ensure that “no one desiring vaccination will face an economic barrier to receiving one.”

If multiple types of COVID-19 vaccines are available, will I have a choice about which one I receive?

As soon as it’s your turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we recommend opting for whatever vaccine is available at the time, as they are considered equally effective. If more than one option is widely available, then you may be offered a choice. Just remember that both doses of the vaccine must be the same type (Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna).

When can I get my second dose?

After the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a second dose can be given as soon as 21 days. A 4 day early "grace period" is also allowed, which means it is acceptable to get the second dose as soon as 17 days after the first shot. For the Moderna vaccine, 28 days is recommended with 24 days being the earliest acceptable time. It is not known how long is too long to wait for the second dose, or if there is any time after which the series should be restarted. Although the CDC does not recommend restarting the series after any amount of time after the first dose, we recommend everyone try to get the second dose per the recommendations above.

If I get the vaccine, can I stop wearing a mask?

The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, so once you've received the full vaccine series (i.e. two shots) and your immune system has had an additional 7 days or more to respond, you're very likely to be protected from getting sick. It is unknown yet if those who are immune can still transmit the virus. Since no vaccine is 100% effective, we'll all need to continue wearing masks and maintaining physical distance from others well into 2021.

I’ve had COVID-19 already. Should I still get a vaccine?

Yes. At this point, there is not enough evidence to know how long immunity from a COVID-19 infection lasts. It’s also unclear whether vaccination or infection produces the strongest immunity. However, if you had COVID-19 and were treated with monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before getting the vaccine.

How confident can we be that the vaccines used in the United States are safe?

While the specific vaccines are new, the ways in which they create an immune response have either been in testing or in widespread use for many years. The idea of a “never before used” genetic vaccine may seem intimidating, but the underlying technology has been proven safe on thousands of volunteers. Only the specific COVID-19 genetic message is truly new. The safety standards of the FDA remain stringent and the safety of the vaccines will continue to be closely monitored. At One Medical, our own senior clinical advisors regularly review the published safety data carefully, and we only offer vaccines when we strongly believe the benefits unequivocally outweigh any risks. We concur with the FDA that the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines safely deliver very high immunity against this virus. We support the vaccination of the largest number of people possible as the most effective way to bring the current pandemic under control.

If I get the COVID-19 vaccine will it affect COVID-19 test results?

No. Per the CDC, neither the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine can cause you to falsely test positive or negative on PCR or antigen viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.

Do I need to show proof of occupation or age to confirm my vaccine eligibility?

If your eligibility is based on age or employment, please be prepared to show proof of eligibility at your appointment.

What if I’m pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a compromised immune system?

Pregnant or lactating women, and people who are immunocompromised are able to get the vaccine. If you have questions, you should talk to your provider to make an informed decision for your unique situation. More information about pregnancy and the vaccine is available on our blog post here.

Can I vaccinate my child?

At this time the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for individuals 16 and over, and the Moderna vaccine is approved for individuals 18 and older. Because children under these age groups weren’t in the vaccine studies, more data is needed before approval for younger ages to receive the COVID vaccine. Even pediatric patients with high-risk conditions are not yet approved.

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Spencer Blackman, One Medical Provider

Spencer practices relationship-centered primary care, blending a traditional sensibility with up-to-date clinical knowledge and a strong focus on disease prevention. He enjoys getting to know his patients well, educating and empowering them to participate in health care decisions. Spencer completed his residency training at UCSF and practiced primary care, urgent care, sports medicine and adolescent medicine throughout the Bay Area before joining One Medical Group. He is certified with the American Board of Family Medicine. Spencer is a One Medical Group provider.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Orange County,Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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