COVID-19 Vaccine Information

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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 priority order of vaccine distribution is a decision made and determined by government agencies. The District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are beginning their vaccination plans. MedStar Health follows the guidance of government agencies leading this effort and will be updating our patients through our patient portal, email, and text messages, as well as other patient communications.

Washington, D.C.: The District of Columbia has begun vaccinating the general public. To be eligible for the vaccine in the District of Columbia, you must be a resident and 65 years of age or older. 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 four MedStar Health Community Vaccines Locations, click here to view directions and public transportation information.

Maryland: Effective Monday, January 18, Maryland enters Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination process. This phase includes Maryland residents who are 75 years and older. NOTE: MedStar Health Maryland vaccination sites will not begin accepting and scheduling appointments until Tuesday, January 19 or Wednesday, January 20 depending on the site. An appointment for the vaccine is required. To request a vaccination appointment, clicking here. Maryland residents also can go to covidvax.maryland.gov to find a location that is convenient for them and request an appointment.

On Monday, January 25, the state will enter Phase 1C, which includes Maryland residents ages 65 to 74.

The state of Maryland began vaccinating residents over the age of 75 the week of January 18. Maryland residents who are signed up for the state’s emergency text alerts will get a text message each time the state starts vaccinating a new group. To sign up, send a text message to 898211 with the phrase “MdReady.” Once we receive vaccines for the general public we will update this site with a request a vaccine link.

Virginia: Virginia has entered into a phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes Virginia residents aged 65 or older. MedStar Health is not currently vaccinating patients in Virginia. If you want to sign up to get vaccinated, visit the Virginia Department of Health website or call the Virginia Department of Health hotline at 877-275-8343.

MedStar Health Communication 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). As we receive vaccines for the general public, we will update this website with details on scheduling appointments for our current patients.

Maryland
If you are a resident of Maryland and are 75 years or older, you may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. At the time of your first dose appointment, we will schedule an appointment for the second vaccine dose.

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

District of Columbia
If you are a current MedStar Health patient, a resident of the District of Columbia, and are 65 years or older, you may request a vaccination appointment by clicking here. At the time of your first dose appointment, we will schedule an appointment for the second vaccine dose.

MedStar Health Communication 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 to know more about the COVID-19 vaccine, but 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. Since specifics on distribution dates to the general public continue to change, we recommend that you continue to check the following online resources:
  • MedStarHealth.org/Vaccine
  • Once eligible, click here if you are a DC resident and here if you are a Maryland resident to indicate your interest in receiving a COVID-19 vaccination from MedStar Health.
  • The websites for the CDC and FDA
  • The District of Columbia has set up a website to register for email updates.
  • Maryland residents who are signed up for the state’s emergency text alerts will get a text message each time the state starts vaccinating a new group. To sign up, send a text message to 898211 with the phrase “MdReady.” Once eligible, Maryland residents also can go to covidvax.maryland.gov to find a location that is convenient for you.
  • In Virginia, the vaccine plan is outlined here.
A: Given limited vaccine supply and high demand, MedStar Health is currently focused on the vaccination of those in Maryland and the District of Columbia who are age 65 and older. If you are in an eligible occupation, 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 request an appointment and see what your local health department is offering.

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Vaccine Safety

A: Vaccines greatly reduce the chance of becoming infected with a virus. In clinical trials (studies), the two currently available vaccines were about 95% effective at preventing the virus. If you do get infected with COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine, vaccines can help your body fight the infection and reduce the severity of the disease. Remember, even with a COVID-19 vaccine, you will need to continue wearing a face mask and practicing physical distancing.
A: No. Because the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not contain virus and cannot infect the vaccinated person, 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. Both vaccines are safe and effective. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have remarkably similar safety and efficacy trial results. 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.

The Moderna vaccine was tested in 30,351 participants (Note: 30,000 to 45,000 participants is a typical sampling in many vaccine studies) who were followed for a median of more than two months after receiving the second dose, which is the time period during which vaccine complications are expected to be seen. The vaccine was 94.5% protective against becoming ill with COVID-19. As with the Pfizer vaccine, the Phase III trial was a rigorous scientific study.

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. Like the Pfizer vaccine, effectiveness was more than 94%.
A: Yes. 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. Also, as with the Pfizer vaccine, more people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.
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 both 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 both vaccines are the same. Do NOT take the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine if you have:
  • 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: Although neither of the currently available vaccines were tested on pregnant or breastfeeding women, it has been determined that pregnant and breastfeeding women can choose to take the vaccine. Talk with your doctor to help you make this decision.
A: Both currently available vaccines are considered safe for immunosuppressed people or those on immunosuppressants. Talk with your doctor for help making an informed decision.
A: Both 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 your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • In between your first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • For 14 days after your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

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Receiving the Vaccine

A: You will sign up for the second vaccine dose when you sign up and register for the first dose. The vaccine is not considered effective unless you receive both doses.
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.

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After You Receive the Vaccine

A: Like other vaccines, mild reactions are common. From the studies, reactions may include injection site reactions (common in 84% of people), fatigue (about two out of three people), and headache (about half of everyone who gets the vaccine). One in three people had muscle pain or chills, one in four had joint pain, and about one in seven people had a fever. Reactions were more frequent and severe after the second dose, lasted one to two days, 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: As with other vaccines, you may experience mild to moderate symptoms after the vaccine (such as body aches, fatigue, chills, headache) within 48 hours. These are considered normal symptoms after vaccination. If you have questions about the management of these symptoms or if the symptoms persist beyond 48 hours, then you should call your personal physician.
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 pain medicines, such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin or Advil).
A: Studies show that 95% of people getting the vaccine were protected from getting COVID-19. Long- term effectiveness and immunity after the vaccine is not yet known.
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, receiving the vaccine does not prevent you from being a carrier of the disease, and you may still be able to transmit the disease to others if you are not wearing a mask or physically distanced.

Second, while the vaccines are 95% effective, like all vaccines, there is a small chance you could still contract the disease after receiving the vaccine. Months from now, once most of the population has been fully vaccinated, these recommendations may change. In the meantime, there is a small chance (5%) of contracting COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. Therefore you could potentially expose others if you had no symptoms. This is why masking, social 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. Both Pfizer and Moderna also have fact sheets about their vaccines.

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Updated Jan. 23, 2021, 4:30 p.m.