COVID-19 VACCINE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR A VACCINATION?

COVID-19 vaccination is available to individuals age 12 and older. 

what vaccines are available?

Three vaccines have been authorized for use in the United States: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which uses the cells of one’s own body to boost an immune response toward a protein found on the virus cell wall. Antibodies toward this “spike protein” will then disable the SARS-CoV-2 virus if exposed in the future. These vaccines are not produced using live virus; therefore, you cannot be infected with the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus from the vaccination. Both vaccines are two-shot doses, with the Pfizer second dose given approximately 21 days later and the Moderna second dose approximately 28 days later.

The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine does not use mRNA. It uses the more common approach to vaccine development (adenovirus vector vaccine) by employing a harmless cold virus to deliver a gene that carries the blueprint for the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. Once it enters, the cells are triggered to make the spike protein on their own surface and the immune system notices these foreign proteins and makes antibodies that will protect the person if exposed to COVID-19. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is a single-dose vaccine. See below for updates about this vaccine. 

Moderna Fact Sheet
 

Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) Fact Sheet
English
Spanish

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Fact Sheet
English
Spanish

The Moderna and Janssen vaccines currently have emergency use authorization (EUA) for use in ages 18 and older.  The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine held EUA for use in ages 12 and older until August 23, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted regular approval for its use in preventing disease in individuals age 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine continues to be available for those ages 12 to 15 under the emergency use authorization and for administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. In addition, recommendations have been made for a booster of the Pfizer vaccine for certain individuals (see below). Pfizer is currently the only vaccine authorized for use individuals age 12 to 17. 

HOW IS THE VACCINE ADMINISTERED?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are administered in multiple doses, given several weeks apart. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is a single-dose vaccination. All vaccines are administered via injection in the muscle of the upper arm, much like flu vaccination. You will be required to remain for observation for 15 minutes following your injection.

who is eligible for a BOOSTER of the PFIZER-BIONTECH COVID VACCINE?

On September 24, the CDC issued recommendations for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for certain individuals who received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months prior. The CDC recommendations are as follows:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
  • People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
  • People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks, and
  • People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

Individuals are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician regarding individual risk and benefit of the booster. Those who elect to receive a booster of the Pfizer vaccine based on the above recommendations should bring their vaccination record card showing dates of first and second doses and manufacturer information to the vaccine location. 

Learn more about Pfizer boosters here.

who is eligible for a third dose of vaccine?

On August 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of an additional dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines for those who are fully vaccinated and are immunocompromised, specifically, solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise. The following day, the CDC advisory committee voted in favor of the recommendation for a third dose for immunocompromised individuals. Key points to note about this recommendation include:

  • The recommendation for a third dose applies only to individuals that received an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). This does not include those who received the Janssen vaccine.
  • The recommendation includes ages 12 and older for Pfizer and 18 and older for Moderna. 
  • The recommendation is that the third dose be from the same vaccine manufacturer as the individual initially received; however, if the same vaccine is not available, the third dose could be either Moderna or Pfizer.
  • A third dose is recommended to occur at least 28 days after initial completion of the original two-dose series.
  • The agency did not recommend medical order/prescription for those individuals who qualify.

The term immunosuppressed is defined as:

  • Active or recent treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies
  • Receipt of solid-organ or recent hematopoietic stem cell transplant
  • Severe primary immunodeficiency disorder
  • Advanced or untreated HIV
  • Active treatment with corticosteroids (20 mg/day or higher), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, TNF blockers, and other biologics that are immunosuppressive
  • Considerations for other medical conditions such as asplenia

Patients who are not certain whether they qualify for a third dose vaccine based on the criteria stated above should contact their physician for guidance.

ARE THESE VACCINES SAFE?

Medication safety and efficacy is reviewed by the FDA prior to emergency use authorization (EUA). Vaccine trials for all three manufacturers with EUA approval contained more than 21,000 individuals.

WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS?

Studies indicated that a small percentage of people who received the vaccines had short-lived fatigue and headache. Chills, muscle aches and pain at the injection site were other minor symptoms. Rare allergic reactions have been reported in individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to other drugs/foods/vaccines.

WHAT is the delta variant of COvid-19?

A virus constantly changes through mutation, resulting in a variant of the original virus. Since COVID-19 was first identified, several variants of the virus have emerged. Public health experts track changes in viruses to determine whether variants have the ability to spread more quickly or to cause more severe illness and how the changed virus responds to testing and treatment. The Delta variant has been identified as being two to three times more tranmissable than the original version of the virus. The Delta variant is now the most common form of the COVID-19 virus in the United States.

what if i am planning a trip?

The CDC recommends delaying travel until you are able to get fully vaccinated (two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of the Janssen vaccine). If you are planning an international trip, a cruise or other travel, it is especially important to become fully vaccinated. Some destinations or services may require vaccination before departure, so check before making reservations. Learn more about travel recommendations related to COVID-19 here.

I HAVE HAD COVID-19 IN THE PAST. SHOULD I CONSIDER TAKING THIS VACCINE?

Yes, you should consider vaccination. However, if you are currently infected with COVID-19, you should wait to get vaccinated until after your illness has resolved and you have met the criteria to discontinue isolation. 

I HAVE HAD MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY TREATMENT. SHOULD I CONSIDER TAKING THIS VACCINE?

Yes, but you must wait 90 days post monoclonal antibody treatment. You must also wait 90 days if you have had convalescent plasma treatment.

DO THE VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS DIFFER FOR THOSE WHO HAVE HAD COVID-19?

Individuals who have had COVID-19 may experience fever, fatigue and body aches after vaccination. 

WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER RECEIVING THE VACCINE?

It is recommended that those receiving the vaccine should monitor for any symptoms following vaccination. It is normal to feel slightly fatigued, particularly after the second dose, as your body’s immune response is triggered. However, if you experience symptoms such as low-grade fever, loss of taste and smell, cough, etc., it is likely that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 either before the vaccine was administered or before it resulted in immunity. It is recommended that you monitor your symptoms at home. If symptoms persist after 24 hours, you should contact your physician or visit an urgent care or emergency department depending upon the severity of your condition.

WHY HAVE SOME PEOPLE TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 AFTER THEIR INITIAL VACCINE DOSE?

Because the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain live virus, it is not possible to contract COVID-19 from the vaccine; however, we must keep in mind that an individual could have been exposed to COVID-19 prior to taking the vaccination or before vaccine immunity takes affect (two weeks after full vaccination) and, therefore, could begin experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 after taking the vaccine.

IS THERE ANYONE WHO SHOULD NOT BE VACCINATED?

We encourage you to discuss vaccination with your primary care provider; however, a small number of individuals have experienced experienced allergic reactions. Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommend that individuals with severe drug/food allergy history (e.g. anaphylactic, use of epi pens) should consider deferring vaccination until more data is available. See next two questions regarding pregnant and lactating individuals and those treated with monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma.

IF I AM PREGNANT, SHOULD I TAKE THE VACCINE?

According to the CDC, people who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may choose to be vaccinated. If you have questions about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor who can help you make an informed decision. 

SHOULD THOSE TREATED WITH MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY INFUSION OR CONVALESCENT PLASMA BE VACCINATED?

Currently, there are no data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in those who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma. Based on the estimated half-life of such therapies as well as evidence suggesting that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, it is recommended that vaccination be deferred for at least 90 days, as a precautionary measure until additional information becomes available, to avoid potential interference of the antibody therapy with vaccine-induced immune responses.

SHOULD I TAKE THE COVID-19 VACCINE IF I RECENTLY RECIEVED ANOTHER VACCINATION?

If you received another vaccination such as flu, pneumonia or shingles, it is recommended that you wait 14 days before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

DOES THE VACCINE CONTAIN LIVE VIRUS?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. This technology uses the cells of one’s own body to boost an immune response toward a protein found on the virus cell wall. Antibodies toward this “spike protein” will then disable the SARS-CoV-2 virus if exposed in the future. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) uses a more traditional approach to vaccine development (adenovirus), using a harmless cold virus to boost an immune response to the spike protein and triggering the development of antibodies. This means that the vaccines are not produced using live COVID-19 virus; therefore, you cannot be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the vaccination.

HOW IS THE VACCINE STORED BEFORE USE?


SHOULD THE SPEED IN WHICH THIS VACCINE WAS DEVELOPED BE A CONCERN?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were able to be developed quickly due to scientists studying the SARS1 and MERS outbreaks, new techniques and early isolation of SARS-CoV-2. SARS1 occurred in 2002 and vaccine development was started at that time. SARS1 and COVID-19 structures are more than 70% identical. MERS occurred around 2012 and provided more information on vaccine development. MERS and COVID-19 structures are approximately 50% identical. As such, new vaccine development techniques were discovered prior to the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Scientists isolated SARS-CoV-2 in early January 2020, allowing structure analysis to begin.

For additional information, visit the CDC Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination page.

To learn more about Tennessee Department of Health vaccination, click here.