Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Vaccine Prioritization

UPDATED JULY 12: Who is eligible to receive the vaccine?

Vaccine eligibility in Pima County is open to everyone 12 and older. Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for 12-17 year olds. .

For additional registration information and news, please visit the COVID-19 vaccine information page.

Vaccine Allocation and Distribution

UPDATED JAN. 26: What are the latest vaccination numbers for the County?

It all began when Pima County received 11,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the week beginning Dec. 14, and then 15,400 Moderna vaccines arrived on Dec. 22 and were delivered directly to approved community hospitals and clinics. The state updates its data dashboard daily -- click on "vaccine administration" to find results statewide and by county.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: How many doses will I need?

It depends on which vaccine you receive. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both two-dose vaccines, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose. The Pfizer doses are given 21 days apart, and the Moderna doses are given 28 days apart. If you get the two-dose series, it is very important that you get both doses so that your body develops the most protection it can to protect you against COVID-19.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: What is the recommended interval between the first and second doses for the mRNA vaccines?

Doses are given 21 days apart for Pfizer, and 28 days apart for Moderna. The CDC recommends following this dosing schedule as closely as possible, however second doses of either Pfizer of Moderna may be administered up to 4 days earlier or any time after the recommended date.

UPDATED JULY 12: Can non-residents (snowbirds, students) get the vaccine in Arizona?

Yes. Non-residents will be vaccinated along with residents 12 and older.

UPDATED April 12: Will I have a choice of which COVID-19 vaccine I receive?

Different points of distribution may have different vaccines. Please check pima.gov/covid19vaccine for a list of County pods and which vaccine is being delivered at that site. You can also find links on that page to search for availability at local pharmacies.

UPDATED FEB 25: Can veterans sign up via Southern Arizona VA Health Care?

Yes. The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) started vaccinating Veterans 85 and older on Jan. 11. They are currently distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans 65 and older.

Veterans, who are eligible based upon Centers for Disease Control (CDC) risk criteria, are being contacted directly by VA staff to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. They are also using an automated text and telephone program that connects Veterans to SAVAHCS staff to schedule an appointment.

If a Veteran expresses interest in receiving a COVID 19 vaccine, they can register at the following web link: https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/

UPDATED JULY 14: Can children get vaccinated for COVID-19?

The Emergency Use Authorizations for the current vaccines allow vaccination for the following age groups:
  • Pfizer – age 12 years and older
  • Moderna – age 18 years and older
  • Johnson & Johnson – 18 years and older

UPDATED JAN 8: How can health care providers sign up to be vaccinators in Pima County?

The Arizona Department of Health Services has a Pandemic Vaccine Provider Onboard link for vaccination providers to start the process. More information about the registration process is available via this PDF.

  • Onboarding is for providers who have cold storage, staff for administration and are willing to meet data reporting requirements set by ADHS
  • Onboarding must be fully completed to receive vaccine
  • For assistance with the tool or to check status reach out to ASIISHelpDesk@azdhs.gov
Check out the CDC Storage and Handling Toolkit for more information about storing and handling vaccine.

Vaccine Volunteer Efforts

UPDATED JAN. 18: I am an active or retired health professional. Can I volunteer to help with the vaccine effort?

Yes, you can and we need you!

As Pima County accelerates the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and expands regional vaccination centers, we need volunteers like you to help staff the effort to get our community vaccinated and protected against the virus.

Doctors, veterinarians, dentists, nurses, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, physician assistants, and behavioral health professionals can all help make a difference. Medical personnel interested in volunteering should register through the Medical Reserve Corps of Southern Arizona (MRCSA). Apply directly via their online application, and an MRCSA coordinator will contact you.

UPDATED JAN. 18: Can I volunteer to help the vaccination effort even if I don’t have an active medical license?

Yes, you can!

You don’t have to administer shots to support the vaccine rollout. Pima County has partnered with the Arizona Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (AZ-ESAR-VHP) to offer volunteer opportunities.

To volunteer, visit their online platform, click on the big blue “Register Now” button, select “Add Organizations” and choose Pima County. They will then notify you regarding opportunities via the email address you provide.

Another option to help is by giving blood, if you’re in a position to be able to do so. The American Red Cross is reporting a shortage in blood donations, and you can schedule an appointment here.

Vaccine Safety

UPDATED JULY 14: Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Yes the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the US are safe and effective.

All were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials and all had to meet rigorous scientific regulatory standards before being granted approval under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) process. During this process, vaccine manufacturers had to show evidence demonstrating that the vaccines worked, were safe, and that the benefits outweighed any possible risks.

Because of the seriousness of the global pandemic, vaccine manufacturers and the scientific community worldwide dropped everything to urgently work on developing vaccines. As Dr. Dean Blumberg, Chief of Pediatric Infectious disease at UC Davis Children’s Hospital explained in an interview, “We’ve never seen anything like this before. There was a huge effort from universities, public health experts, manufacturers, epidemiologists and many others. If you spend unlimited time and money, you can overcome a lot of problems really fast.”

Because scientists had been studying the use of mRNA in cancer treatment and for use in other vaccines, that concept was already in development. “The vaccine platforms were developed just in case there was a pandemic,” Blumberg added. “Much of the research was to figure out what to put into the COVID-19 vaccines.” The technology used in the viral vector vaccines (like Johnson & Johnson) has existed since the 1970’s. It has been used in the Ebola vaccines, and has been studied for use in vaccines to prevent other diseases.

Despite the speed of development, no safety protocols were skipped, and the vaccines were subjected to the same standard procedures for full FDA safety reviews used in other vaccines. Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen noted that the attention to detail in the clinical trials and the review of data went through a standard process. "The acceleration was in the manufacturing phase," she said.

Millions of people in the US have safely been vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines continue to undergo the most intense safety monitoring in US history.

Learn more about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and about the many existing and new vaccine safety monitoring systems that are being utilized. For more about vaccine basics, including how vaccines are developed and COVID-19 vaccine news and updates, visit the FDA’s COVID-19 vaccines page.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: What do we know about myocarditis and vaccines?

Since April, the CDC and its partners continue to actively monitor cases of myocarditis and pericarditis occurring after vaccination with the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle; pericarditis is inflammation of the outer heart lining. These can occur when the body’s immune system responds to infection or some other trigger.

These cases remain rare and have been seen primarily in male adolescents and young adults 16 and older, typically within several days of vaccination, and more commonly after the second dose than after the first. Most patients who sought care felt better following anti-inflammatory medication and rest. Read more from the CDC about myocarditis and pericarditis and the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

The known and potential benefits of vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks of COVID-19 infection. The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other medical organizations stress the vaccines are safe and effective, that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks, and continue to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for people 12 and older. In a statement from the nation’s leading doctors, nurses, and public health leaders they advise:

The facts are clear: this is an extremely rare side effect, and only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination. Importantly, for the young people who do, most cases are mild, and individuals recover often on their own or with minimal treatment. In addition, we know that myocarditis and pericarditis are much more common if you get COVID-19, and the risks to the heart from COVID-19 infection can be more severe.

Symptoms to watch for after vaccination which might signal myocarditis or pericarditis include:
  • Chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feelings of having a fluttering, pounding, or fast-beating heart
If you or your child have any of these symptoms within a week after COVID-19 vaccination, seek medical care.

The CDC offers clinical guidance for healthcare providers on myocarditis and pericarditis among adolescents and young adults. It is important that healthcare providers report all post-vaccination cases of myocarditis or pericarditis to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). For more on myocarditis and adverse effects from any of the COVID-10 vaccines, visit the CDC’s Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination page.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: What do we know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that use single strands of genetic material called mRNA inside a special fat coating, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine works by using strands of DNA inside something called an “adenovirus.” Adenoviruses are common viruses like those that cause the common cold, but this virus was changed so it cannot make you sick. Just like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, this vaccine causes the body’s immune system to build antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also a single-dose vaccine, which might make it easier for many people. It does not need the special handling the other vaccines do, making it simpler to ship and to store.

In a study of about 40,000 people in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa, the vaccine was found to be 72% effective in the U.S. and 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 disease. Side effects reported in clinical trials were mild or moderate, and most commonly were pain at the vaccine site, headache, fatigue and muscle pain. 

There have been instances of rare but potentially serious side effects with this vaccine, such as a rare kind of blood clot. There have also been reports of a rare neurological disorder called Guillain Barré syndrome, or GBS. It can cause muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis, that is usually reversible, and has occurred in some people after receiving this vaccine. In most of these people, it occurred within 42 days of getting vaccinated. The FDA has updated Johnson & Johnson fact sheets for patients and providers that discuss these potential effects and what to watch out for.
 
It is important to understand that the risk of having these adverse events is very low. The FDA and CDC have determined that the benefits of vaccination with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine outweigh the risks of potential adverse effects.

Updates to safety concerns and potential adverse events for all of the COVID-19 vaccines can be found at the CDC’s Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines and Selected Adverse events pages.

UPDATED MARCH 2: What is an Emergency Use Authorization?

The FDA describes it this way: “During a public health emergency, the FDA can use its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) authority to allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products, to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases when certain criteria are met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.

Before the FDA can issue an EUA, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must make a declaration of emergency or threat justifying authorization of emergency use for a product. This chart summarizes the process for EUA issuance.”

For a vaccine to be granted an EUA, manufacturers must submit clinical data generated from rigorous studies from tens of thousands of study participants to ensure safety, quality and that that the benefits outweigh the risks.

The FDA has issued EUAs for COVID-19 vaccines made by  PfizerModerna, and Johnson & Johnson

Sources:
Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained FDA, 11/20/20. FAQs on Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for Medical Devices During the COVID-19 Pandemic FDA, 8/18/20.

UPDATED MAY 12: What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination will help keep you from getting COVID-19. All of the vaccines currently approved in the US are safe and effective at preventing illness. Learn more about the different vaccines. Evidence from clinical trials indicates that even if you do get COVID-19, the vaccines can keep you from getting seriously ill, needing to be hospitalized, or dying.

Vaccination will also help protect your family, friends and people around you, especially those at high risk of severe illness. Growing evidence indicates that fully vaccinated people are less likely to get asymptomatic infections (being sick without showing symptoms), and are potentially less likely to spread the virus.

Because COVID-19 is an unpredictable and sometimes deadly virus, vaccination is a much safer way to build protection than by getting sick.

Being fully vaccinated will allow you to start doing more of the things you had stopped doing during the pandemic.

Finally, getting vaccinated is an important tool in helping to end this pandemic. As more people become vaccinated, the virus will have fewer people it can infect. This can help reduce outbreaks and move everyone closer to the daily activities they enjoyed before COVID-19.

Until we know more about how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people should continue protective strategies in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and frequent hand washing.

Learn more about the benefits of getting vaccinated.

UPDATED MARCH 2: What should I expect after getting the vaccine -- are there side effects?

Common side effects may include pain and swelling at the injection site. You may get fever, chills, tiredness or a headache. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. These are all indications that your body is building protection against the virus.

Even if you get some side effects after the first shot, it is important that you get the second shot (unless your doctor advises you otherwise), because Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses to achieve optimal protection. Johnson & Johnson requires only one.

The CDC has a printable factsheet for vaccine providers to offer recipients in English and Spanish. It includes information on how vaccine recipients can register for v-safe to report additional side effects.

Current safeguards recommended for recipients and providers of COVID-19 vaccines:
  • All people who get a COVID-19 vaccine should be monitored on-site. People with a history of severe allergic reactions should be monitored for 30 minutes after getting the vaccine. All other people should be monitored for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.
  • Vaccination providers should have appropriate medications and equipment — such as epinephrine, antihistamines, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and timing devices to check your pulse — at all COVID-19 vaccination sites.
  • If you experience a severe allergic reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination providers should provide rapid care and call for emergency medical services. You should continue to be monitored in a medical facility for at least several hours.
The CDC has additional recommendations for vaccine providers to safeguard against allergic reactions.

Sources:
What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine CDC, updated 1/11/21.
COVID-19 Vaccines and Allergic Reactions CDC, updated 1/22/21.
Interim considerations: preparing for the potential management of anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccination CDC, 12/31/20.

UPDATED MARCH 2: How do I report an adverse reaction to the vaccine?

If you are a patient, please let your health care provider know about your symptoms first. We strongly urge both urge health care providers and patients to report any adverse reactions via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Additionally, at the time of vaccination, you will be given a vaccine record card with information about how to register and use the text-based tool v-safe. Registration is completely voluntary and provides personalized check-ins, surveys, and a reminder to let you know when it is time to get your second shot (for Pfizer or Moderna vaccines). Depending upon your responses, someone from the CDC may call to check on you.

Sources:
V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker CDC, updated 2/6/21.
Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, HHS.

UPDATED MARCH 1: What is "COVID arm?"

Some people report having a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash appearing on the arm where they received the vaccine. Sometimes the rashes are large, warm or painful. These rashes, referred to as “COVID arm” are neither serious nor life-threatening. They may occur a day or two following vaccination, but can also happen up to a week later. These rashes generally resolve within a few days after they appear.

It’s a sign that your immune system is reacting to what it views as an infectious invader.

Dr. Stappenbeck, Chairman of the Department of Inflammation and Immunity at the Cleveland Clinic explains, “What we essentially think is going on with COVID arm is that your immune cells are reacting to muscle cells that have taken up the messenger RNA vaccine. The immune cells can be a little over-exuberant because they view the SARS-CoV2 spike protein produced by the vaccine as an infection that they need to fight off.”

For those who get COVID arm, using a cold compress or ice can be used to ease inflammation, and a taking a pain reliever like acetaminophen may help with any soreness, or antihistamines for itchiness.

You won’t necessarily get it again, and there is no evidence to suggest that it increases the risk of severe allergic reactions. “If you’re worried about possibly having a sore arm after your second dose, get it in the opposite arm to make things a little easier,” says Dr. Stappenbeck.

Sources:
Should You Be Worried About COVID Arm? Cleveland Clinic, 2/17/21.
What to Do if You Have an Allergic Reaction After Getting A COVID-19 Vaccine CDC, 2/25/21.

UPDATED FEB. 24: I didn’t get any side effects after the COVID-19 vaccine-does that mean it’s not working?

No, this doesn’t mean your vaccination isn’t working.

Tara Parker-Pope, award-winning consumer health writer for The New York Times explains a lack of vaccine side effects this way:
"Just as some people experience side effects from medications and some don’t, people have varied reactions to vaccines. While we tend to hear only about the unpleasant reactions after the vaccine, a lot of people experience only mild discomfort or no symptoms at all after getting the shot.

“In the Pfizer trial, for instance, about half the participants developed fatigue. Other side effects occurred in at least 25 to 33 percent of patients, including headaches, chills and muscle pain. That means that half or more of the participants did not have those side effects, and yet the overall efficacy of the vaccine was 95 percent, suggesting that a lack of side effects does not mean a vaccine isn’t working.

"We also know that older people tended to report fewer side effects than younger people, probably because aging immune systems aren’t as strong. As people age, bodily defenses against pathogens weaken, and the response to vaccines also falters. But in the Pfizer and COVID vaccine trials, older people still produced adequate levels of antibodies, indicating a strong immune response after the vaccine. If you don’t have side effects after your shot, be glad you are one of the lucky ones and don’t worry.”

Source:
Answers to All Your Questions About Getting Vaccinated for Covid-19 The New York Times, updated regularly.

Can the COVID vaccine give me COVID?

No. There are no vaccines near approval that use live virus, and a COVID-19 vaccine will not cause you to test positive for COVID-19. The goal of the vaccine is to provide your body with the tools it needs to fight the COVID-19 virus if you were to get infected.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: Will getting a COVID-19 vaccine cause me to test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?

No. None of the vaccines will make you test positive on the viral tests (like PCR or antigen), because these tests check to see if you have a current infection. The vaccines cannot cause a COVID-19 infection. After you get vaccinated, you may test positive on some COVID-19 serology (antibody) tests. That is because these tests check for a protective immune response, which is the goal of immunization.

UPDATED APRIL 29: If I’ve already had COVID-19, should I still get vaccinated?

Yes, you should definitely still get vaccinated even if you’ve already had COVID-19.

“We don’t know how long your immunity will last after you’ve had a natural COVID-19 infection,” infectious disease expert Dr. Kristen Englund at the Cleveland Clinic recently said.

“Recent research focused on how long immunity lasts after having COVID-19 is unclear, and scientists believe it could be up to eight months. But, she clarifies: “The study to determine that information included only 200 patients, so there’s not a whole lot of data yet. And the best way to ensure you’re protected is to get vaccinated.”

Dr. Bill Moss, Professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health notes, “People who have a mild or asymptomatic infection could also have a lower immunity level. There’s already some evidence for this idea. We also know that in animal and monkey models, a certain level and type of antibody response correlates with immunity and protection – so a more severe infection might lead to a higher immunity level.” Read more of the interview with Dr. Moss.

The vaccine may also help people suffering with long-COVID. Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, Professor of immunobiology at Yale found that as many as 30-40 percent of those vaccinated have reported improvements to their symptoms.

“It’s possible that the vaccine is helping the immune system fight off residual virus lingering in their bodies and clearing these remnants away,” says Iwasaki. “Or the vaccine could be stopping a harmful immune response. Or it might serve to reset the immune system.” She adds that vaccines will protect long-haulers from reinfection by the virus.

“If you have long COVID-19 at this point in time, please consider getting the vaccine,” Dr. Englund urges. “It is not going to make you worse — and there’s a small chance that it might actually make you feel better.”

Being fully vaccinated also will allow you to start doing more of the things you had stopped doing during the pandemic. Learn more about the benefits of getting vaccinated.

If you received convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies as a treatment for COVID-19, the CDC recommends you wait 90 days before getting vaccinated because of the half-life of these therapies.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: Do fully vaccinated people still need to quarantine after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?

People are considered fully vaccinated if it has been
  • 2 weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine series, like Pfizer or Moderna, or
  • 2 weeks after the single dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson
Fully vaccinated people without symptoms do not need to quarantine, but the CDC recommends that they receive a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and they should continue to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until they receive a negative test result. They should also watch for symptoms for 2 weeks following an exposure. A fully vaccinated person who receives a positive test result, or later develops COVID-19 symptoms, should isolate themselves from others and be evaluated for COVID-19 by a healthcare provider.
 
Due to the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant, the Pima County Health Department strongly recommends that everyone 5 years and older wear a mask indoors in public regardless of vaccination status. Read the latest Public Health Advisory for more on masking and prevention measures.

UPDATED MAY 26: Should I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?

BBeing vaccinated is a personal choice, and if you are pregnant, you can receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the US.

Those who are pregnant are at greater risk for severe illness and death if they get infected with COVID-19. Infection also increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth. It is especially important for pregnant individuals to take steps to avoid getting infected, such as considering vaccination, wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and handwashing. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy and also how pregnant people can reduce their risk from COVID-19.

There is limited, but growing evidence about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant. Because the vaccines do not contain live virus, and based upon the way they work in the body, health experts believe the vaccines are unlikely to present a risk to pregnant people. Animal studies using the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines before and during pregnancy found no safety concerns in the animals or their babies.

CDC and FDA safety monitoring systems gather and monitor information about COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy; early data from these have not identified any safety concerns in pregnant women or their infants. There is encouraging evidence that receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine during pregnancy transfers maternal vaccine antibodies to the fetus, which could help protect infants following birth.

If you are pregnant and receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you are encouraged to participate in the CDC’s v-safe pregnancy registry. Participation is voluntary via a smartphone-based tool, and you may opt out at any time. Health information collected will help healthcare providers and their patients make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations.

You can reach out to MotherToBaby, a free and confidential service for those who are pregnant and have questions about COVID-19 vaccination. MotherToBaby experts are available in English or Spanish via telephone or chat. Your healthcare provider can also offer you additional guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccination.

UPDATED MAY 26: Should I get the vaccine if I’m breastfeeding?

Being vaccinated is a personal choice, and any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the US may be given to those who are breastfeeding.

Because those who were breastfeeding were not included in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, no data are available on the safety of the vaccines in people who are breastfeeding, the effects on the breastfed infant, or on milk production or excretion. Based upon how these vaccines work in the body, health experts do not believe them to be a risk to a breastfeeding infant. In fact, recent reports have shown that those who are breastfeeding and received the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine have antibodies in their breastmilk, which may protect their infants from COVID-19 infection.

Get more information about the vaccines and breastfeeding. For additional guidance, please reach out to your healthcare provider.

UPDATED MARCH 10: Can people with severe allergies get vaccinated?

It depends upon what they are allergic to and the type of allergic reaction they had.

People with allergies not related to vaccines or injectable therapies, such as food, latex, venom, pet or environmental allergies, may still get the COVID-19 vaccines. People allergic to oral medications or those with family histories of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.

Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction, or an immediate allergic reaction (even if it wasn’t severe) to any ingredient in a currently available mRNA vaccine or to any ingredient in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should NOT receive that particular type of vaccine.

The CDC advises that people allergic to polyethylene glycol, or PEG (an ingredient found in the mRNA vaccines) ask their physician if they may receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine instead. Those allergic to polysorbate (an ingredient in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) should ask their physician if they may receive an mRNA vaccine instead.

Anyone who has had an immediate allergic reaction, whether severe or not, to a vaccine or other injectable therapy should ask their physician if it is safe for them to get vaccinated. One’s own physician is always in the best position to address specific questions and to offer strategic guidance tailored to one’s own personal health situation.

Please make your vaccine provider aware of any history of severe allergic reaction or any immediate allergic reactions to vaccines or injectable therapies. People with these histories will be monitored for at least 30 minutes following vaccination.

Precautions and contraindications to any of the currently approved vaccines are regularly updated and outlined in detail on the CDC’s website. They also offer guidance to vaccine providers on preparing for and managing severe allergic reactions.

Source:
Information about COVID-19 Vaccines for People with Allergies CDC, updated regularly.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: Can immunocompromised people get vaccinated?

Yes they can. The authorized vaccines do not contain live virus, and can safely be given to those who are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system). This includes people with immune deficiencies caused by medical conditions, medications, and chemotherapy for cancers, or organ transplants.
 
Evidence suggests that someone who is immunocompromised may not generate as strong of a protective response from the vaccine as someone with a normal immune system would. This means someone might not be fully protected against the virus despite being fully vaccinated. People who are immunocompromised should continue current prevention measures (including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others they don’t live with, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces) to protect themselves against COVID-19 until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider. Close contacts of immunocompromised people should also get vaccinated to help protect them.
 
Because immunocompromised people are at increased risk for having severe COVID-19, the potential benefits of being vaccinated outweigh any uncertainty of generating a less protective response. As leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci stated, “Some degree of immunity is better than no degree of immunity.”
 
The CDC offers more about vaccination in people with certain medical conditions.

UPDATED FEB. 10: Should people receiving chemotherapy get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines did not include people receiving chemotherapy or those with weakened immune systems, so it is still unknown how safe or effective these vaccines are in these populations.

According to data from the American Cancer Society, “It’s generally recommended that vaccines not be given during chemo or radiation treatments. (An exception to this is the flu shot.) This is mainly because vaccines need a healthy immune system response to work, and you may not get a good response if your immune system is suppressed by your cancer treatment. Some types of immunotherapy might affect the immune system as well.”

We expect more information will become available in the next few months. In the meantime, consultation with the treating physician is the best strategy to balance potential the unknown safety profile and potential limited immunological response to the vaccine in chemotherapy patients with the risks of potential serious outcomes from COVID-19 disease.

Sources:
COVID-19 Vaccines in People with Cancer American Cancer Society, 12/21/20.
Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States CDC, 1/21/21.
Optimal Timing for COVID-19 Vaccination in Oncology Patients Receiving Chemotherapy Clinical Oncology, Dec 24, 2020.

UPDATED FEB. 10: Should people who did receive a COVID-19 vaccination during chemotherapy or immunosuppressive medications get re-vaccinated?

We anticipate more information will become available in the coming months. In the meantime, the CDC does not currently recommend re-vaccination for persons who have regained immune competence following chemotherapy or immunosuppressive medications.

Source:
Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States CDC, 1/21/21.

UPDATED MARCH 10: Are the vaccines interchangeable?

The CDC advises that the COVID-19 vaccines are NOT interchangeable, advising that the safety and efficacy of a mixed product series has not been evaluated, thus every effort should be made to ensure 2 dose regimens are completed using the same product.

Vaccine recipients can help by keeping their vaccination card and presenting it when they show up for any second appointments, and/or signing up for VaxText, a free text messaging platform that sends vaccine information plus any needed reminders. Vaccine providers should record all vaccine information into the patient’s record and into the immunization information system, and make any necessary second appointments.

For exceptional, rare situations in which the first-dose vaccine product cannot be determined or is unavailable, or for situations in which administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be considered following an mRNA vaccine, the CDC offers clinical guidance.

UPDATED APRIL 28: Do the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility or sterilization?

No, getting vaccinated has not been shown to affect one’s fertility or to cause sterility.

There was a false report that circulated on social media about infertility and spike proteins. The spike protein the vaccine teaches the body to make to combat the virus is completely different and distinct from the surface protein involved in growth and development of the placenta during pregnancy.

Dr. Zev Williams, chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center explains, “There is no significant similarity between the target of the vaccines and surface proteins on the placenta. If there was cross-reactivity between the vaccine and the surface of the placenta, you would also expect to see an increase in miscarriage among pregnant women with COVID-19, because people infected with the actual virus produce the same antibodies. But we haven't seen that happen."

Johns Hopkins physicians Dr. Gabor Kelen and Dr. Lisa Maragakis discuss infertility concerns in their column COVID-19 Vaccine Myth Versus Fact. “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will not affect the fertility of women who are seeking to become pregnant, including through in vitro fertilization methods.” They commented that “During the Pfizer vaccine tests, 23 women volunteers involved in the study became pregnant, and the only one who suffered a pregnancy loss had not received the actual vaccine, but a placebo.”

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine notes that because the COVID-vaccines are not composed of live virus, they are not thought to cause an increased risk of infertility.

Evidence has shown, however, that getting the COVID-19 virus poses an increased risk to those who are pregnant, and the virus may also increase the risk for serious pregnancy outcomes including preterm birth.

While there yet have been no data reporting male sterility following vaccination, studies are underway at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to evaluate the effects on sperm of men who receive the vaccine.

Vaccine Variants

UPDATED MARCH 11: Will the vaccines work against the new COVID-19 variants?

Health experts at the CDC and globally are working to learn more about these circulating variants, and to understand more about how they might affect current COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

“It is unlikely that, overnight, a variant is going to emerge that is capable of completely evading the vaccine,” says Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist at Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security. The hope is that even if a vaccine is not a complete match against a variant, that it will provide at least partial protection, so that someone might have a less severe form of illness. Also, the technology used to make the vaccines can also be adapted to viral mutations in variants, sometimes in as little as six weeks.

And the body does not make just one antibody in response to the vaccine, it creates multiple and different antibodies which can attack different areas on the coronavirus’ spike protein. That way, if one part of the virus mutates, antibodies can still attack it in other areas. 

The more actions everybody takes to minimize opportunities for the virus to spread and infect others, the more we reduce chances for it to develop additional variants. Wearing a well-fitted mask, handwashing, physical distancing and staying home when sick, all remain effective strategies. Once you have been fully vaccinated, continuing to take steps to protect yourself and others will help end the pandemic sooner and get us back to our day-to-day activities.  

Sources:
New Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19 CDC, updated regularly.
Will vaccines work on new variants? New Scientist, 1/23/21.

After Vaccination

UPDATED APRIL 29: What do I do if I lost my vaccine card?

The Pima County Health Department recommends the following:
  • You should first contact the site where the vaccines were received.
  • If the original vaccinator is unable to provide a replacement card, a new card can be obtained from the Health Department. Someone requesting a vaccine record should send an email to HEOCVaccineRecords@pima.gov that includes name and phone number. A staff member from the Health Department will contact that person and ask for additional information to verify the vaccine record. Additional personal information should not be included in the email request; that information will be gathered over the phone. These phone calls will generally occur Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • If the requestor does not have email access, they can be directed to the main HD phone line (520-724-7770) where a staff member will get their name and phone number. This information will be sent in an email request to HEOCVaccineRecords@pima.gov. Phones will be staffed Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Requestors will also be offered access through MyIR. MyIR is an application that gives access to the Arizona State Immunization Information System (ASIIS) vaccine data for printing and downloading. The use of MyIR requires verification from a clinical provider. Registration in MyIR will not be required to get a replacement vaccine card.
  • Requestors who cannot pick up their replacement card at an office can choose to have their new card mailed to them.
  • Please report any suspicious vaccine record activity to the Health Department at HEOCVaccine@pima.gov

If I get the vaccine, can life go back to “normal?”

Not just yet. Millions of Americans will not yet have access to the vaccine, and they can still spread COVID. Most vaccines are not 100 percent effective at stopping transmission, although the COVID-19 vaccine is around 95 percent effective. Until more people are vaccinated or recover from COVID, masking, distancing, and hand washing are still good practices as we transition back to "normal."

Kaiser Health: 5 reasons to wear a mask even after you're vaccinated

UPDATED MAY 10: I’m already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but I’d like to also add one of the brands I didn’t get so I have extra protection. Can I do that?

The good news is that if you have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (meaning you have had both doses of either the Pfizer of Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are covered and there’s no need for you to receive additional vaccines. The CDC currently recommends that people don’t “mix-and-match” vaccines (this is called “interchangeability”), due to the lack of safety or immunity data for doing this.

Dr. James Conway with the School of Medicine and Public Health Global Health Institute at the University of Madison, Wisconsin explains that once you’re fully vaccinated, “There is currently no indication for receiving additional COVID-19 vaccines. Doing so would likely result in more pronounced side effects than were experienced with the original two doses. He adds, “Individuals who have received one dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine should complete the vaccine series with the same vaccine. There is no data available regarding safety nor immune protection when people switch between vaccines, and this is not recommended.”

UPDATED MAY 26: What are fully vaccinated people able to do?

People who are fully vaccinated may resume the activities they did before the pandemic. According to the CDC: “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Even if fully vaccinated, you must still wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. This includes ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

People are considered to be fully vaccinated 2 weeks after receiving the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine series (such as Pfizer or Moderna), or 2 weeks after a single dose vaccine (such as Johnson & Johnson). Fully vaccinated people should still continue watch for COVID-19 symptoms, and get tested if they appear.

If you take certain medicines that weaken your immune system, or if you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, you may not be protected from the virus even if you are fully vaccinated. Ask your healthcare provider if you should continue to take all precautions to protect yourself.

For additional details, visit the CDC’s public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people. To learn more about traveling locally or internationally, consult the Pima County Health Department’s Travel and COVID-19 page, and the CDC’s travel page.

UPDATED APRIL 15: I'm vaccinated, but my children haven't been/can't be. What social activities can we do?

Until COVID-19 vaccines are approved for children (experts speculate this may happen later this year or in early 2022), vaccinated parents may wonder how to weigh and manage the level of risk certain social activities might carry for their unvaccinated children.

It is best to consult with your child’s pediatrician for specific recommendations. They can help evaluate risks and make decisions tailored to your child’s personal health situation. No answers exist that cover every situation, as risk factors can vary in each instance. While nothing is zero risk, there are ways to reduce the relative risk for unvaccinated children to help them participate in certain activities. In general, risk is lower for outdoor activities, small group sizes, and mask wearing and physically distancing if indoors. Talking with the other parents about their pandemic safety approach is important to manage everyone’s expectations and ensure everyone is on the same page.

The following are general guidelines:
  • Grandparent visits: The CDC says that fully vaccinated people can visit another single household in which not everyone has been vaccinated, as long as those who aren’t vaccinated are not at high risk for severe illness with COVID-19. So for example, vaccinated grandparents could visit their children and unvaccinated grandchildren from one household, eat with them, and hug them without needing to wear masks, as long as none of the unvaccinated family members are at risk of severe COVID-19. 
  • Visiting with other families of vaccinated parents and unvaccinated children: When more than one household is involved, the risk for the unvaccinated increases. The CDC currently recommends masking and physical distancing anytime more than one household is gathering. Outdoor visits are best, and members of different families should stay 6 feet apart from other families. Children playing within 6 feet of each other should wear masks. If the visit moves indoors, everyone should wear masks and stay 6 feet apart. 
  • Restaurants: Eating indoors at restaurants remains risky for anyone who is unvaccinated. Takeout orders, followed by outdoor dining is the lowest risk with children. For parents who want to eat indoors with their children, they can choose restaurants following strict safety precautions with good ventilation and physical distancing between tables. Because the vaccines are being proven effective, and the CDC suggests they may also prevent symptomatic spread, making it unlikely that parents dining out by themselves will bring the virus home to their children. 
  • Play dates, birthday parties: Keeping parties or playdates small, with just one or two friends and doing something outside helps reduce the risk. Ideally, everyone should wear masks and keep 6 feet apart from each other.

UPDATED AUGUST 4: Is it possible to get COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated?

Although most people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be prevented from getting the virus, it is possible that a very small percentage of vaccinated people could become sick without symptoms, or could even get sick enough to be hospitalized and could even die. The CDC calls these "vaccine breakthrough cases." Breakthrough cases may happen with any vaccine, simply because no vaccine prevents illness 100% of the time.


The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. are extremely effective at preventing disease - often 90% and higher, and greatly reduce the chance for serious illness, hospitalization and death if someone does have a breakthrough infection. Current evidence suggests the vaccines offer protection against most variants, although some variants may cause illness in some fully vaccinated people.
 
Some people with weakened immune systems may not develop the full protection from a vaccine as someone with a normal immune system would, and this possible lack of full protection can sometimes result in a breakthrough infection. Learn more about the possibility of illness after vaccination.


General Questions

UPDATED MAY 26: When will the pandemic be over?

The most hoped-for ending to the COVID-19 pandemic would be achieving what health experts call “herd immunity.” As Dr. Anthony Fauci described it recently: “As more people get the vaccine, groups of people start to build a collective defense against the virus so that isolated sparks of infection burn out instead of spreading into an outbreak.” When a virus runs out of vulnerable people to infect, it has nowhere to go, becomes very rare, and can eventually die out. Leading health experts have speculated that 70-85% of the population would need to be vaccinated to reach this threshold. Diseases once very common like polio, measles and mumps are examples of diseases that are now very rare due to vaccines helping achieve herd immunity.

Can a pandemic be over without reaching herd immunity? There are some public health experts and scientists who expect that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may become “endemic.” Endemic diseases are those which are never eradicated, but are always present in certain populations or regions. Examples include malaria, present in many areas of the world, and valley fever, the disease caused by a fungus endemic to the southwest. Seasonal influenza and the common cold viruses are others. None of these diseases can be eradicated, but they can become controllable threats against which people can collectively act to reduce their risk of infection as much as possible.

What this might look like for COVID-19 is difficult to predict, and will depend on how the virus evolves and the immunity people achieve through infection or vaccination. The actions we can take to reduce the virus to a controllable threat are already familiar, and include vaccination, testing, masking when advised, staying home when sick, and handwashing. These are things we all can do to make a world that still has COVID-19 in it “safer.”

What does the vaccine cost?

The vaccine is free for everybody, regardless of insurance status. For those that have insurance, a small administration fee may be billed.

UPDATED MAY 26: How long should I wait to get vaccinated if I currently have COVID-19, or if I develop COVID-19 between vaccinations?

The CDC advises that someone sick with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until they have recovered from the acute phase of the illness (if they had symptoms) and have met criteria to discontinue isolation. This applies to those who develop COVID-19 before receiving any vaccine doses as well as to those who develop infection between the first and the second doses (if receiving a 2 dose vaccine).

UPDATED MARCH 11: Do I need a vaccine if I've already recovered from COVID-19?

Yes, vaccination is recommended and beneficial for people who have already had COVID-19. 

Current evidence suggests that while reinfection with the virus appears uncommon in the 90 days following initial infection, medical experts do not yet know how long this natural protective immunity lasts. COVID-19 infection or reinfection can have serious, life-threatening complications, and health experts agree that vaccination is a safer way to build immunity to the virus. People who have been fully vaccinated can also start doing some of the things they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

Knowledge is expected to evolve as researchers worldwide and at the CDC continue to study the immunity produced by the COVID-19 vaccines. 

UPDATED MAY 26: I need transportation to my vaccine, where can I get a ride?

Don’t let a lack of transportation keep you from getting vaccinated! Multiple options exist for those needing a ride to and from their COVID-19 vaccine site.

Rideshare service Uber offers free rides to and from all of the vaccine site locations listed on the Pima County Vaccine Registration page. Call Uber’s Vaccine Line at 1 (855) 632-0557 to be connected with an operator in English or Spanish. Operators are familiar with the Pima County vaccine locations/dates/times, and rides can be requested in real time or scheduled in advance.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and rideshare service Lyft have partnered to offer older adults roundtrip rides to and from each dose of their vaccine. Users need to download the Lyft app onto their phone and use a vaccination ride code. Each ride code covers up to $50 ($25 to the vaccine site, and $25 back home). There are no location restrictions, and the ride codes are valid through December 31, 2021. The NCOA has more information and step-by-step instructions for downloading and creating a Lyft account and using the ride codes. AHCCCS Medicaid recipients may also be able to get free non-emergency transportation to and from their vaccination site. Members should contact their health plan to find out more.

UPDATED MAY 17: If I just received another vaccine, do I have to wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Updated guidance from the CDC advises that COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may be administered “without regard to timing.” This means that the COVID-19 vaccine may be given to adolescents or adults on the same day as other vaccinations, without needing to wait between vaccines. CDC officials based this decision upon substantial safety data for administering COVID-19 vaccines alone and extensive experience which showed that side effect profiles and effectiveness are similar when giving other vaccines together.

It is currently unknown whether coadministration with other vaccines increases the potential for side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Health care providers should consider whether a patient is behind on recommended routine vaccinations, risk of vaccine preventable diseases (such as for outbreak management, wound management or occupational exposure), and the side effect profile of the vaccines being given together.
 
Read more about COVID-19 coadministration with other vaccines.

UPDATED MARCH 11: If I was treated with monoclonal antibody therapy for COVID-19, should I get vaccinated?

Yes, although you should consider a delay for 90 days. 

CDC recommendations state “Based on the estimated half-life of such therapies and evidence suggesting that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days. This is a precautionary measure until additional information becomes available, to avoid potential interference of the antibody therapy with vaccine-induced immune responses.”

People who received passive antibody treatment for COVID-19 after having already received the first dose of an mRNA vaccine are advised to wait 90 days after getting the therapy before getting the second vaccine dose. It is not necessary to repeat any COVID-19 vaccine doses administered within 90 days of passive antibody therapy.

No waiting period is needed for people receiving passive antibody therapies unrelated to COVID-19 treatment (such as RhoGAM, or IVIG) because these are unlikely to impair vaccine antibody response. 

UPDATED FEB. 24: Once I’m vaccinated, do I still need to worry about infecting others?

We don’t yet know. More research is needed.

Clinical trials determined the vaccines authorized in the U.S. to be protective against development of symptomatic as well as severe COVID-19 disease. However, we don’t yet know whether being vaccinated prevents viral transmission to others.  Therefore, even though the vaccine can prevent you from getting symptoms from the virus, you may still be able to spread it to those around you.

Even after you get the vaccine, please continue to follow the steps to protect yourself recommended by the Pima County Health Department and the CDC by masking, distancing and hand washing. 

Also, the CDC issued an order on January 29, 2021, requiring that masks be worn by all travelers on public transportation including airplanes, trains, buses, taxis and ride shares, regardless of vaccine status.

Sources:
Coronavirus Resource Center Harvard Medical School, 1/29/21.
How to protect yourself and others CDC, 1/30/21.
Requirement for Face Masks on Public Transportation Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs CDC, 1/29/21.

If I have an active case of COVID, can the vaccine be used as a treatment?

Individuals with an active case of COVID-19 need to wait until recovery before receiving the vaccine, according to Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen.

UPDATED DEC. 22: Can my employer require me to get vaccinated?

Yes. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers may require employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine, subject to certain legally protected exceptions for disability and sincerely held religious beliefs.

Employers may ask employees to show proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination.

If an employer requires the vaccine, or contracts with a vendor to provide the vaccine, then the pre-vaccination medical screening questions are subject to ADA standards for disability-related inquiries (i.e., must be job-related and consistent with business necessity); if voluntary, or if the employee receives the vaccine from a third party that does not have a contract with the employer, then these ADA restrictions do not apply.

Should I get the flu vaccine?

Yes! As the flu season approaches our health care system could be overburdened with the on-going pandemic. Even a mild flu season, combined with a COVID surge could rapidly overwhelm out health care and hospital system. The flu vaccine has proven safe and effective. While it is recommended to get the flu vaccine in September or October, it is still not too late, although you should not get the flu vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.

UPDATED MAY 26: How effective are the vaccines in people over 65?

The vaccines are extremely effective in older adults. People 65 and older fully vaccinated with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 94% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. During the Johnson & Johnson clinical trials, no-one who received the vaccine had to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Older adults also experienced fewer vaccine side effects.

UPDATED MAY 26: How long does vaccine immunity last?

WCurrent studies show people who were vaccinated develop a very strong immunity to COVID-19. Information on the length of immunity is limited to the amount of time the vaccines have been studied. Ongoing clinical trials by vaccine manufacturers indicate that antibodies may persist for a long, but currently unspecified time. Some vaccine experts speculate that protection may last for a year or more. Data will continue to emerge as scientists monitor those who were vaccinated for signs of declining immunity. Also, antibodies are not the only component of immunity.

Other parts of the immune system (B and T cells for example) may last longer than antibodies do, and health experts will study how these lines of defense may also affect the length of vaccine immunity.

UPDATED APRIL 27: How many vaccines have been approved?

Of the dozens in development, three vaccines have received emergency use authorization (EUA) in the United States. In December 2020, the FDA issued EUAs for vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. In February 2021, the FDA issued an EUA for Johnson & Johnson.

The CDC and the Infectious Diseases Society of America maintain regularly-updated websites with information for clinicians and the public about the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The CDC and the FDA recommended a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following several US cases of a rare, severe type of blood clot in women,  Following a thorough review of the data, the CDC and FDA determined that the known and potential benefits of this vaccine outweighed the risks, and updated their recommendation to lift the pause and that use of the vaccine be resumed.

The first two vaccines are mRNA vaccines – what does that mean?

mRNA vaccines take advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins in order to trigger an immune response and build immunity to COVID-19. In contrast, most vaccines use weakened or inactivated versions or components of the disease-causing pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response to create antibodies.

mRNA vaccines have strands of genetic material called mRNA inside a special coating. That coating protects the mRNA from enzymes in the body that would otherwise break it down. It also helps the mRNA enter the muscle cells near the vaccination site.

mRNA can most easily be described as instructions for the cell on how to make a piece of the “spike protein” that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Since only part of the protein is made, it does not do any harm to the person vaccinated but provides immunity.

After the piece of the spike protein is made, the cell breaks down the mRNA strand and disposes of them using enzymes in the cell. It is important to note that the mRNA strand never enters the cell’s nucleus or affects genetic material. mRNA vaccines do not alter or modify someone’s genetic makeup.

Once displayed on the cell surface, the protein or antigen causes the immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. These antibodies are specific to the COVID-19 virus, which means the immune system is primed to protect against future infection.

Keep track of the progress of all the vaccines undergoing testing at the New York Times' Coronavius Vaccine Tracker.

UPDATED DEC. 21: How can I protect myself from scams?

While the newly-approved COVID-19 vaccine offers hope of controlling the pandemic, scammers see the vaccine as an opportunity to steal from hopeful consumers.

The FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General have been issuing alerts about the increase in coronavirus fraud. Scammers aren’t just using email or telemarketing calls. They are also coming at people via messages on social media platforms, and they’re even performing door-to-door visits, HHS says.

Vaccine scam flyer

Do I need to delay my mammogram after getting the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccines often elicit a very prominent immune response which can result in tender, swollen lymph nodes under the arm. Called “axillary adenopathy,” it signals inflammation, which is the body’s normal response to vaccination. Recently, it has been increasingly confused with cancer on regular screening mammograms, MRIs or ultrasound exams when a patient has recently had their COVID-19 vaccine.

False positives due to adenopathy from the vaccines have resulted in undue alarm and sometimes additional unnecessary testing. In response, the Society of Breast Imaging published guidelines for scheduling mammograms in a way to help avoid this. They recommend that if possible, and when it does not unduly delay care, patients and their providers consider scheduling breast screening exams before receipt of the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or wait 4-6 weeks following the second dose of vaccine (if using a two-shot series) before being screened.

Anyone experiencing a suspicious lump is still encouraged to consult with their healthcare provider.


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