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Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine primary and booster dose eligibility here.  

COVID-19 VACCINE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Updated April 29, 2022

Please visit this page regularly for updates.

Summit Health is committed to safeguarding the health of our patients and team members and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination is an important step in this process and likely our best hope for ending this pandemic.

GENERAL VACCINE INFORMATION

A vaccine provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease – meaning it helps your immune system fight viruses or bacteria. When most people in a community are vaccinated against a disease, the ability for the disease to spread is limited. This is known as herd immunity.

VACCINE USE AUTHORIZATION

Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is quick facilitation during a public health emergency. For an EUA to be issued for a vaccine, the FDA must determine that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine.

There are three vaccines currently approved by the FDA for use in the United States. The Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines have Emergency Use Authorization based on extensive evidence from clinical trials showing both effectiveness and safety of the vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine has full approval for use to prevent COVID-19. All three vaccines are safe and effective. 

VACCINE ELIGIBILITY AND DISTRIBUTION

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine primary and booster dose eligibility here.

There are several vaccination location options people can consider, including state and local vaccine sites and retail pharmacies listed on the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub.  Appointments are readily available and many sites offer walk-in service.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines each require two doses. The second Moderna dose is administered 28 days after the first. The second Pfizer dose is administered 21 days after the first.

People who are immunocompromised are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Some moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals should receive an additional dose as part of their primary series.  This is different from the booster dose.  For details on who should receive an extra dose, please click here.

No.  In keeping with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, no patient will be charged for the vaccine or its administration. Even if you do not have insurance coverage, you will not be charged for the vaccine.

Many people do develop a sore arm, muscle aches and/or fevers, especially after the second dose. OTC fever reducing and pain relieving medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be taken for the treatment of post-vaccination symptoms, if medically appropriate.

SAFETY AND EFFECTIVENESS

The Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech vaccines are mRNA vaccines. These  vaccines use a piece of genetic material from the virus called messenger RNA (mRNA), surrounded by a protective lipid (oily) shell. When the vaccine is injected into the muscle, it gives the muscle cells instructions on how to make a harmless piece of the s-protein, a spike-like structure found on the surface of coronaviruses. Your body’s immune system will recognize that the spike protein doesn't belong, and it will begin building an immune response by making antibodies. 

Shortly after the mRNA has done its job, the body will rapidly degrade the proteins and the lipid shell so there are no vaccine components that remain in your body.

In the future, if your body is exposed to the COVID-19 virus, these antibodies will quickly attack and kill the virus. The vaccines do not use live virus organisms and cannot cause COVID-19.

Testing for antibodies is not recommended after vaccination.

No. Because there are no virus particles in the vaccine, it cannot cause infection in your body.

All vaccines must be proven safe and effective in large (phase III) clinical trials designed to identify side effects or other safety concerns before being approved for use. Vaccines must also undergo a series of independent reviews for safety and efficacy. After any vaccine is introduced to the public, health officials closely monitor for any safety concerns. In addition, over a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the world.

Based on large studies as well as extensive real-world experience, the currently available COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be safe and highly effective in reducing the risk of COVID-19.

The three existing COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. are highly effective. Studies show that individuals start to develop antibodies about one week after receiving the vaccination. With the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (mRNA technology), one week after the first dose, you will have a somewhat reduced risk, and two weeks after the second vaccine, you are considered fully vaccinated. With the Johnson & Johnson, single shot vaccine, you are considered fully vaccinated after two weeks.

It is clear that vaccinated people have a much lower risk of getting really sick or dying from COVID-19.

While strains of the virus may continue to appear, getting vaccinated has been proven to provide significant protection against serious illness from all strains thus far. Even if you are infected after vaccination, the likelihood of serious illness will be far lower if you are fully vaccinated.

For continued protection, in addition to getting vaccinated, you should continue wearing your mask around people who are not members of your household, as well as practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding large crowed places. 

 

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine primary and booster dose eligibility here.

The vaccines contain no preservatives.

The vaccines have been studied in millions of people in both clinical trials as well as real world situation.  Some recipients did report side effects, usually fever and aches lasting a day or two.  Side effects were also more common among persons between 18 and 55 years of age than in those over the age of 55. Learn more about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines here.

You can learn more about clinical trials here.

Breast Imaging

COVID-19 vaccines can cause normal reactive enlargement of lymph nodes on the side of the injection. However, there is no need to delay a mammogram or ultrasound of the breasts. Radiologists can interpret within the context of your medical history and timing of vaccination.

To reduce the need for avoidable follow-up exams, our breast imaging experts are recommending the following:

  • Schedule routine screening mammograms and screening ultrasounds either:
    • Before the first dose of the vaccine or
    • 4 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine
  • Let imaging staff know about recent COVID vaccine date and side of injection.

Of course, breast imaging should not be delayed in anyone who has symptoms or when it may negatively impact their outcome. 

If you are already overdue for your screening exam or cannot reschedule within the next few months, you should keep your screening mammogram appointment and keep your COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

Summit Health is working with our breast imaging, marketing, and legal teams to develop information for patients. A questionnaire will be handed to patients before imaging to identify those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reference: Society of Breast Imaging: Screening Mammography Recommendations for Women Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine

Given what we know now, the theoretical risks of the new vaccine are by far outweighed by the potential benefits. If you are worried about a possible allergic reaction, we recommend you speak to your health care provider before scheduling your vaccination. Additionally, it would be reasonable to remain at the medical facility where the vaccine is administered for 30 minutes (as opposed to the standard 15) after getting vaccinated. Serious allergic reactions almost always occur within the first 30 minutes. 

Even after you are fully vaccinated, masking helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as various respiratory illnesses such as colds and the flu so it is prudent to continue to wear a mask in public and crowded areas when possible.

MEDICAL CONDITIONS, IMMUNE SYSTEM & CIRCUMSTANTIAL INFORMATION

You should weigh the risks of your medical condition with the benefits of reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19. People with conditions that impact the immune system, or who take immunosuppressive medications, are likely to be at increased risk for severe COVID-19. The CDC recommends that individuals with conditions that impact the immune system should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It is possible that these individuals may have a reduced immune response, but still gain some protection. If you have any concerns, it is best to discuss with your health care provider.

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended by the CDC for people who are pregnant. In addition, everyone who is ages 18 and older, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future, should get a booster shot.

People who are pregnant or were recently pregnant are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with people who are not pregnant. And the COVID-19 vaccine significantly reduces the risk o f severe illness.

And in women who are breastfeeding, the mother may be able to pass along some immunity to the infant thorough her breast milk.

It is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the benefits outweigh any potential risks. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), and the CDC. In fact, the ACOG recommends that all eligible pregnant and lactating individuals should receive the vaccine. If you have any questions, we encourage you to discuss them with your health care provider to determine what’s best for you and your baby. Learn more on the ACOG website and the CDC page.

 

 

The COVID-19 vaccine DOES NOT impact fertility.

There is a lot of vaccine misinformation on the internet and on social media, so we encourage you to use reliable sources such as CDC.gov when learning about the vaccine. There is a false rumor that the antibody produced by the vaccine to fight COVID-19 infection can impact the placenta in the womb. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that the antibody has an impact on fertility, pregnancy, or the ability for the fetus to grow in the womb. 

We know that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, Native Americans, and other minority communities. Vaccine trials have made active efforts to include people of all races and ethnicities for testing of safety and effectiveness. Efficacy has been consistent across race, ethnicity, and gender demographics.  Given that Black and Latinx people are at higher risk for severe COVID-19, the benefits may be even greater.

You can still receive the vaccine if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking a blood thinner. It does not exclude you from receiving the vaccine. The vaccine is not associated with serious bleeding risk. It is possible that you experience light bruising and/or light bleeding at the injection site which is a common side effect with any vaccine and generally resolves the same day.

Chronic medical conditions can place people at increased risk for severe COVID-19, compared to individuals without these conditions. Clinical trials have demonstrated that the vaccines are very safe and effective in people with underlying medical conditions.

The risk of allergic reactions to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine is very low. The CDC does not disqualify people with a history of allergies to food, medications, pollen, stings, or other substances from getting the vaccine. If you have a history of allergies to specific foods or medications, you should discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine with your health care provider. Based on your risk factors for developing severe disease if you contract COVID-19, you and your provider can decide whether you should take the vaccine now or wait a little longer.

 

The FDA has noted only two populations who should not receive the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine:

  • Those who have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of this vaccine
  • Those who have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of this vaccine

If you are not feeling well, it is recommended that you wait until you are feeling better to get the vaccine. If you have scheduled an appointment to receive the vaccine and are not feeling well on the day of vaccination, it is best to reschedule your appointment. If you have symptoms and/or signs of respiratory infection, evaluation is recommended.

No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not take the place of the pneumonia vaccine or the flu vaccine. Discuss your need for other vaccinations with your health care provider.

PREVIOUS INFECTION AND ANTIBODIES

People who have had the infection or positive antibodies can still get the vaccine. Results of antibody testing should not be used for the purpose of vaccine decision-making. Individuals with documented acute infection in the preceding 90 days can get the vaccine if their symptoms have resolved and they have completed their isolation period.  

For now, it is recommended that if you have received monoclonal antibody or plasma for treatment of COVID-19, you should wait 90 days before receiving the vaccine. This recommendation is based on known half-life (how long antibodies last in the body after they are infused though an IV) of such treatments. It is likely that if you received these, you have some protection for three months and the delay will help ensure the vaccine leads to a strong immune response.

This is not a live vaccine so there is no risk of viral shedding, which is when a virus replicates inside your body. You do not need to practice any special infection control processes after vaccination. However, you should continue to practice all the usual safety guidelines, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

COVID-19 TESTING

Asymptomatic patients who have an established Summit Health provider may call (908) 273-4300 M-F between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. to schedule an appointment to be tested if feasible.

Due to limited capacity and the need to prioritize patients needing urgent medical attention, asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients (based on specific criteria), who are seeking a COVID-19 test at a Summit Health Urgent Care Center may be asked to return at a scheduled appointment time that can be made at check in. If we cannot accommodate you shortly after you arrive, you will be given a time to return in an effort to minimize your wait. Please do not call for an appointment ahead of time.

Asymptomatic patients who do not have an established Summit Health provider may go to one of our CityMD sites for evaluation and testing.

During a period of extremely high demand and transmission, health officials are asking residents to avoid straining the health care system.  During these times, if you have a mild symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, you can presume you have the infection. Testing will be of little clinical value. Most people with mild illness resembling the common cold can recover at home.  Follow the CDC’s isolation and quarantine recommendations for the public. If symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention from your health care provider.

 

Please note: If you have had close contact with a known COVID-19 positive person:

  • It takes time after exposure to turn positive. Getting a test within the first few days of exposure is of limited value as it takes time for the test to convert.
  • Anyone who has had close contact should isolate in their home for 14 days per the New Jersey Department of Health even if their test is negative.
  • Other NJ Testing Options

To learn more about the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccination,
visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.