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What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

M Health Fairview is currently giving COVID-19 vaccines to paid and unpaid healthcare workers, all people age 65 and older, and some groups in Phase 1B Tiers 2 and 3 of the state’s plan. Check back often for updates and answers to your frequently asked questions.
All three currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, hospitalization, and death

M Health Fairview is currently providing COVID-19 vaccines to the following groups:

COVID-19 vaccine distribution is led by the State of Minnesota. M Health Fairview and other health systems across Minnesota continue to receive a limited supply of the vaccines. As supplies increase, we plan to make vaccines available to more people statewide. Learn more about the state’s vaccine phases here.

We understand that you may have questions about these new vaccines. To help, we have assembled a list of frequently asked questions.

If I am eligible, how can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

If you meet our eligibility guidelines, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Hub to answer our screening questions, log into MyChart, check appointment availability, and schedule an appointment.

COVID-19 vaccine appointments are only available at select M Health Fairview locations statewide, and you may need to travel to a different clinic than you typically visit for your other primary care appointments and health needs. You will be able to select the location that is most convenient for you when you book an appointment. Click here for a map of M Health Fairview vaccination locations.

Our weekly appointment availability depends on the number of vaccines we receive from the Minnesota Department of Health. Generally, we open new appointment times on Tuesday mornings after we learn how many doses we will receive from the state. This is when appointment availability is best. There may be additional appointments released throughout the week as some appointments are rescheduled or canceled and we receive additional vaccine. 

We encourage you to check back often for newly updated appointment times. We will always update the availability of vaccine appointments on our COVID-19 Resource Hub.

Do I need an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, we require an appointment in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Please do not come to a M Health Fairview clinic for the COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment. To find out if you meet the criteria to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, please visit our eligibility screener and scheduler.

Is there a standby list, wait list, or another way to obtain a last-minute appointment?

While we do not have a wait list, it is our top priority to use every vaccine dose given to us by the Minnesota Department of Health. To ensure that all doses are distributed to those who meet the current vaccine criteria, we've prepared a will-call or "standby" list for those who are able to arrive at a clinic within 15 minutes of receiving a notification about available vaccines. Individuals who sign up for this list must meet our current vaccine eligibility criteria and must be able to travel to the designated clinic location within 15 minutes of notification. Register for the standby list here.

What should I expect at my COVID-19 vaccine appointment?

To help your appointment go more quickly, please do the following:

  • Wear a short-sleeved shirt for ease of receiving the vaccine.

  • Wear a mask and maintain a social distance of six feet from others when possible at your appointment. Only those getting a vaccine should come to the appointment.

  • After receiving the vaccination, you will be asked to wait nearby for a 15-minute observation period to monitor you for immediate adverse reactions. If you have a history of allergic reactions to a vaccine, you will be asked to wait nearby for a 30-minute observation period. Our vaccinators are prepared to respond to adverse reactions during the observation time. They will have access to EpiPens and guidance on how to care for individuals experiencing reactions.

  • If you are pregnant, lactating (nursing) or have a weak immune system, review special details about the vaccine on the CDC website.

  • If you have questions, be sure to ask your regular care team before you arrive.

  • Please also review the Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine Emergency Use Authorization,  Moderna Vaccine Emergency Use Authorization, or Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Emergency Use Authorization for more details about the vaccines.

  • The vaccines do not provide immediate immunity. Though all three vaccines are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 hospitalization and death, it takes time for your body’s immune system to build defenses after you receive your full dose of the vaccine.  We do not know what to expect in the next six months to two years. The level of immunity you have after getting the vaccine may fade over longer periods of time, but we do not yet know if additional, later doses of the any of the vaccines will be necessary to maintain your protection.

  • You need two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, while the Janssen (John & Johnson) vaccine only requires a single dose. You must get the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine 21 days after the first dose, and the second dose of the Moderna vaccine 28 days after the first. If you are receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines,you will be scheduled for the second dose during your first vaccination appointment. 

  • These vaccines are not interchangeable. For example, you should not mix a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with a second dose of the Moderna vaccine. If you received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine during your first appointment, then you should also get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine during your second dose so that the vaccine is fully effective.

Will insurance cover the COVID-19 vaccine?

We are not charging for the COVID-19 vaccine itself at this time. We do charge, however, for the administration code. The charge for the first administration is $25. The charge for the second administration is $30. Your insurance will be billed for administering the vaccine and covered by insurance companies with no out of pocket costs to the patient. 

Can I bring a friend or family member to my appointment if they meet the vaccine criteria?

If the person you bring does not have a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, they will not receive a vaccination.

Why is it difficult to get a COVID-19 vaccine appointment?

Due to the high demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, our appointments fill quickly. Health systems across the state and nation are also affected by limited vaccine supplies. Updated information about our COVID-19 vaccine appointment availability will always be posted on our COVID-19 Resource Hub. It can also be found by accessing the scheduling function through your MyChart account.

Why is M Health Fairview prioritizing vaccinations for older individuals and those with certain medical conditions?

Simply put, age and the presence of other pre-existing medical conditions are the best indicators of whether someone may suffer from severe COVID symptoms leading to hospitalization and death. For instance, individuals 75 years of age are eight times likelier to be hospitalized and 220 times likelier to die from COVID than individuals aged 18-29.

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

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.

The COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer/BioNTech,Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) are safe and highly effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, hospitalization, and death due to the disease, according to results from three large clinical trials that together involved more than 100,000 people.

On Dec. 11, 2020, 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. A third vaccine produced by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) received FDA authorization on Feb. 27.

Before approval, clinical trial results for all three vaccines were reviewed by FDA experts, an independent panel convened by the FDA, and a group of independent experts retained by the companies involved.

The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were both found to be more than 94 percent effective after two doses. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine was shown to be 66 percent effective in preventing mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 at least 28 days after vaccination. More importantly, researchers found that the vaccine was 85 percent effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19 and was 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and deaths.

The FDA did not find any specific safety concerns that would prevent the release of the three vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA will continue to monitor people who have received the 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 first vaccine offered to you, no matter which kind of vaccine it is. 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. Two weeks after the second doses, both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to be more than 94 percent effective.

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

How does the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine work?

The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine comes in a single dose – unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which both require two doses several weeks apart. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) shot uses a “vector vaccine” method. Vector vaccines use another weakened virus – in this case, it’s an adenovirus called Ad26 – to deliver genetic material that tricks your body into making a protein which stimulates your body’s immune response. It is not possible to get COVID-19 or a sickness caused by the adenovirus through this vaccine.

Is the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine as good as the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines?

All three authorized vaccines are very effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, hospitalization, and death. If you qualify, you should get the first vaccine offered to you – no matter which vaccine it is – to better protect yourself and accelerate the end of the pandemic.

Comparing the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine to the other vaccines is like comparing apples to oranges. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine was studied during and following the emergence of new COVID-19 variants – several of which spread more easily than previous forms of the disease. It’s the most-up-to-date vaccine, and the only one tested head to head with these variants. Because there are not any studies directly comparing one vaccine to one another, it is not accurate to assume that one version is better than another.

 Once vaccinated, we must continue wearing masks, being socially distant, and taking other steps to reduce our risk.

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 with the vaccines, including a headache, fatigue, chills, fever, and muscle and joint soreness. For the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, side effects are more likely to occur after the second dose. Most of these symptoms ended three days after the vaccine, or earlier.

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 any of vaccines, you may have been exposed to the virus before receiving your vaccine.

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

It is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccines. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use only genetic material from the coronavirus causing COVID-19 while the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine delivers that genetic material using a weakened adenovirus (Ad26).

What if I miss my second dose of the vaccine?

The Pfizer/BioNTECH and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are not fully effective unless you receive both doses. The first dose of the vaccine triggers your immune system response and the second dose completes the process so that you have the best-possible protection.   The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine only requires a single dose for full effectiveness.

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, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) clinical trials did not include pregnant or lactating people, so there is currently no data on the safety of vaccines 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. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine was approved 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.

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.