(Updated 1/20/21) Vaccines Frequently Asked Questions

These frequently asked questions (FAQ) focus on two COVID-19 vaccines made by the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, issued emergency use authorization (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration. We’ll update the information on this page to include information on other vaccines when they become available.


Vaccine Distribution and Appointments

 

Both Pfizer and Moderna were issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), respectively on Friday, December 11th, 2020 and Friday, December 18th, 2020.

Emory Healthcare patients 65 years of age and older.  

Yes. Please complete the request an appointment form, and pending review, you may be placed on a waitlist for the appropriate phase. However, please check other vaccination resources, such as the Georgia Department of Public Health or your local pharmacies. Getting the vaccine is much more important than where you get the vaccine.

Vaccine supply is very limited, and we cannot guarantee an appointment. If you do not get an appointment, please check other vaccination resources, such as the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) or your local pharmacies. Getting the vaccine is much more important than where you get the vaccine. You should continue to wear your mask, maintain social distancing, and wash your hands until public health officials recommend otherwise.

Due to the very short handling time of the vaccine, we cannot hold your appointment time. 

Please make every effort to arrive for your appointment. We are working diligently to vaccinate as many people as possible, and we cannot support rescheduling.

At this time, patients will bear no financial responsibility for the vaccine. If you have insurance, we will bill your insurance company, but you will have no financial obligation. If you do not have insurance, the vaccine will be provided free of charge.

If you are a current patient, you may get vaccinated, even if you do not have insurance.

Vaccine Basics

 

Several Vaccines are in the late stages of trials, with two granted FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

The FDA has granted EUA for the following:

Pfizer vaccine: messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine that requires two doses/person, 21 days apart.

Moderna vaccine: mRNA vaccine that also requires two doses/person, 28 days apart.

Additional vaccines in late-stage clinical trials in the US are:

Johnson & Johnson: Adenovirus vector vaccine, with researches testing both one and two-dose regimens.

Astra Zeneca: Adenovirus vector vaccine that requires two doses/person, approximately four weeks apart.

Novavax: Protein-based vaccine that requires two doses/person.

Sanofi and Glaxo-Smith-Kline: Protein-based vaccine that requires two doses/person.

The remainder of the FAQ focuses on the two vaccines expected to receive EUAs in December 2020; we will update the information to include other vaccines as they become available.

 

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be the first to use messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA in the vaccine contains the genetic code to make one of the spike proteins found on the surface of the coronavirus particle. Your cells will use that genetic code to make spike proteins that your immune system learns to recognize so that if you’re exposed to coronavirus in the future your immune system will react to it as well.  However, this genetic code for the virus is not in the same form as human genetic code, which is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and does not alter recipients’ genetic code.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines include a part of the virus's genetic material or mRNA, allowing your cells to produce the coronavirus protein and your immune system to create antibodies. The vaccines do not contain enough of the virus's genetic material to recreate the full virus.

No. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not contain fetal tissue.

Vaccine Effectiveness

 

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had 95% effectiveness in the initial studies at preventing COVID infection. They seemed to prevent severe infections in people who got sick. In analyzing the first 170 people to get COVID in the Pfizer study, 162 were in the placebo group, and only eight received the vaccine. Of the first 95 people to get COVID in the Moderna study, 90 were in the placebo group, and only five received the vaccine. There were ten severe infections in the initial Pfizer group with only one among people who had gotten the vaccine, and 11 severe infections in the initial Moderna group with none among people who had gotten the vaccine.

Current data indicates that both vaccines are very similar in how effective and safe they are. There is no evidence that one is more effective than the other.

Vaccine Safety and Side Effects

 

The Moderna and Pfizer trials combined included more than 73,000 people, with half receiving the vaccine and half receiving placebo. This means that we have safety data for almost 40,000 people who received an mRNA vaccine. We have nine months of experience with the Moderna vaccine and seven months of experience with the Pfizer vaccine, and people included in the data have been followed for at least two months after their second dose. Typically, delayed side effects will be seen within that time frame and have not been reported. No serious safety concerns have been reported. 

The side effects that were seen occurred shortly after injection (mostly after the second injection) and were “severe” in less than 10% of people, defined as interfering with daily activities – for example, a fever that prevents someone from going to work that day or fatigue that leads someone to cancel a planned grocery store trip. When these types of side effects occur, they indicate that your immune system is responding. The side effects have not been reported to be long-lasting, and don’t raise concerns about the safety of the vaccines.

We will also monitor any additional safety and follow up data as it is released.

If you are immunosuppressed from cancer, transplant, or other medical condition, we encourage you to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Emory Transplant Center recommends that our kidney, liver, lung and pancreas transplant patients receive the COVID-19 vaccine when their phase becomes eligible. There is no need to contact our office to verify safety.
  • Emory Transplant Center also recommends our heart transplant patients receive the COVID-19 vaccine when their phase becomes eligible. However, heart transplant patients should contact their heart transplant team PRIOR to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

These vaccines were able to be developed so fast in part because they are mRNA vaccines. The genetic code for the coronavirus has been available since early January of 2020, and so researchers were able to start work on a vaccine even before there were confirmed cases in the United States. There are also other mRNA vaccines being evaluated for different diseases in clinical trials, and so scientists were able to incorporate lessons learned from those studies.     

Pfizer Vaccine

  • It is shipped/stored at temperatures below -94º degrees Fahrenheit or –70º degrees Celsius
  • Once thawed, it can last for five days at average refrigerator temperatures

Moderna Vaccine

  • It needs storage at -4º degrees Fahrenheit or -20º degrees Celsius
  • Once thawed, it can then last for 14 days at average fridge temperatures

Thus far there have not been serious safety concerns. Side effects have typically been mild to moderate, and include fevers, headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and pain at the injection site shortly after receiving the vaccine. About 10% (1 out 10) had significant symptoms after receiving the vaccine. These symptoms were all short term, usually less than 48 hours, and did not require medical attention. These symptoms included pain at the injection site, fatigue, body aches, joint pain, headache, and redness at the injection site. Overall, the rates of symptoms after the COVID vaccines were a little bit higher than with a regular flu shot, but a little less than with the shingles vaccine.

Long-term side effects have not been reported with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but researchers and clinicians will continue to follow safety of the vaccine recipients. 

As mentioned above, patients receiving the vaccine may experience side effects, including fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint pain. These side effects can appear similar to the symptoms of COVID. Still, the recipient cannot get COVID or become contagious from the vaccine. These symptoms are from the recipient's immune system responding and not from any infection from the vaccine. 

Currently, we do not know how these vaccines perform in pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding. There are future clinical trials that will help to answer these questions. We expect that medical professional societies will issue recommendations and that the EUA will comment on whether pregnant or breastfeeding women can/should proceed with vaccination. We will provide the information from the EUA as soon as it is available, and women in this situation should also discuss vaccination with their obstetrician.

Because not everyone who has COVID develops immunity, we don’t have a way to measure the quality of the immune response, and we don’t know how long-lasting any immunity is, we are recommending that everyone get vaccinated, even if they have a history of COVID. Based on initial data from the clinical trials, which included individuals who had had COVID, we expect to see similar side effects in people who have had COVID compared to those who haven’t. 

We don't have data yet on how well the vaccine will work in patients with compromised immune systems, but there are currently ongoing studies with other vaccine platforms to evaluate this. Because these vaccines do not contain the live virus, we don't anticipate any conflict to receiving them if you are immunocompromised, but we cannot make specific recommendations on this until the EUA is released. It is best to consult with your physician or healthcare provider so that a decision can be made based on your individual health circumstance.

Vaccine Dosing

 

Both Pfizer and Moderna which were issued EUA do require two injections. The Pfizer vaccine doses should be given three weeks apart, and the Moderna doses should be given four weeks apart.

We don't know yet, because the studies that have been done focused only on receiving two doses. Our current understanding is that a person must receive two doses of the Moderna vaccine or the Pfizer vaccine to be protected. That is what we know worked in clinical trials.

After the Shots

 

The COVID vaccines will cause the COVID antibody test to become positive. The vaccines do NOT cause the COVID PCR (nasal swab) or rapid antigen tests to become positive.

Yes. The vaccine was highly effective in studies but not 100% effective. The vaccine doesn't work immediately, and we can't predict who will have a good immune response to the vaccine and who won't. Plus, we don't know how long immunity will last. Therefore, we need to continue practicing the 3Ws, wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance, regardless of whether you've had the vaccine.  

We know the vaccine is not 100% effective, and if you get infected, you could spread COVID to others with or without symptoms. Therefore, we need to continue practicing the 3Ws, wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance, regardless of whether you've had the vaccine.  

Likely as soon as one to two weeks after you receive the second dose of the vaccine; however, with more time, we will have better data.

We don't know yet – researchers will continue to collect data on study participants to determine if immunity decreases over time and if repeat vaccination is necessary.  

This will depend on how quickly we can get vaccines to everyone in the country and how many people get the vaccine. Therefore, we need to continue practicing the 3Ws, wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance, regardless of whether you've had the vaccine. There will be additional data on what percentage of the population is likely immune and what is happening with case rates in the coming months. 

V-Safe After the Vaccine Health Checker

V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.