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Questions and Answers

COVID-19 Vaccines FAQs

Now that the first COVID-19 vaccines are ready, what’s next? Most of us don’t yet know when the vaccine will be available to us, but we do know getting at least 70% of the population vaccinated is crucial to containing the virus. To protect yourself and your loved ones, it’s important to get vaccinated when it is available to you.

In the meantime, we must work together to reduce the spread of the disease by:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Practicing social distancing
  • Washing our hands
  • Getting a flu shot

Please refer to the information below for answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in these FAQs is what was known or available as of publication, however guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

About the vaccines

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Several companies are developing vaccines. But two COVID-19 vaccines received emergency use authorization in December 2020 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The first to receive the vaccines will be frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine

  • Two dose-vaccine, 21 days apart
  • Recommended for people ages 16 years or older
  • Requires ultra-cold storage (-94⁰ F)
  • 3 billion doses to the world in 2021
  • Large-scale trial (44,000 participants) showed 95% protection from disease

Moderna mRNA vaccine

  • Two-dose vaccine, 28 days apart
  • Recommended for people ages 18 years or older
  • Requires standard cold storage (-4⁰ F)
  • 500 million to 1 billion doses to the world in 2021
  • Large-scale trial (30,000 participants) showed 94% protection from disease

Learn more about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

Learn more about the Moderna vaccine

Read more about the difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

 

Pfizer

  • 57% white
  • 26% Hispanic / Latinx
  • 10% Black
  • 4% Asian
  • 3% other racial groups

Moderna

  • 63% white
  • 20% Hispanic / Latinx
  • 10% Black
  • 4% Asian
  • (Less than) 3% other racial groups

Just like you freeze food to keep it from spoiling, it’s the same for the vaccines. There are many enzymes in the mRNA vaccines. These enzymes can easily break it apart and destroy it in warmer temperatures. The extreme cold slows this process down significantly, which keeps the vaccines stable and “fresher” longer.

Learn more about why the COVID-19 vaccines require cold storage.

 

The Milken Institute has developed a site that tracks the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Within the site, you can explore detailed information on each development.

COVID-19 Treatment and Vaccine Tracker

Should I be vaccinated?

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The CDC recommends the following age groups receive vaccination:

  • Pfizer-BioNTEch: People 16 years or older
  • Moderna: People 18 years or older

Please note, children and adolescents outside these age groups should not receive COVID-19 vaccination at this time.

Learn more about who should and shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

No. The vaccines should not be given to anyone actively infected with COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to it. You can receive the vaccine after you’ve fully recovered, or your quarantine period has ended.

 

Yes, you do. It is not known how long natural immunity lasts. If you had COVID recently, you may want to discuss the timing of the vaccine with your doctor.

 

It depends on what you’re allergic to.

Do not get vaccinated if you have a history of severe allergic reaction to any ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines.

Pfizer vaccine ingredients (see page 2)

Moderna vaccine ingredients (see page 2)

Vaccinate with caution if you have a history of severe allergic reaction to another vaccine (not the COVID-19 vaccine) or other injectable therapies.

It’s okay to get vaccinated if you have a history of the following allergies: Food, pets, insects, venom, environmental, latex, or other allergies not related to vaccines or injectable therapies.

Please note, if you have any allergies, you should talk with your doctor to assess your risk before taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

People who are immunocompromised were not part of the mRNA vaccine trials. So there’s no data currently available to make a recommendation. Talk with your doctor to assess your risk for the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Yes. But you should not get vaccinated if you have severe allergic reactions (see the previous question, “If I have allergies, should I get vaccinated?”). In clinical trials, the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were shown to be as safe and effective for people with underlying medical conditions as for those without.

 

Women who were pregnant or breastfeeding were not part of the mRNA vaccine trials. So there’s no data currently available to make a recommendation.

However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends the COVID-19 vaccine be offered to pregnant and breastfeeding women. And the CDC  recommends that women trying to become pregnant do not have to avoid pregnancy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

Please note, if you’re trying to get pregnant, currently pregnant or breastfeeding, you should talk to your doctor about your risks, preferences and options before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Getting the vaccine

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It depends on where you live. While the Centers for Disease Control provided guidelines on vaccine distribution, each state decides who gets vaccinated first, and when. Most states are prioritizing vaccine distribution in four or five different phases. If you’re a healthy person, you’ll most likely have to wait until one of the later phases to get vaccinated, which could take several months.

Learn more about the vaccine distribution plans in Maryland. Or for information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area, please contact your local health department.

Please note, it’s recommended to schedule your COVID-19 vaccination when you don’t have anything important planned for the next day or two, including work.

 

If you’re a current CareFirst member, you’ll pay $0 for any FDA authorized vaccine when it’s made available to the public.

 

No. Neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines contain the live SARS-CoV-2 virus. So you cannot get COVID-19. It is not yet known whether a vaccinated person can still pass on the virus to another person, so even after being vaccinated continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands.

 

Unlike most vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not place a weakened or inactive germ into your body. Instead, both use a copy of a natural chemical called “messenger ribonucleic acid” (mRNA). This chemical teaches your body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. This response produces antibodies, which protect you from COVID-19. After making the protein, your body destroys the mRNA, which does not stay in your body.

 

No. The protection from the vaccine starts seven (7) days after the second Pfizer dose. And 14 days after the second Moderna dose. But even after you’re vaccinated, we still need to work together to reduce the spread of the disease. You should continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands and get a flu shot.