COVID-19 Vaccine Information

ALERT: At the recommendation of the CDC and FDA, and out of an abundance of caution, we are not administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at this time. We will continue to administer the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine based on availability of vaccine supply. Please note, we cannot accommodate specific vaccine manufacturer requests.

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Your good health is our priority. The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is a positive turning point in a public health crisis that has impacted all of us. Information about the vaccines is changing rapidly. We know you have a lot of questions about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, as well as how you can obtain a vaccine.

The decision about the priority order of vaccine distribution was made by government agencies. Please note that the supply of vaccines available to MedStar Health is limited, and requests for vaccines currently are greater than our available supply. Please be patient in scheduling your vaccine appointment and take advantage of all vaccine options available to you.

Remember: Continue to stay safe with face mask wearing, good hand hygiene, and physical distancing measures.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQS

 

Vaccine Availability
A: COVID-19 vaccination eligibility is determined based on where you live and the phase of the local governments’ vaccination distribution plans. The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are now administering vaccinations to anyone 16 years of age and older.

Washington, D.C.: District of Columbia residents ages 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated. If you are a current MedStar Health patient, you may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. DC residents can also register for a vaccine appointment at vaccinate.dc.gov or call 855-363-0333.

If your COVID-19 vaccine appointment has been confirmed at one of our MedStar Health Community Vaccine Locations, click here to view directions and public transportation information. Please note, you must have an appointment to receive a vaccine. None of our locations take walk-in appointments.

Maryland: Currently, MedStar Health is vaccinating residents ages 16 and older through our online registration platform. Register now and we will send you an email to schedule your appointment as appointments and vaccine are available. You will not have to keep checking our site.

To request a vaccination appointment through MedStar Health, click here. Maryland residents can visit the Maryland government website covidvax.maryland.gov to find a non-MedStar Health location that is convenient to you and request an appointment.

Virginia: MedStar Health recognizes you may be actively trying to schedule a vaccination for you and your loved ones. Per Federal guidelines, eligibility for the vaccine is determined on your residence and other criteria. As a resident of Virginia, you are required to receive your vaccine there.

One MedStar Health practice, our primary care location, MedStar Medical Group at Alexandria, has received a very limited vaccine supply from the City of Alexandria Department of Health to vaccinate a small number of our eligible patients each week. Beyond this location, MedStar Health has not received supply to vaccinate patients in Virginia. However, we continue working with the local government with the goal and anticipation to vaccinate our Virginia patients at other select MedStar Health Virginia locations in the future. In the meantime, we encourage you to take advantage of all vaccine options available to you in the state of Virginia. Please visit the Virginia Department of Health website or call the Virginia Department of Health hotline at 877-275-8343 if you would like to register for the vaccine in Virginia.

MedStar Health Community Vaccine Location Directions: If your COVID-19 vaccine appointment has been confirmed at one of our MedStar Health Community Vaccine Locations, click on one of the following links to view directions and public transportation information based on your location.
A: We appreciate that our patients want to know more about the COVID-19 vaccine, so please continue to visit this page often. We kindly ask that you do not call your healthcare provider for information. This ensures that our phone lines are available for patients experiencing acute healthcare needs. If you have questions about the vaccine and your specific situation that are not addressed here in these FAQs, please log-in to the MedStar Health patient portal to submit your question to your provider. Or, click on the feedback button at the bottom of the page and submit your question.

Please note that the supply of vaccines available to MedStar Health is limited, and requests for vaccines currently are greater than our available supply. Please be patient in scheduling your vaccine appointment and take advantage of all vaccine options available to you.
A: Since COVID-19 vaccination eligibility is determined by where you live and what phase the local government vaccination distribution plan is, we encourage you to check the appropriate website for your region (see listing in “when can I get the vaccine” response above). The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are now administering vaccinations to anyone 16 years of age and older. MedStar Health follows the guidance of government agencies. As we receive vaccines for the general public, we update this website with details on scheduling appointments for our current patients and community members as appropriate.

Maryland
You may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. If you are receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, at the time of your first dose appointment, you will be able to schedule an appointment for the second vaccine dose when you receive your first vaccine. If you are receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need one dose to be fully vaccinated.

If you are a resident of Maryland, you also can go to covidvax.maryland.gov to find an alternate location that is convenient.

District of Columbia
If you are a current MedStar Health patient and a resident of the District of Columbia, you may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. If you are receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, at the time of your first dose, you will be able to schedule an appointment for your second vaccine dose. If you are receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need one dose to be fully vaccinated.

MedStar Health Community Vaccine Location Directions: If your COVID-19 vaccine appointment has been confirmed at one of our MedStar Health Community Vaccine Locations, click on one of the following links to view directions and public transportation information based on your location. Please note that the supply of vaccines available to MedStar Health is limited, and requests for vaccines currently are greater than our available supply. Please be patient in scheduling your vaccine appointment and take advantage of all vaccine options available to you.
A: In most cases, no. Given the high volume of requests for vaccine appointments and low supply, we cannot reschedule vaccination appointments. If you contract COVID-19 prior to your first or your second dose, you can cancel and reschedule your appointment. Follow the instructions in your e-mail or text appointment reminder.
A: We appreciate that our patients want updates on the COVID-19 vaccine, but we kindly ask that you do not call your healthcare provider for information. This ensures our phone lines are available for patients experiencing acute healthcare needs.

As vaccine supply becomes available to us, we will open appointments. At that time, you will receive an email with instructions on how to schedule your first dose appointment if you are receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or your single, full dose vaccine if you are receiving Johnson & Johnson.

Once you register with us, you do not need to keep checking the site.
A: Please note: many workplaces have plans in place to vaccinate their eligible workforce. If you are a District of Columbia resident and are eligible for vaccination through your occupation, go to the DC Portal at vaccinate.dc.gov or call 855-363-0333. If you are a Maryland resident, go to covidvax.maryland.gov to see what your local health department is offering and request an appointment.
A: The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently approved for people ages 18 and older. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for ages 16 and up. As is normal for most new vaccines intended for all ages, adults were studied first, and the studies to determine efficacy and safety in children are well underway. We anticipate the results from the studies will be available in the next few months, and at that time we will learn more about approvals for vaccination of children.
A: To help quickly end the global pandemic, multiple pharmaceutical companies worked to develop a vaccine that would prove effective against COVID-19. There were dozens started, seven that are promising, and three to market so far. Some of these vaccines have different mechanisms, but all target the virus that causes COVID-19. It is not uncommon for multiple medications and vaccines to be developed that act differently to treat or prevent the same condition. It is possible that more vaccines will be approved to help prevent COVID-19, and those may also work differently than the ones that have already been approved. Having a range of vaccines that work in different settings helps the local, statewide, and national teams who are focused on vaccination target their approach to outreach, and will help control the pandemic faster than if there were only one available.

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Vaccine Safety

A: Experts have stressed that all three vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson) are highly effective against serious COVID-19 disease. All studies showed zero deaths among fully vaccinated individuals in the research trials.

Remember, even with a COVID-19 vaccine, you will need to continue wearing a face mask, wash your hands often, and practicing physical distancing, since you can temporarily carry the virus and transmit it to other people.
A: No. Because none of the available vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) contains virus, they cannot infect the vaccinated person, and the vaccine itself cannot transmit the virus to the individual receiving the vaccine or to those around them.

However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. Importantly, you could become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 from external sources (NOT from the vaccine), shortly before or after vaccination and get sick because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

If you have symptoms not commonly seen after the vaccine, (such as shortness of breath, cough, loss of taste/smell, sore throat, runny nose) or a temperature higher than 100.4° F, you should contact your personal physician.
A: Yes. All three vaccines are safe and effective. Major studies have been completed, and no serious safety concerns have been found. All data and safety events were reviewed by an independent data safety and monitoring board.

Pfizer used independent scientists and studied more than 40,000 people who volunteered to take part in these trials. Since almost all safety issues have occurred within the first two months of past vaccine safety studies, participants were closely observed for safety issues throughout a two-month period. No serious safety issues were reported, although minor side effects were common. Also, the vaccine was shown to be more than 94% effective in adults over 65 years of age.

The Moderna vaccine was tested in more than 30,000 participants, who also were followed for a median of more than two months after receiving the second dose. (Note: 30,000 to 45,000 participants is a typical sampling in many vaccine studies.) The vaccine was 94.5% protective against becoming ill with COVID-19. As with the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the Phase III trial was a rigorous scientific study.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine study included more than 40,000 participants who also were followed for two months after vaccination. The vaccine was highly effective (greater than 90%) at preventing hospitalization due to COVID-19 two weeks after the vaccination was given and was 100% effective at preventing death due to COVID-19. Similar to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, there were no serious safety events reported, although there were a number of similar side effects.

You can read more at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccine safety site here.
A: Pfizer reports that about 10% of the more than 40,000 volunteers in its safety and effectiveness trials for this vaccine identified as Black or African American, and one in four identified as Hispanic or Latino. These participants included men and women between the ages of 16 and 75. Also, the vaccine was shown to be more than 94% effective in adults over 65 years of age. There is not yet any data on the safety or efficacy of the vaccine in children under 16 years of age.

The Moderna vaccine was studied in more than 30,000 volunteers; 25% were 65 years of age or older, 1 in 5 were Hispanic or Latino, one in 10 were African American. Demographic characteristics were similar among participants who received Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and those who received placebo.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was a global study that included nearly 44,000 participants living in the United States, Brazil, South Africa, and other Latin American countries. Because of its global outreach, a higher percentage of Latino or Hispanic participants were enrolled in this study (44% globally; 14% in the U.S.). Additionally, 17% identified as Black or African American, 4% as Asian, and 8% as Native American (1% in the U.S.). Median age of study participants was 51, with an age range of 18-100, and 40% of participants had at least one medical problem (comorbidity), including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
A: The efficacy of a vaccine is determined by its ability to prevent cases of a disease, such as COVID-19. For the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, efficacy was defined as the ability of the vaccine to prevent cases of COVID-19 a certain number of days after vaccination (up to 28 for the vaccine to take full effect). The studies also looked at whether the vaccines prevented hospitalization and death, among other things. Vaccine efficacy is calculated by comparing the number of disease cases among people who received the vaccine to the number of disease cases among those who didn’t (the placebo group).

95% efficacy against COVID-19 means that the vaccinated individual has a 95% lower risk of getting COVID-19 than those who weren’t vaccinated. It does NOT mean that 5% of those who are vaccinated will get COVID-19—far from it. For comparison, the efficacy of the childhood vaccination we all get against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is 97% against measles and 88% effective against mumps. The efficacy of the seasonal flu vaccine is between 40% and 60%. In contrast, the efficacy against severe COVID-19 disease is 95% in Moderna and Pfizer, and 85% in Johnson & Johnson, all very high, and all considered to be extremely effective by experts.

It’s important to know that vaccine efficacy has NOT been determined for cases where someone has the infection but is not aware because they don’t have symptoms. This means that vaccinated individuals may still become infected with the virus and possibly spread it to others, even if they don’t get sick themselves. Until enough people in our community are vaccinated (to achieve herd immunity), we must continue to practice physical distancing and mask use to prevent the spread of the virus.
A: Large numbers of patients were enrolled in the clinical trials for all three vaccines, and all three have similar safety profiles. There is no reason to believe that one vaccine is safer than another and they are all considered very safe.
A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must determine that a vaccine is safe and effective before it approves it. As part of the process, the vaccine company must conduct clinical trials. During these trials, participants are watched carefully for any side effects, and scientists, physicians, and nurses collect information about everything that happens. Before the vaccine is approved, this information is reviewed by an independent group of scientists who do not work for the company making the vaccine or the government. The independent group shares results of its review with the company, which must use this information when they apply to the FDA for approval.

See information from the FDA about approval for COVID-19 vaccines here.

Learn more about how CDC is making COVID-19 vaccine recommendations here.
A: Scientists have been working on the technology used in the currently available vaccines for years. The unique nature of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted urgency and a critical need for private and public sectors to increase time, funding, and expertise devoted to this vaccine. These additional resources allowed the vaccine to be developed more quickly, while ensuring safety. Read more about this FDA process here.
  • A severe allergy or anaphylaxis to any substance containing polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate, including bowel prep (e.g., GoLytely).
  • A fever above 38°C (100.4°F).
  • Tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 10 days; 20 days from testing positive if you were hospitalized due to COVID-19.
  • Had any other vaccine within the last 14 days.
If you have severe allergic reactions (requiring Epi-pen) to other vaccines or injectable medications, talk with your doctor before scheduling.
A: The exclusions for each vaccine are similar. Do NOT take the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine if you have:
  • A fever above 38°C (100.4°F).
  • Tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 10 days; 20 days from testing positive if you were hospitalized due to COVID-19.
  • A severe allergy or anaphylaxis to any substance containing polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate, including bowel prep (e.g., GoLytely).
  • Had any other vaccine within the last 14 days.
If you have severe allergic reactions (requiring Epi-pen) to other vaccines or injectable medications, talk with your doctor before scheduling.
A: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, and MedStar Health obstetricians recommend that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who meet criteria for vaccination, noting that symptomatic pregnant patients with COVID-19 are at increased risk of more severe illness compared with nonpregnant peers. Reports thus far have been reassuring, and the World Health Organization has recently revised its opinion to now also allow vaccination of pregnant women. In addition, DC Health has named pregnant women as a priority population to receive the vaccination. Pregnant women who have any questions about their individual case should discuss their choice with their personal obstetrical provider.
A: All currently available vaccines are considered safe for immunosuppressed people or those on immunosuppressants. Talk with your doctor for help making an informed decision.
A: All currently available vaccines are considered safe for people with a history of bleeding disorders or on anticoagulants. Apply extra pressure after vaccination to the injection site to reduce bleeding.
A: For the safety and protection of our staff and patients, and in accordance with guidelines, you should quarantine for 10 days once you have tested positive for the virus and 20 days from testing if you were hospitalized due to COVID-19.
A: Since there is no information on the impact of other vaccines, do not get any other vaccines:
  • For two weeks prior to any dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines
  • In between your first and second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines
  • For two weeks after your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (after the final dose of Moderna and Pfizer, and after the single dose of Johnson & Johnson).

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Receiving the Vaccine

A: It is estimated that we need between 70 and 85% of our community members to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. At this time, approximately 10% of the United States population has been vaccinated, and this is similar in our local area. We hope after you have a good vaccination experience you will share this with your friends and family and encourage others to vaccinate as well for the good of the community.
A: Unfortunately, the way vaccines are distributed don’t allow for this kind of flexibility. The local and regional health departments provide vaccine to us as it is available. We cannot select nor do we control the doses we receive from the manufacturer. We schedule vaccine appointments based on availability of vaccine supply and cannot accommodate specific vaccine manufacturer requests. All the approved COVID-19 vaccines have proved to be extremely effective in reducing severe COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths and you should feel very comfortable receiving any of the vaccines.
A: Depending on which vaccine you receive, you will receive your second dose either three weeks (Pfizer) or 1 month (Moderna) after your first dose. If you scheduled your appointment online with MedStar Health, yes, you will be contacted. You will receive an email notification to schedule your second vaccine on the day of your first vaccination. If you scheduled your first dose appointment by phone, you should plan to schedule your second vaccine appointment when you check-in to receive your first dose at your MedStar Health Community Vaccination Center.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered in a single dose and your vaccination process is complete.
A: Yes, it is important that you continue to take all medications even on the day of your vaccine. Both the vaccine and your medications will continue to be effective and they will not negatively impact each other.
A: The day of your vaccine you should continue to take any and all medications you typically take. Drinking water every day is important to your overall health. Ensuring you are well hydrated is something you should do every day. Be sure to have some fluids in your system and if your appointment is around a mealtime, it is perfectly ok to eat something beforehand. You don’t want to go to your appointment hungry or thirsty.

It’s important to know that the vaccine is delivered in your upper arm, so wear clothing that allows a clinician to easily access your upper arm. Consider wearing a short-sleeved shirt, or wear a short-sleeved shirt under a sweater or jacket that can be easily removed.

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After You Receive the Vaccine

A: When you received your vaccine, you were given a handout with information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) V-safe program. 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 CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Your participation in this program will provide the CDC with more information about the COVID-19 vaccine. However, this report is for research purposes only, and the CDC does not provide advice to you as an individual based on your report. If you have questions about symptoms, you should contact your primary care doctor.
A: Yes. As with other vaccines, mild reactions are common. The most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted one or two days, included pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, nausea and vomiting, and fever. Side effects occurred less frequently among participants in the Johnson & Johnson study. Study participants who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines experienced more side effects after the second dose than after the first dose, and happened less often in people over age 55. People who have a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines, medicines, or food should consult with their doctor before scheduling the COVID-19 vaccine to learn more about the risks and benefits of the vaccine for these individuals.
A: In the first 48 hours (two days) after a vaccine, you can assume that expected symptoms (for example, body aches, fatigue, chills, headache) are from the vaccine. If these symptoms last more than 48 hours after the vaccination or if you have symptoms of COVID-19 not typical of a vaccine (such as loss of taste and smell, cough, shortness of breath, or if you have a fever over 100.4º F, even within 48 hours), or other health concerns or questions, contact your personal physician.

You can also schedule a visit with a MedStar Health provider through MedStar eVisit. MedStar eVisit gives you 24/7/365 video access to trusted medical providers, making it easy to get non-emergency medical care, anywhere, anytime. Connect via secured video from your tablet, smartphone, or computer. Sign up for free by creating an account. Visit MedStarHealth.org/eVisit from your desktop or download the MedStar eVisit app from your IOS or Android device.
A: Side effects typically last 1 to 2 days and can be treated with over the counter (non-prescription) pain medicines, such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin or Advil).
A: Long- term effectiveness and immunity greater than two months after receiving the vaccine is not yet known. All vaccine trials are currently ongoing and will continue to study the effects of vaccine, including long-term immunity.
A: Yes. It is most likely that after the vaccine you will produce antibodies that are detected in our laboratory tests. This may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. However, the antibody tests currently available do not measure the amount of antibody present. Nor do these tests guarantee that the detected antibody neutralizes the SARS-COV-2 virus to prevent infection. Companies are working to make tests that can measure antibodies and neutralization available in the coming months.

Despite the production of antibodies after receiving the vaccine, we still recommend protection of yourself and others through continued use of masks, hand washing, and physical distancing. And, while a vaccine might prevent you from developing symptomatic disease, we do not yet know if it will prevent you from passing the virus on to others.
A: Yes. It will remain essential for us all to continue to maintain proper precautions even after receiving the vaccine. This is for two important reasons. First, we do not yet have enough information from ongoing vaccine trials to prove that receiving the vaccine prevents you from being a carrier of the virus, and experts believe you may still be able to transmit the disease to others who haven’t been vaccinated if you are not wearing a mask or physically distanced.

Second, while the vaccines are highly effective, like all vaccines, there is a small chance you could still become sick with the disease after receiving the vaccine. Months from now, once most of the population has been fully vaccinated, these recommendations may change.

This is why masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene continue to be critical.
A: Yes, you can and should take a COVID-19 test if you are experiencing symptoms (such as loss of sense of smell or taste, cough, shortness of breath). The vaccine will not affect the COVID-19 test results because it does not contain any virus.

Learn More

A: The CDC and FDA websites have good information about the vaccine and the pandemic. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson also have fact sheets about their vaccines.

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Updated April 18, 2021, 1:25 p.m.