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COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

DO I NEED TO GET A VACCINE BOOSTER?

At this time, no additional COVID-19 doses are recommended for people who are fully vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has not made any recommendations around administering COVID-19 vaccine boosters or re-vaccination for any patient population. The need for and timing of COVID-19 booster doses have not been established regardless of which vaccine brand a person has received, a person’s immune status, the virus variants present in the community, or the time elapsed since they were vaccinated. Should the CDC/ACIP provide formal recommendations regarding COVID-19 boosters or re-vaccination, Atrius Health will update patients with any new information.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe and Effective?

Atrius Health strongly recommends you get the COVID-19 vaccine at any location when it is available to you. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and one of the best ways to protect yourself and those around you from getting sick from COVID-19. Vaccination helps end the pandemic and enables each of us to start doing some things we enjoy.

WHERE CAN I GET VACCINATED?

We are pleased to announce that we are expanding our COVID-19 vaccine clinic locations. Any Atrius Health patient, ages 12 and older, can get a COVID-19 vaccine when they come in for other care on the days when we are holding these clinics. Please visit our Vaccine Information page for more information about the vaccine clinic schedule by practice location. Our nurses will be offering vaccinations (primarily Pfizer vaccine) only on specific days of the week at certain Atrius Health locations. Patients can also make an appointment online through MyHealth or by calling 617-541-6677.

There are also many other community-based options to get vaccinated, both by appointment and on a walk-in basis without an appointment. Use the websites below to find a convenient location near you.

Vaxfinder.Mass.Gov
https://www.vaccines.gov/search

CAN CHILDREN GET THE VACCINE?

Yes. Children ages 12 and older can get the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna vaccine is for people 18 and older.

WHAT IF I AM HOMEBOUND AND CANNOT GET TO YOUR OFFICE FOR VACCINATION?

The state has launched an in-home vaccination program for homebound people who are not able to leave their home to get to a vaccination site, even with assistance. If you or your loved one is eligible for an in-home vaccination, you can call the Homebound Vaccination Central Intake Line at (833) 983-0485. You will be able to speak with a representative who will ask questions to determine if an in-home vaccination is appropriate. If in-home vaccination is appropriate, you will be registered with the State Homebound Vaccine Provider or referred to your local Board of Health to schedule an appointment.

IS THERE A COST TO RECEIVE THE VACCINE?

There is no cost to you to receive the vaccine.

HOW WERE THE VACCINES TESTED TO SHOW THEY ARE SAFE AND EFFECTIVE?

All three approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Before being given to people in the public, the makers of the vaccines did studies to be sure they are safe. We have known about the technology used to make the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for decades. Scientists were able to use the latest scientific knowledge to learn a lot about the virus rapidly and use the mRNA technology.

Healthcare officials, public health experts and other scientists who were not directly involved in developing the vaccines then reviewed all of the science and studies before each of the vaccines were authorized.

SHOULD I DELAY OR NOT RECEIVE THE VACCINE FOR ANY REASON?

You are advised to delay getting the vaccine if:
  • You are feeling sick at the time of vaccination (fever, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea or acute illness).
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 14 days and have not yet met criteria to stop isolation.
  • You have received any other vaccination in the last 14 days.
You are advised not to receive the vaccine if:
  • You have a history of immediate allergic reaction after a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components (including polyethylene glycol [PEG]) OR have had an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to polysorbate.

CAN THE VACCINE GIVE ME COVID-19?

No. None of the vaccines contain a live virus, so the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19.

DOES THE VACCINE PROTECT AGAINST THE NEW COVID-19 VARIANTS?

Researchers are looking at this now. Initial research shows that the approved vaccines provide protection, perhaps somewhat decreased, against the known variants. The good news is that in the same way that the flu vaccine is adjusted each year to work against the dominant strain of flu, COVID-19 vaccine boosters or annual vaccines could be modified to work against the dominant strains.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT AT MY APPOINTMENT?

The person giving you the vaccine will ask you some questions and then give you the shot.

You will be observed for at least 15 minutes after vaccination.

If you have had allergic reactions to other injectable medications or vaccines in the past, or if you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) from any cause, you will be observed for 30 minutes.

You will receive a vaccination card that tells you which COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where you received it.

If you have received Pfizer or Moderna, your second dose will be scheduled. If you have received Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), it is a one dose vaccine so you will be fully vaccinated.

DOES THE VACCINE HAVE SIDE EFFECTS?

Just like the flu shot or any other vaccine, there is a chance that you will experience side effects. These are a sign that the vaccine is working, and the body is building immunity. Most side effects should not cause concern and will go away in a day or two. Some people report feeling more side effects after the second dose with the two-dose vaccines. You should stay home if you have a fever.

Common side effects include:
  • Pain at the injection site
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Fever

SHOULD I GET THE SAME VACCINE IF IT REQUIRES TWO DOSES?

Yes. You should get the same brand vaccine for both doses.

WHEN WILL MY SECOND DOSE BE SCHEDULED?

Your second dose will be scheduled when you come for your first dose appointment.

Pfizer/BioNTech doses are recommended to be approximately 21 days apart and Moderna doses are recommended to be approximately 28 days apart.

WHEN WILL I HAVE THE FULL IMMUNITY FROM THE VACCINE?

People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. It is possible that you could become infected with COVID-19 in the few days before or after being vaccinated.

Even after you receive the required doses of vaccine, continue to avoid crowded indoor spaces, maintain physical separation, wear cloth face coverings in public places and practice good hygiene.

I HAD COVID-19 AND GOT BETTER. SHOULD I STILL GET THE VACCINE?

Yes. Since it is possible to get sick again from COVID-19, you should get the vaccine.

If you were treated for your COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting the vaccine.

Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

SHOULD I GET THE VACCINE IF I AM HOPING TO BECOME PREGNANT SOON?

The vaccine does not affect fertility. It may be helpful to get the vaccine before you are pregnant to minimize getting COVID-19 while pregnant.

CAN I GET THE VACCINE IF I AM PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING?

People who are pregnant and eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can receive the vaccine if they decide they want to. People who are pregnant and have questions about the vaccine can talk with their healthcare provider. Getting information and answers about the specific risks and benefits can help to make a decision.

There is not a lot of information available about safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women. So we don’t know the effects mRNA vaccines may have on breastfed infants or on milk production. Scientists do not think mRNA vaccines are a risk to breastfeeding infants. People who are breastfeeding and eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can receive the vaccine if they decide they want to.

SHOULD I GET THE VACCINE IF I HAVE A WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM?

If you have a medical conditions or take certain medications that weaken your ability to fight infections you may have more severe disease than other people if you get COVID-19. If you have a weakened immune system you can get the vaccine as long as there is no other reason that you cannot receive the vaccine.

There is limited information about how safe and effective mRNA vaccines are in people who have weakened immune systems. People who have cancer, organ transplantation, or other medications can still receive the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Even though the vaccines are likely safe and effective, the response to vaccine may be decreased.

SHOULD I GET VACCINATED IF I HAVE ALLERGIES?

If you were treated for an allergic reaction within four hours of receiving your first dose of a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine you should not receive the vaccine again. You also should not receive the vaccine if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction within 4 hours of receiving any of the ingredients of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

People who have allergies to pets, food, medications taken by mouth or allergies to other things such as pollen, etc. can get vaccinated. People with allergies to other injectable medications or vaccines can get vaccinated but should check with their healthcare providers to discuss risks and benefits before receiving vaccine. People who have a history of very severe allergic reactions may be asked to remain for a 30 minute observation period after getting the vaccine.

WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS IN THE VACCINES?

The Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines have fact sheets that list the ingredients of each vaccine. Those fact sheets can be found at:

WHAT CAN I START TO DO AGAIN ONCE I AM FULLY VACCINATED?

If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

WHAT SHOULD I CONTINUE TO DO AFTER I AM FULLY VACCINATED?

For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses.
  • You will still be required to wear a mask in healthcare settings including Atrius Health practices.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others 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. Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested 3 days before travel by air into the United States (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system, should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss their activities. They may need to keep taking all precautions to prevent COVID-19.