What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

When will you be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and is it safe? We answer a handful of frequently asked questions as vaccine supplies continue to arrive in Minnesota.

Two COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are both safe and more than 94 percent effective, according to the results of two large clinical trials. M Health Fairview hope to make the vaccine available to some patients at high risk for COVID-19 infection or complications in early 2021.

The arrival of two new COVID-19 vaccines in Minnesota in December marks a potential turning point in the pandemic.

For decades, vaccines have been important tools in our fight against diseases, including the flu, measles, polio, and chicken pox, among others. Many groups around the world are developing vaccines against COVID-19. So far, clinical trials have shown that vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are safe and effective. On Dec. 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) allowing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be given to people in the United States. One week later, the FDA issued a similar EUA for the Moderna vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available for patients or the public, though M Health Fairview hopes to make doses available in early 2021. Please note: We do not currently have a wait list for patients to sign up to receive the vaccine. We understand that you may have questions about these new vaccines. To help, we have assembled a list of frequently asked questions.

I heard that health systems have received a limited supply of vaccines, is that true? Who will get the vaccine first?

Yes, M Health Fairview and other health systems across Minnesota have initially received a limited supply of the vaccines. Until we receive enough doses for all patients, our first vaccines will go to frontline healthcare workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, and emergency medical services staff. These groups began getting the vaccine in mid-December, and they will be followed by other priority employees so that our care teams remain safe and are able to care for patients across the state.

This plan follows guidance from state and federal officials, including the National Academy of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Minnesota Department of Health.

When and where will the COVID-19 vaccine be available?

COVID-19 vaccine distribution is led by the State of Minnesota. We are currently in phase 1A of the state’s plan, which prioritizes healthcare workers at highest risk for COVID-19 exposure and residents of long-term care facilities. Learn more about the state’s vaccine phases here.

COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available for patients or the public, though M Health Fairview hopes to make doses available in early 2021. Please note: We do not currently have a wait list for patients to sign up to receive the vaccine. Once we know more, we will share details here and on our COVID-19 Resource Hub.

Is it safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? How effective are they?

The COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are both safe and more than 94 percent effective, according to results from two large clinical trials that together involved approximately 70,000 people.

Before the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) on Dec. 11 for the Pfizer vaccine, the trial results were reviewed by FDA experts, an independent panel convened by the FDA, and a group of independent experts retained by the companies. A similar review process took place for the Moderna vaccine, which received an EUA on Dec. 18.

The FDA did not find any specific safety concerns that would prevent the release of either vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA will continue to monitor people who have received the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to ensure there’s no evidence of even rare safety issues.

Our team of experts at M Health Fairview have been following the science and data closely and we strongly encourage people to get the vaccine when it becomes available. We believe getting the vaccine will protect you and your family while helping prevent the spread of this disease. COVID-19 can cause death or serious health problems, even in young, healthy people. The risk of getting the virus and suffering serious side effects is greater than the possible risks from receiving the vaccine.

How do the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines work and how many doses do I need?

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines do not use live or weakened versions of the coronavirus causing COVID-19. Instead, these vaccines have genetic material called mRNA or “messenger RNA” that is taken from the virus. Once injected, this material tricks our bodies into producing a protein unique to the virus. When our immune systems detect this protein, they then create cells that recognize and destroy it. These immune system cells remain in our bodies for long periods, giving us protection against the virus.

Both vaccines come in two doses. People receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will need a second dose 21 days after the first, while those who get the Moderna vaccine will need a booster 28 days later. The second dose must be completed with the same vaccine brand as the first dose. Both doses are important to ensure full protection. Once you receive both doses of the vaccine, it will likely take several weeks for your body to develop immunity.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be used by people ages 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is for people ages 18 and older.

What are the side effects?

You may have some side effects after getting vaccinated. This is a normal sign that your body is building protection. During the clinical trials, only mild to moderate flu-like side effects were reported, including a headache, fatigue, chills, fever, and muscle and joint soreness. Side effects are more likely to occur after the second dose. Most of these symptoms ended three days after the vaccine, or earlier. It’s OK to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen (if you can safely use them) after you get the vaccine. This will help to relieve the side effects.

Cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell are not side effects of the vaccine. If you experience these symptoms monitor your symptoms to see if they become worse and seek the advice of your healthcare provider if they do. While it’s not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine, you may have been exposed to the virus before receiving your vaccine.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccines? Does either of them use a live virus?

No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use only genetic material from the virus while other vaccines still being studied use inactivated versions of the virus. None of these can cause COVID-19.

What if I miss my second dose of the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccines are not effective unless you receive both doses. The first dose of the vaccine helps prepare your immune system and the second dose provides most of the immunity.

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines?

If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient that is in a COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you should not get that vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injections, the CDC recommends checking with your doctor before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

What should I do if I have an adverse or allergic reaction to the vaccine?

You may have some side effects after getting vaccinated. The side effects may feel like the flu and may last for a few days. These side effects are normal and are signs that the body is building protection from the virus.

There is a very small chance that the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction – often within a few minutes to one hour after getting the vaccine. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of your face and throat
  • A fast heartbeat
  • A bad rash all over your body
  • Dizziness and weakness

If you think you’re having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the place where you received the vaccine, seek immediate medical care by calling 911. If redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours – or if your side effects are worrying you, or do not seem to be going away after a few days – call our Fairview Nurse Advisors line at 1-855-324-7843.

Visit this CDC website for more information about what to expect after getting your COVID-19 vaccine, or consider downloading and using the CDC’s smartphone app, V-safe After Vaccine Health Checker, to track and report side effects, receive personalized health checks, and get second dose reminders. The CDC recommends patients and providers report adverse or allergic reactions to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Why should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

While we have made some progress in the fight against COVID-19 with public health measures like masking and social distancing, widespread vaccination is the only way that we can stop the pandemic.

Not only does getting the vaccine protect you against COVID-19, it also reduces the chances that you will spread it to others, including your family and friends. Together, the COVID-19 vaccination and simple masking, hygiene, and distancing guidelines offer the best protection from COVID-19. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay at least six feet from others, and remain home if you’re sick.

I am young and healthy and at low risk for COVID. Why should I get the vaccine?

Even younger people can have severe complications from COVID-19, although their risk is not as high as older people or those who have serious health conditions. The more people who get the vaccine, the closer we can get to reaching herd immunity. Herd immunity is when most people are immune to a disease, meaning they can’t get it, because they received the vaccine or have already had the disease and cannot get it again, at least for a while. Herd immunity can stop or slow the spread of disease.

If I had COVID-19 should I get the vaccine?

Yes. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 produce antibodies that offer some protection against the virus, but we don’t know enough yet about antibody protection and how long it may last, so we recommend that everyone get the vaccine. ​​​​​​​

If I’m pregnant or lactating, should I get the vaccine?

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna clinical trials did not include pregnant or lactating people, so there is currently no data on the safety of either vaccine for those groups. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) currently recommend making the vaccine available to pregnant and lactating people who are healthcare workers or members of other priority groups. The decision to vaccinate or not is up to each person. A conversation with your care provider may assist you in making an informed decision, though this is not required.

Can kids receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be given to people age 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is for people ages 18 and older. No vaccine has been approved yet for children under age 16. Several companies, including Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, have started including children as young as age 12 in clinical trials. However, much more information is needed before a vaccine can be given to children.

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines?

If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient that is in a COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you should not get that vaccine. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or injections, the CDC recommends checking with your doctor before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Do I have to continue wearing a mask after I get the vaccine?

Yes. Everyone should wear face masks, wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing, and take other safety steps until more people have received the vaccine, the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide is no longer at pandemic levels, and we understand more about how long these vaccines will protect us.

Should I be tested for COVID-19 prior to receiving the vaccine?

No, you do not need to get a COVID-19 diagnostic or antibody test before getting the vaccine.



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