Frequently Asked Questions About COVID Vaccines

About COVID-19 Vaccines

Updated: 11/5/2021

Which vaccines are available?

Three vaccines have received emergency use authorization from the FDA: the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine. MyMichigan Health administers the vaccine it receives based on supply.

How do the vaccines work?

Each vaccine uses a slightly different approach with the same goal: to induce an immune response in the body against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. This type of vaccine is not a live vaccine and does not contain the virus itself. Rather, it gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build immune cells that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.

The Pfizer vaccine will require two shots, with the second shot received 21 days after the first. The Moderna vaccine requires two shots 28 days apart. The J&J vaccine is a single-dose vaccine.

What ingredients are in the Pfizer vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine contains:

  • Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) – the main, active ingredient that elicits an immune response and the production of antibodies
  • Lipids (including ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol) – an outside coating or shell of fat that protects the mRNA from destruction as it is being stored, administered and delivered to cells
  • Salts that are used to maintain proper levels of acidity (pH) - Potassium chloride; monobasic potassium phosphate; sodium chloride (salt); dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate
  • Sucrose – a sugar that stabilizes the suspension

What ingredients are in the Moderna vaccine?

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine contains:

  • Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) – the main, active ingredient that elicits an immune response and the production of antibodies
  • Lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG],cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC])- an outside coating or shell of fat that protects the mRNA from destruction as it is being stored, administered and delivered to cells
  • Tromethamine,tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate - used to maintain proper pH
  • Sucrose – a sugar that stabilizes the suspension

What ingredients are in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine contains:

  • Recombinant, replication-incompetent adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein - the active ingredient that enters human cells and elicits the immune response without replication.
  • Citric acid monohydrate - an antioxidant that helps maintain stability of the active ingredient
  • Trisodium citrate dihydrate - used to help control pH (acidity)
  • Ethanol - used to keep the other ingredients dissolved and in solution form
  • 2-hydroxypropyl-?-cyclodextrin (HBCD) - used to improve the solubility and stability of the active ingredient
  • Polysorbate-80 - this is a common food additive used in several vaccines as an emulsifier (to hold other ingredients together). Compared with its use in foods, there is very little polysorbate-80 in vaccines.
  • Sodium chloride - a salt used to control acidity and tonicity of the solution

Does MyMichigan administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

MyMichigan Health has been predominantly administering the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine, with only very limited supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We partner with County Health Departments to ensure that people who are homebound or who live in remote or underserved areas can receive the COVID vaccine. Administering Johnson & Johnson vaccine in accordance with FDA and CDC guidelines helps us reach these populations since it requires only one dose, does not need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures and does not require a licensed pharmacist to administer it.

How are the three vaccine options different from one another?

The key difference between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines is that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose. Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccine require two doses.

Additionally, the Janssen vaccine uses an inactivated adenovirus (adenovirus 26; similar to the virus that causes the common cold) instead of the mRNA technology used in the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. While Moderna and Pfizer both use the same technology, they contain slightly different mRNAs and different ingredients used to protect the mRNA, maintain the pH and stabilize the solution.

All three vaccines effectively prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19 and have similar potential side effects.

How effective is the vaccine?

In clinical trials, after the second dose, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were shown to be about 95% effective at preventing illness caused by the coronavirus.

Getting the COVID Vaccine

How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

MyMichigan Health is committed to ensuring cost is not a barrier for you to receive the COVID 19 vaccine.

While the vaccine is free of charge, there will be a fee for the administration of the vaccine. We will work with your insurance carrier to make sure there is no out of pocket cost to you.

If you do not have insurance, please reach out to Patient Financial Services at (844) 832-1956 for assistance.

What should I wear/bring to my vaccination appointment?

Please bring photo ID and your insurance card and wear a mask and a short-sleeved shirt on the day of your vaccination. The injection will be administered in your upper arm.

Special Health Considerations

Can I get the vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19 or think I may have had COVID-19 in the past?

Yes, according to the CDC, patients should be offered the vaccine even if they have a prior history of COVID-19, with or without symptoms. Data from clinical trials suggest that vaccination is safe and likely efficacious in these people. Patients will need to wait at least 10 days after diagnosis and be symptom free and out of quarantine before receiving the vaccine. Current evidence suggests that people who have had COVID-19 may be protected for up to 90 days after their initial infection, so they may decide to wait until after this period, if desired.

Should cancer patients, rheumatology patients and those with suppressed immune systems get the vaccine?

Immunocompromised individuals may receive COVID-19 vaccination if they have no contraindications to vaccination. However, before signing up for the vaccine, they should consult their specialist to learn more about the safety and effectiveness in immunocompromised populations, as well as the potential for reduced immune response and any impacts the vaccine may have on their current medications. These patients must also continue to carefully follow all current guidance to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine if I have been treated with monoclonal antibodies (BAM) or convalescent plasma?

Currently, there are no data on the safety and efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in people who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of COVID-19 treatment. However, based on the estimated half-life of such therapies and evidence suggesting that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, as a precautionary measure until additional information becomes available, there should be at least a 90 day waiting period after treatment before being vaccinated In addition, patients who have already received their first dose of the vaccine and who then received passive antibody therapy should delay their second dose until 90 days after the antibody therapy.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine be administered with other vaccines?

Yes, COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes coadministration of COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines on the same day, as well as coadministration within 14 days.

COVID-19 vaccines were previously recommended to be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccines. This was out of an abundance of caution and not due to any known safety or immunogenicity concerns. However, substantial data have now been collected regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized by FDA for use under EUA. Although data are not available for COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, extensive experience with non-COVID-19 vaccines has demonstrated that immunogenicity and adverse event profiles are generally similar when vaccines are administered simultaneously as when they are administered alone.

It is unknown whether reactogenicity of COVID-19 vaccine is increased with coadministration, including with other vaccines known to be more reactogenic, such as adjuvanted vaccines or live vaccines. When deciding whether to coadminister another vaccine(s) with COVID-19 vaccines, providers should consider whether the patient is behind or at risk of becoming behind on recommended vaccines, their risk of vaccine-preventable disease (e.g., during an outbreak or occupational exposures), and the reactogenicity profile of the vaccines.

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women and women trying to conceive?

Because clinical trials didn’t include pregnant patients, there is no conclusive evidence related to vaccine safety and efficacy during pregnancy. However, pregnant patients are at higher risk of severe disease and worse outcomes from COVID-19 than non-pregnant peers and therefore would benefit from protection from the virus. Based on available information, expert organizations including the American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Michigan Medicine’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital strongly recommend that pregnant and nursing patients have access to the vaccine. They also clarify that it is not necessary to delay pregnancy after completing both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC also recommends that pregnant women take into account their personal risk of contracting COVID-19 based on their occupation or other activities, the risk of COVID-19 to the mother and the pregnancy, efficacy of the vaccine, and known side effects of the vaccine when deciding whether to be vaccinated. We advise patients to discuss the potential benefits and unknown risks specific to their individual situation with their healthcare provider.

Can women receive the vaccine while breastfeeding?

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine does not recommend stopping breastfeeding for people who get the COVID-19 vaccine.

How does the COVID vaccine affect the timing of mammograms?

You may experience sore/enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit and neck after a COVID-19 vaccination. Although this is considered a normal reaction, it can show up on a mammogram. Therefore, if you are due for a routine screening mammogram, we recommend scheduling your mammogram before your first dose or 4-6 weeks after your second dose of the COVID vaccine. If you get offered a vaccine appointment, we recommend that you get the vaccine and then reschedule your mammogram if needed. View mammogram scheduling phone numbers.

Can I donate blood after getting the COVID-19 Vaccine?

There is no deferral time for eligible blood donors who are vaccinated with an inactivated or RNA based COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Moderna or Pfizer.

Eligible blood donors who are vaccinated with a replication defective virus COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca or Janssen/J&J must wait two weeks before giving blood.

Eligible blood donors who do not know what type of COVID-19 vaccine they received must wait four weeks before giving blood.

Individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine are not eligible to donate convalescent plasma.

For more information please refer to the Red Cross's Coronavirus and Blood Donation page.

Safety, Side Effects and Other Concerns

How did a vaccine get developed and approved so quickly? Was the process rushed?

Producing a vaccine against COVID-19 has been the top priority of scientists and governments around the world to help bring an end to the pandemic. With the coordinated and enormous investment of resources, development of these vaccines has been accelerated, all while maintaining standards for safety and efficacy.

Rather than eliminating steps from traditional vaccine development timelines, steps are proceeding simultaneously, such as scaling up manufacturing while safety and efficacy data are collected.

Are the vaccines safe?

Before receiving approval for emergency use, pharmaceutical companies must provide evidence that their vaccines are safe. A team of experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ACIP and other agencies reviewed all available data on safety and efficacy before recommending them for use.

Are there any side effects of the vaccine?

Side effects that have been reported with the vaccine include:

  • Injection site pain
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Fever

More people experienced these side effects after the second dose rather than the first one.

If you get the vaccine and become immune, then are exposed to the virus, can you pass the virus on to others from your exposure?

Based on our experience with other vaccines and early data from the COVID-19 vaccines, it is likely that people who are vaccinated will have enough immunity where they will not pass the virus to others if exposed, but this is not 100 percent certain.

I’m not sure about the COVID-19 vaccine. Where can I find information to help me decide?

Maybe you’ve heard a claim about the COVID vaccines on social media or from a friend or relative that is making you wary about getting vaccinated when it’s your turn.

Michigan Medicine has collected some of the most widespread rumors, claims, myths and worries about the COVID-19 vaccines, and checked them out with help from Michigan Medicine experts. Read the questions and answers on their blog post: “Not Sure About the COVID-19 Vaccine? Get the Facts, Then Decide.”

After Vaccination

How long do the vaccines protect against infection?

Health care professionals and researchers are still learning about COVID-19 and new information is discovered nearly every day that is helpful in the fight against this disease. Because COVID-19 is still a relatively new virus, it is difficult to know exactly how the virus affects the body long-term and how long immunity from natural infection lasts. Experts are working to learn more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity.

Therefore, it is also difficult to predict how long a vaccine will provide protection against the virus. As the vaccines are administered and new information is gathered, additional data about how long it will protect against the virus will be made available.

Will the vaccine be given annually or is it only for this year?

This is not known at this time. Scientists are continuing to collect data about long-term immunity to SARS-CoV2.

Will masks still be required if you receive the vaccine?

Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, the COVID-19 vaccine and following the CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.

There is still more to learn about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

When am I fully vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If I am fully vaccinated, can I get the virus?

Yes. It is possible to still get the virus; however, the benefit of being vaccinated is any symptoms you do have will be much less and will prevent you from getting seriously ill or even hospitalized. COVID-19 vaccination works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, and this protects you from getting sick with COVID-19.

Does COVID-19 vaccine protect against variants?

Studies so far suggest that current vaccines are effective against the variants but may not be as strong or long lasting.

What Do I Do if I Lose My Vaccine Card?

If you have lost your COVID-19 vaccine card, it can be replaced. No matter the location in which you received your COVID-19 vaccine doses, the providers are asked to enter it into the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, the statewide immunization database. If you misplace your COVID-19 vaccination card, you can visit your local health department and pick up a new copy. Personal identification is required when picking up the new card.

Booster Shots and Third Doses

Does this mean the first two doses of the vaccine didn’t work?

First, it is important to point out that the main goal of the COVID-19 vaccine is to reduce the risk of severe disease and death. In fact, CDC data shows that unvaccinated individuals age 65 and older are 13 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated. The vaccines do appear to gradually lose a bit of effectiveness as people’s natural immunity wanes with time. This, combined with the emergency of the highly contagious delta variant, has led to more COVID infections.

What is a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

A third dose of the mRNA COVID vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) is identical to the first two doses and can help protect those with compromised immune systems who did not have a strong enough response to the first two doses of the vaccine. A third dose can be administered 28 days after completion of the initial series of two shots.

Who should get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

It is recommended that those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised receive a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. If you have specific questions about whether you should get the third dose, we encourage you to speak to your primary care provider.

What is a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

A COVID booster is an additional dose of the vaccine given after the protection provided by the original two doses begins to decrease over time. Currently, the booster dose is only approved for people who received the two-dose Pfizer mRNA vaccine more than six months ago. We anticipate that Moderna will also be recommended in the near future.

Who should get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The new groups recommended to get a booster dose include people older than 65, those older than 18 with underlying health conditions, people living in long-term care facilities, as well as those working in high-risk professions.

What is considered a high-risk profession?

People identified in a “high-risk” group are those with ongoing exposure to the public, such as health care workers, daycare providers, teachers and grocery store cashiers. These individuals are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 as they are considered to work in a high-risk setting.

If I don’t get a booster shot, am I still fully vaccinated?

Yes, you are, however the efficacy of the vaccination, or its protection against COVID-19, begins to drop after six months from receiving your second dose.

Are there risks with getting a third or booster shot?

According to the CDC, reactions being reported are similar to the reactions experienced by those who received the two-part vaccine. Overall, side effects were mild to moderate.

Children Ages 5 to 11

Is the vaccine effective?

Clinical trial data shows us that the COVID-19 vaccine was 100 percent effective at protecting younger children from severe illness due to COVID-19. The antibody levels that were produced in children ages 5 to 11 were comparable to the immune response seen in older kids and adults.

If my child is healthy, and at low risk for severe COVID-19, why should they get vaccinated?

While children are at a lower risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19, there are some children who experience severe symptoms. Since the pandemic began, nearly 2 million children ages 5 to 11 have been infected, with more than 8,300 hospitalizations. Some children also experience MIS-C and long-haul COVID symptoms. Vaccination is a simple way to protect children from COVID risks, reduce community spread and help prevent the development of new variants.

Should I expect my child to experience side effects from the vaccine?

Like older kids and adults, the most common side effects of the vaccine included pain and soreness at the injection site, fatigue and headache. Side effects may be worse after the second shot, but generally only last for a day or two.

Do children receive the same dose of the vaccine as adults?

Kids ages 5 to 11 will receive about a third of the dose that kids older than 12 and adults receive. In addition, the doses will be distributed with smaller needles, to make it easier for pediatricians and pharmacists to administer the vaccine.

My child recently had COVID-19. Can they still get vaccinated?

Children may receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are symptom free and are done with any required quarantine

When will other COVID-19 vaccines be available to children under 12?

Moderna’s vaccine for ages 6 to 11 is expected to be reviewed by the FDA soon, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to begin clinical trials this fall. Pfizer is also currently conducting clinical trials for children ages 2 to 5 and 6 months to 2 years, with data expected later this year.

Can my child still get COVID-19 after they are vaccinated?

Breakthrough cases in vaccinated children are possible. However, they are much less likely to lead to severe illness.

How can I get my child vaccinated?

MyMichigan Health is now offering the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for 5 – 11 year olds. Please contact your MyMichigan primary care provider’s (PCP) office  to request a vaccine appointment. Due to high call volumes it is recommended that requests for a vaccine appointment are made by sending a message through the MyMidMichigan portal. Patients who do not have a primary care provider (PCP) or who have a PCP that is not affiliated with MyMichigan Physicians Group can contact their local health department or retail pharmacy to schedule an appointment for the COVID vaccine or booster.

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