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COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions
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Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe and Effective?
Yes, 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. Atrius Health strongly recommends for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.
How do I know when I can get the vaccine?
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health determines who can get vaccinated when. To find out when you are eligible, visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website. You can also use this tool to find out when you can get the vaccine.
What are the Phase 2 Qualifying Medical Conditions?
The CDC has defined the list of conditions that cause individuals to be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Massachusetts has also identified moderate to severe asthma as an eligible medical condition. Please note you do not need to provide any written documentation from your medical provider confirming your current medical conditions to be vaccinated during Phase 2. Vaccination locations will take your personal attestation as proof that you are eligible and will book your appointment.
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant*
- Obesity and severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher)
- Calculate your BMI here: Adult BMI Calculator | CDC
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
*For this group, this does not include individuals who are immunocompromised due to other conditions, such as blood or bone marrow transplant or HIV
**If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and have questions around getting vaccinated, a discussion with your healthcare provider might help you make an informed decision.
What is attestation?
To get vaccinated in any phase, you will also need to confirm that you are part of a currently eligible group. This is called “attesting.”
Depending on where you book your appointment, you may be asked to attest differently. You may be asked to attest online or verbally over the phone when booking to confirm you meet the current eligibility criteria.
If you are not asked when booking, you will be asked to attest when you arrive at your appointment. Vaccination locations will likely have an attestation form available for you to complete, however, you can fill out the COVID-19 Massachusetts Vaccination Attestation Form and bring it with you to your appointment to be prepared.
Please note you do not need to provide any written documentation from your medical provider confirming your current medical conditions. Vaccination locations will take your personal attestation as proof that you are eligible and will book your appointment.
However, as an Atrius Health patient, if you have any questions about whether you have any of the eligible medical conditions you can do the following:
- Access your MyHealth account, click on “Health Summary” and then “Health Issues” (please note this list may not always be accurate or current, particularly if you have not seen your provider in recent months)
- Message your primary care provider through MyHealth
- Call your primary care provider’s office by phone
When will Atrius Health contact me to schedule an appointment?
Atrius Health is following the Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines. These guidelines determine when individuals can get the vaccine.
We will contact eligible patients through our patient portal (MyHealth), or by phone or text messaging, when it is your turn to schedule an appointment. We will also share updates via email and through our website.
We get vaccine deliveries each week from the state. Our current vaccine supply is very limited. It may take some time for us to contact you to schedule an appointment.
We want you to get the vaccine, whether that is at Atrius Health or another vaccination location.
How do I schedule an appointment at Atrius Health for my COVID-19 vaccination?
As we receive vaccine from the state, we will contact eligible patients through MyHealth, or by text messaging or phone call, to invite them to schedule appointments.
If you do not have internet access, we will provide a way for you to call our call center to make an appointment.
Please do not contact your doctor’s office to ask about vaccine appointments.
Visit the Vaccine Information section of our website for updates.
I don’t have internet access. What do I do?
If you do not have a MyHealth account or internet access, we will provide a phone number for you to schedule an appointment when we contact you.
The state has also set up a call center for people without internet access to help schedule appointments at state mass vaccination centers. You can call toll free 2-1-1 or (877) 211-6277, Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am - 8:00 pm and Friday through Sunday, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm.
What Atrius Health locations will have vaccine?
As directed by the state, we are designating certain Atrius Health locations as vaccination centers.
Clinics are currently held in our Boston (Kenmore), Chelmsford, Norwood and Plymouth offices.
If our locations do not work for you, please check the state COVID-19 vaccine website to find other places in Massachusetts to schedule a vaccination.
The state has also set up a call center for for people without internet access to help schedule appointments at state mass vaccination centers. You can call toll free 2-1-1 or (877) 211-6277, Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am - 8:00 pm and Friday through Sunday, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm.
We want you to get the vaccine, whether that occurs at Atrius Health or another vaccination location.
What if I can’t find an appointment at Atrius Health?
Our vaccine quantities from the state are currently limited. Appointments are booking quickly for eligible patients.
If you can’t find an appointment, please try again later. New appointments will be added as we receive more vaccine from the state and if people cancel their appointment.
Are there more appointments at Atrius Health if I call by phone?
No, the appointment availability is the same whether you book on MyHealth or by phone with the call center.
Can my family/caregiver get vaccinated with me if I bring them to my appointment?
No. Each Atrius Health location has enough vaccine on hand for scheduled appointments each day. We are not able to vaccinate people who come with you to your appointment.
Do I have to be an Atrius Health patient to be vaccinated at your practice?
Yes. Only eligible Atrius Health patients can get vaccinated at our patient clinics. If you have not received care from Atrius Health, please check the state COVID-19 vaccine website for other locations in Massachusetts where you can schedule a vaccination. You can also pre-register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at one of the state's 7 mass vaccination locations by visiting https://vaccinesignup.mass.gov.
What vaccine brand does Atrius Health have for patients?
We currently are receiving primarily Moderna vaccine from the state. Moderna is only approved for people 18 and older. We are occasionally receiving very small quantities of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is also only approved for 18 above. At this time, we are only able to vaccinate patients 18 and older at our practice. Please note we are not able to offer patients a choice of which vaccine they receive.
Is there a cost to receive the vaccine?
There is no cost to you to receive the vaccine.
Are the vaccines safe and effective?
All three approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine provided 93% protection against hospitalization from COVID-19. It was also shown to be effective against the new COVID-19 variants, with research conducted in countries with these more infectious variants including South Africa and Brazil. An added benefit is that the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine requires only a single shot – so if you are offered it, you are “one and done” and don’t need to make a second appointment.
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 Prifzer 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
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
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.
Is it okay if my second dose is not exactly at the recommended time?
If you receive a vaccine that requires two doses, you should get your second shot as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, your second dose may be given up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose, if necessary. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval.
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.
Can children get the vaccine?
No, not at this time.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for people ages 16 and older. Both the Moderna vaccine and the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine are approved for people ages 18 and older.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have started clinical trials for children 12 and older. It is not known when the results of these studies will be available.
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?
Pfizer, Moderna, abd Janssen vaccines have fact sheets that list the ingredients of each vaccine. Those factsheets can be found at:
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers (fda.gov) (page 2)
- Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers (fda.gov) (page 2)
- Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine UEA Fast Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers (fda.gov) (page 2)
WHAT CAN I START TO DO AGAIN ONCE I AM FULLY VACCINATED?
If you’ve been fully vaccinated:
- You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
- You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- 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 in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.
- If you are a healthcare worker, you should contact your organization’s Employee Health department for specific testing or quarantine recommendations.
- The Massachusetts Travel Advisory states that visitors entering Massachusetts are advised to quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival or produce a negative test result. However, there is an exemption to this travel advisory for people who are fully vaccinated (i.e. who have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines OR who have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 14 days or more ago) and who do not have symptoms.
WHAT SHOULD I CONTINUE TO DO AFTER I AM FULLY VACCINATED?
- You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
- In public
- Gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household
- Visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk
- You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
- You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations. Depending on where you travel, you may find states have less stringent travel requirements for people who have been fully vaccinated.
- 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.
- You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.
Do I need to keep wearing a mask and practice social distancing after I receive the vaccine?
Yes. Even after receiving the vaccine, everyone needs to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands. It will take time to immunize enough of the population to stop the virus from spreading.
Additional COVID-19 FAQs
I heard on the news that people who are pregnant might be at increased risk related to COVID. Is that true?
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported on COVID infection among a large group of women between the ages of 15 and 44. The study did not find an increased risk of developing COVID-19 for women who were pregnant versus those who were not pregnant, but did suggest that there was a disproportionate rate of COVID infections among women who self- identified as Black or Hispanic.
Do pregnant women have a higher rate of bad outcomes if they become infected with COVID-19 compared to women who are not pregnant?
In the report, some of the findings included increased risk of hospitalization among people who were pregnant and developed infection with COVID-19 as well as an increased risk of being admitted to the ICU and requiring mechanical ventilation (breathing support) when compared with non-pregnant women. One limitation of the study is that while hospitalization occurred in a significantly higher proportion of pregnant women than non-pregnant women, the study did not include information about whether hospitalization was for COVID-19 or pregnancy-related conditions. Furthermore, these findings may be related to a lower threshold for admitting pregnant patients or for universal screening and testing policies that some hospitals have implemented for women admitted to the labor and delivery unit. There was no increased risk for death among women who were pregnant and diagnosed with COVID compared with women who were non-pregnant and diagnosed with COVID.
If I am pregnant, what can I do to remain safe from COVID?
Pregnant women should do all that they can to not skip prenatal care appointments. Atrius Health offers and encourages virtual prenatal appointments when clinically appropriate. As applies to the general population, pregnant women should limit interactions with other people as much as possible, take precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 when interacting with others including avoiding contact with people who may be sick, trying to wear a mask and keep physically separated from other people when going out and practicing good hand hygiene. Also do not hesitate to share with your providers if there are things that make it difficult for you to stay safe.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person and has spread worldwide over the past few months. Although there are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses, COVID-19 is caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that had not previously been seen in humans before December of 2019.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and what happens if I get it?
Most people who develop COVID-19 develop an illness that may be very similar to the flu with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you’d like to check your symptoms online, MyHealth Online users can now log in and use our custom developed symptom checker for COVID-19. Just click on ‘Symptom Checker’ and answer the questions. Depending on your current symptoms and history, the checker may direct you to continue monitoring symptoms at home, call our COVID Resource Center team, or schedule a virtual video visit with a clinician for further evaluation. If you have not yet signed up for MyHealth, you can also try this COVID-19 symptom checker from Buoy Health. It will also help you to assess your risk and symptoms.
The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of the new coronavirus may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 after exposure. With rest and supportive care at home (e.g., drinking plenty of fluids, acetaminophen or Tylenol as directed, etc.), most people recover within the course of several days to 1-2 weeks. Stay in touch with your primary care provider’s office for more individually tailored supportive care advice.
Some people are at higher risk of experiencing more severe symptoms with a COVID-19 infection: people with lung or heart disease, smokers, people with weakened immune systems due to illness or medications, and more generally people over the age of 65. Since people with these conditions could develop more severe symptoms, it is important for them to self-monitor closely for the onset of flu-like symptoms and to contact their doctor’s office for the best way to get evaluated, even when your symptoms are mild.
How is COVID-19 spread?
Based on our best science to date, it is believed that COVID-19 is spread through respiratory secretions, namely droplets that come from a cough or a sneeze. Since the virus can live in droplets that land on a table, phone, or railing, we can catch this virus by touching our mouth, nose, or eyes after coming in contact with these droplets. This is why it is really important to wash our hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. There is also a risk of COVID-19 transmission through smaller particles called aerosols during certain situations, which occur in close range and can include aerosol-generating procedures.
Social distancing is in the news right now, and it means keeping a safe distance from one another to try to minimize the chance that you will catch or spread COVID-19. In general, staying 6 feet apart is considered a safe distance. Further, Governor Baker issued an order effective Wednesday, May 6, 2020 requiring face masks or cloth face coverings to be worn in public places where social distancing is not possible.
What can be done to prevent the spread of coronavirus?
Consistent hand hygiene and cough etiquette are the best way to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like COVID-19. We strongly recommend the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Wear a cloth face covering or face mask
- When coughing or sneezing, always cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or tissue. Wash your hands after every time.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with individuals who are ill
- Stay at home when you are ill; except when seeking necessary medical care
Who should get tested for COVID-19?
At this time, testing is strongly recommended for all patients with symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, congestion, wheezing, sore throat and/or shortness of breath) as well as asymptomatic people in the following groups including patients who are exposed to COVID-19:
- Pregnant patients planning a Caesarian section or scheduled induction who are unable to have pre-admission testing done at their delivery hospital
- Patients who reside or work in high-risk congregate settings where there is evidence of outbreak (i.e., nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, homeless shelters, group homes) OR who are sent by the Department of Public Health or a residential facility for testing as a part of an investigation
- Patients who require testing as a part of return to work criteria
- Patients who have a planned, aerosol-generating or direct airway procedure such as Endoscopy, Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) procedures, and dental procedures.
- Patients who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and meet any of the following criteria:
- Have received a text message or letter from the Massachusetts COVID Team or their local board of health informing them they were identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
- Believe to have been exposed to COVID-19 through a household member (e.g., child, parent, sibling diagnosed with COVID-19 in the household).
- Had close contact with a confirmed individual with COVID-19 (workplace or community exposure) and had been within 6 feet of the individual for >=15 continuous minutes without personal protective equipment.
- If required for the purposes of visiting long-term care facility residents, attending daycare or summer camps, or travel to a destination where testing results may impact on quarantine requirements.
How is the COVID-19 test done?
The test for COVID-19 requires us to take a swab and insert it into your nose to get a sample of secretions from the back of your nose. The person taking your swab will be wearing protective equipment including a face shield, mask, gown, and gloves.
Should I get tested if I have had contact with someone who was tested as positive for COVID-19?
Yes, if someone with whom you had close contact is found to have COVID-19 disease, it is recommended that you get tested. However, if you have been fully vaccinated and are exposed to someone with COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from people or get tested unless you have symptoms.
What should I do if I have COVID-19?
The CDC has great information about what to do if you are sick and how to care for yourself at home. And please do not hesitate to contact your Atrius Health provider if you are worried about worsening symptoms.
When do I know that I have recovered from COVID-19?
The CDC says you have recovered if it has been at least 10 days since your symptoms first appeared, if you have gone 24 hours without a fever and without the use of fever-reducing medications, and your symptoms have significantly improved.
How do I talk to my children about COVID-19?
We understand that what is happening right now is very hard for adults to process, and it can be equally confusing and very scary for children, as well. The CDC has an entire page on their website dedicated to helping parents and guardians talk to children about COVID-19, from general principles to use when approaching and holding the conversation to child-friendly answers about COVID-19.