COVID-19 Vaccine – What you should know
As the first COVID vaccine doses get shipped, several questions arise from patient clients, friends and family. Here is what we know so far.
*Last updated March 25, 2021
Which vaccines are available right now in the US?
FDA-approved COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, and now Johnson & Johnson are now reaching medical personnel, essential workers and people with pre-existing conditions across the country. Some states are also opening their vaccination sites to every adult. Patients and personnel in long-term care facilities have been eligible to receive the vaccine since phase I. Military personnel are also receiving vaccinations based on specific guidelines presented here.
- Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines require two doses, within a month, a few weeks apart.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine require only one dose.
Several other vaccines are nearing the conclusion of Phase III clinical trials. This is the final stage of trials in humans before applying for approval by the FDA.
- Look out for results in the coming days from AstraZeneca (two-dose), and in the first half of the year from Novavax.
- Many other vaccines are currently in development. Check out this great resource from NYTimes on the types and numbers of coronavirus vaccines currently in development.
The CDC said on March 25th that 26.3% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 14% has completed vaccination. Several states are preparing to open vaccine access to all adults.
What are the guidelines about who gets vaccinated first?
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine put together a Framework for the Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine which is listed below. Keep in mind that it has been reported that vaccine phases are expected to overlap.
When can I get the coronavirus vaccine?
Depending on what Phase your state is in. The vaccination pace has peaked up and we are now ahead of schedule in the US. Several states are preparing to open vaccine access to all adults.
- If you are a person with underlying conditions putting you at significant risk for serious COVID infection, you should talk with your primary care or specialist provider to see if you qualify to receive the COVID vaccine now. According to the CDC, adults of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19 (please note this is not an exhaustive list, especially if you have a rare condition. Talk with your doctor to assess your risk and vaccination plan):
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
In Phase 2 of vaccine distribution, supply is expected to expand to the point where a COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone in the U.S. who wants one. Government officials anticipate Phase 2 to begin as early as the spring. The CDC points out that based on what we know at this time, adults of any age with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19 (please note this is not an exhaustive list, especially if you have a rare condition. Talk with your doctor to assess your risk and discuss your vaccination plan):
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
- Liver disease
- Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
- Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
- Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine? I heard of side-effects
After receiving the vaccine, you can expect some pain and swelling at the injection site in your arm for a day or so. Side effects may feel like having the flu and even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. These include the following according to the CDC:
I have allergies, can I take the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you are someone with allergic-type reactions often to certain medications, foods or vaccines you should talk with your doctor about how to safely take the COVID-19 vaccine. Right now, the advice from the experts is that you discuss the risks with your doctors and be monitored for 30 minutes afterward. There are measures available to help prevent or respond to an allergic-type of reaction. Talk with your allergist about pre-medicating or taking other steps to prevent a reaction. The best thing is to have a plan and be prepared.
I have an autoimmune or immune-related disease, when can I take the COVID-19 vaccine?
We spoke to various specialists we work with across multiple states. Right now everyone is trying to figure it out and no firm plans exist.
One of the biggest challenges at the moment is how to determine eligibility for adults with high-risk medical conditions.
If you have an autoimmune or immune-related condition, talk with your rheumatologist and/or immunologist about their thoughts and plans for vaccinations for people with your specific conditions. Some are more conservative than others in their approach.
Many suggested to us that high-risk patients talk with their primary care providers instead to see when and how they could be accounted for to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
In either case, you would want to know your diagnosis and remind your PCP and specialist of your conditions and your age and ask when you would be eligible for vaccination.
Still confused about what to do?
Call our health advocates for help at
206.900.0904 or send us an online message.