Frequently asked questions: COVID vaccination

Thank you for trusting us with your care. We are grateful for the overwhelmingly positive community response to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Many of our Ascension locations are beginning to provide the COVID-19 vaccine and will notify eligible patients as appointment times are made available. View vaccination updates for your local area. Appointments for the vaccine must be scheduled in advance. Persons without an appointment will not be able to receive the vaccine and walk-ins will not be available. We are working with local and state government and health agencies to help distribute vaccinations as they become available in our communities

You may have some questions about COVID-19 vaccinations. Below are some answers to some commonly asked questions. We also encourage you to talk with your doctor or provider about your questions and concerns. If you don’t have a doctor or provider, visit https://healthcare.ascension.org/doctors.

Ascension’s Mission is a commitment to giving to “spiritually centered, holistic care” that “sustains and improves the health of individuals and communities.” Receiving a vaccine is not only a way to care for yourself, but also a way to care for your families and community. These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are part of our commitment to giving care, alleviating fears, and honoring each person with dignity and reverence.

  • How do we know the COVID-19 vaccine is effective?

    Vaccination is a very important measure to reduce transmission between our associates and patients. Vaccination, although associated with very high efficacy, is still not 100% in adults. We are unable to know each individual person's response to the vaccine, but from the studies the protection has been as high as 95% in adults. This means that according to the studies, if 100 people age 16 or older take the vaccine, 95 of them will benefit from taking it and will be protected from infection. This is an excellent response compared to other vaccines. The benefit of vaccination is providing protection to those that receive it, and to create a majority of the population that is immune so we can prevent transmission of infection between people.

    Pfizer reported an efficacy rate of 95% in Phase 3 of its BioNTech BNT162b2 trial in patients over age 16. They reported an efficacy rate of 100% in Phase 3 trial participants aged 12 to 15 years. For more information on the Pfizer vaccine, visit the link below:
    Coronavirus COVID-19 Scientific Research and Resources

    Moderna reported an efficacy rate of 94.5% in Phase 3 its mRNA-1273 vaccine trial. For more information on the Moderna vaccine, visit the site below:
    Moderna's Work on a COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

    Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) reported an efficacy rate of 66% in Phase 3 of its ENSEMBLE vaccine trial. For more information on the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, visit the site below:
    Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

    How do I know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

    All vaccines require extensive research, documentation and closely monitored clinical trials to determine effectiveness and safety before being submitted by pharmaceutical companies for approval. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring the safety, effectiveness and availability of vaccines in the United States. The FDA requires extensive testing by manufacturers before making vaccines available to the public to protect safety and identify any potential side effects.

    If the FDA determines that a vaccine meets its safety and effectiveness standards, it can make these vaccines available for use in the United States by approval or Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

    Can a vaccine that was created this quickly be safe?

    Given the widespread impact on health and safety, the global medical and research communities have placed unprecedented collaborative focus on developing a COVID-19 vaccine. While this vaccine is available to the public faster than is typical, the COVID-19 vaccine passed clinical trials and has undergone rigorous testing to help ensure it is both effective and safe.

    What's actually in the vaccine? What are the ingredients of the vaccine?

    Ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccines can be found on the EUA Fact Sheets for Recipients and Caregivers linked below:

    Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet
    Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet
    Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet

    Pfizer or Moderna: Is one vaccine preferred (or safer) than the other? Does it matter which one I take?

    The two vaccines approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA (Pfizer and Moderna) use the same novel mRNA technology. Based on current information, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to have a similar efficacy (~95%) and similar side effects. The CDC does not recommend one product over another.

    Most importantly, the sooner a person  is vaccinated, the sooner they can develop immunity to the virus.

    Is one vaccine preferred (or safer) than the other? Does it matter which one I take?

    The two vaccines approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA that use mRNA technology (Pfizer and Moderna) appear to have a similar efficacy (~95%) and similar side effects for adult patients. Pfizer-BioNTech is the only available COVID-19 vaccine authorized for patients aged 12-18 and has shown an efficacy of 100% in this group of patients. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine approved for EUA by the FDA is an adenovirus or viral vector vaccine with an efficacy rate of approximately 66%.

    The only way to accurately compare the effectiveness of medical products, such as vaccines or drugs, is by direct comparison in head-to-head clinical trials, which did not occur for these vaccines. Furthermore, the clinical trials for these vaccines occurred in different geographic regions and at different points in time with varying incidence of COVID-19. All of the COVID-19 vaccines that the FDA has authorized for emergency use are at least 50% more effective than placebo in preventing COVID-19, consistent with FDA recommendations provided in our October 2020 guidance document, Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19. A vaccine with at least 50% efficacy would have a significant impact on disease, both at the individual and societal level. The CDC does not recommend one product over another.

    Most importantly, the sooner a person is vaccinated, the sooner they can develop immunity to the virus.

    What are the risks of contracting COVID-19? What are the risks of not vaccinating?

    COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory virus that has infected millions of people and caused millions of deaths according to the World Health Organization and United States-specific information, according to the CDC.

    Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.  Severe illness from COVID-19 is defined as hospitalization, admission to the ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death. There have also been increasing reports of long-term complications of COVID-19 including brain fog, difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue and depression.

    The sooner one is vaccinated, the sooner one can develop immunity to the virus. Safety measures you can practice to slow the spread of COVID-19 include wearing a mask, social distancing, diligent handwashing and receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

    How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

    According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies produce antibodies and develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Additionally, the vaccine causes the body to produce “memory” lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.

    It typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce antibodies and immunity after vaccination. Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection.

    Two of the vaccines approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA that use the same novel mRNA technology (Pfizer and Moderna), inject small pieces of genetic material that the body's cells use to produce a protein similar to the coronavirus. In response to this protein, the body then creates antibodies that are primed to fight off the virus.

    The vaccine developed by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) that was approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a viral vector vaccine that uses a weakened version of a different virus to teach our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. The vaccine will not cause an infection of either COVID-19 or the virus that is used as the vector. Vaccines of this type have been well-studied in clinical trials and have been used to respond to recent Ebola outbreaks.

    Sometimes after vaccination, the process of producing antibodies and building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.

    Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

    I read that the vaccines are mRNA vaccines. What is mRNA and what role does it play with the vaccine?

    According to the CDC,  mRNA (or messenger RNA) vaccines “teach” our cells how to make a protein, or even just a piece of a protein, that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. More information on mRNA vaccines can be found at the link below:

    Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

    What types of vaccines are being developed for COVID-19?

    According to the CDC, there are currently three main types of COVID-19 vaccines that are or soon will be undergoing large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials in the United States. Below is a description of how each type of vaccine prompts our bodies to recognize and protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19.

    • mRNA vaccines (messenger RNA) contain genetic material that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and create antibodies against the protein. The antibodies will then neutralize the virus if you become infected. Additionally, the body will build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if you are infected in the future. The two vaccines up for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval by the FDA (Pfizer and Moderna) use the same novel mRNA technology, injecting small pieces of genetic material that the body's immune cells use to produce a protein similar to the coronavirus. In response to this protein, the body then creates antibodies that are primed to fight off the virus.
    • Protein subunit vaccines include harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that cause COVID-19 instead of the entire virus. Once vaccinated, our immune system recognizes that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begin making T-lymphocytes and antibodies. If you are ever infected in the future, memory cells will recognize and fight the virus.
    • Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a live virus—a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19—that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector). Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will build antibodies and remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future. The vaccine developed by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) is an adenovirus or viral vector vaccine.

    Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

    How many vaccines are under development?

    According to the CDC, multiple COVID-19 vaccines are under development. Different COVID-19 Vaccines

    For more information on the Pfizer vaccine visit the link below:
    Coronavirus COVID-19 Scientific Research and Resources

    For more information on the Moderna vaccine visit the site below:
    Moderna's Work on a COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

    For more information on the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine visit the link below:
    Jansen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

    How many subjects were enrolled in the clinical trials for the vaccine?

    As of May 12, 2021, the Pfizer BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine study had enrolled 46,331 participants. For more information on the Pfizer vaccine visit the link below:
    Coronavirus COVID-19 Scientific Research and Resources

    As of September 30, 2020, the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine vaccine study had enrolled 30,000 participants. For more information on the Moderna vaccine visit the site below:
    Moderna's Work on a COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

    As of March 1, 2021 the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine study had enrolled 45,000 participants. For more information on the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)vaccine visit the site below:
    Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

    When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available for children?

    Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been granted emergency use authorization (EUA) approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adolescents ages 12-15 years, after the vaccine was shown to have an efficacy of 100% in this age range and generally well tolerated, as it has been seen in teenagers and adults. The vaccine previously was authorized for people ages 16 and older. Children ages 2-11 could potentially be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine this fall.

    Several vaccine manufacturers also are conducting trials in younger children, beginning at age 6 months. Speak to your child’s pediatrician to confirm when your child could receive a vaccine.

    To learn more about Operation Warp Speed, visit the link below:
    Fact Sheet: Explaining Operation Warp Speed

    Do patients have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

    According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines will be given at no cost to patients. However, vaccination providers can charge an administration fee for administering the vaccine.  This fee is reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, it is paid by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. There is no out of pocket cost for vaccine recipients.

    Are the available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant women?

    According to the New England Journal of Medicine, early data from the v-safe surveillance system and the v-safe pregnancy registry from the CDC, and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from the Department of Health and Human Services do not indicate any obvious safety signals with respect to pregnancy or neonatal outcomes associated with mRNA COVID-19 vaccination in the third trimester of pregnancy. Continued monitoring is needed to further assess maternal, pregnancy, neonatal, and childhood outcomes associated with maternal COVID-19 vaccination, including in earlier stages of pregnancy and during the preconception period. Meanwhile, the present data can help inform decision making about vaccination by pregnant persons and their health care providers.

    NEJM article: Preliminary findings of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons

    What are some tips that will help the general public decide if the vaccine is the best choice for them?

    The best way to decide if the vaccine is the best choice for you is to educate yourself on the COVID-19 virus and the vaccine. Some ways to do that are by speaking to your healthcare provider and reviewing resources like the ones listed below:

    Does the COVID-19 vaccine protect against the newly identified coronavirus variants, including the variants of the virus from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil?

    Studies to-date suggest that antibodies produced through vaccination with currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines protect against these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway. Scientists and public health officials are actively working to better understand these new variants to determine how they were caused, how widely they have spread, how they may affect existing therapies, whether they cause milder or more severe disease in individuals, and whether they impact the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

    In the meantime, carefully observing strategies such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer, and avoiding crowds, remain essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health.

    More information on the new variants can be found at the link below:

    New Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19

  • What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccination?

    According to the CDC:

    • Vaccination will make it less likely for you to get COVID-19
    • Vaccination will be a safer way to help build protection through community immunity
    • Vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic

    For more benefits visit the link below:
    Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

    When can individuals get the vaccine? What are the phases and which groups are in which phase? What steps can I take to schedule?

    We are following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services, which has carefully identified higher-risk populations. Many health care workers and first responders will receive the earliest wave of vaccines that are available, as these professions are exposed at higher rates to COVID-19. Under the proposal, older residents of nursing homes and those with high-risk health conditions would receive the next round of vaccinations. You can find more information at the link below:

    How CDC Is Making COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations

    Health care providers are also required to follow the guidance of their state and local authorities regarding vaccine distribution.

    Patients under the care of an Ascension Medical Group (AMG) provider will receive communication from their markets regarding when and how they can schedule an appointment.

    How many doses of the vaccine will I need, and do my two doses of the vaccine need to be from the same manufacturer?

    According to the CDC, all but one of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States need two shots to be effective. For vaccines that require two doses, both doses must be from the same manufacturer.

    The Pfizer BioNTech BNT162b2 vaccine requires 2 doses, 21 days apart. Doses administered at or after day 17 are considered valid.  For more information on the Pfizer vaccine, visit the link below:
    Coronavirus COVID-19 Scientific Research and Resources

    The Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine requires 2 doses, 28 days apart. Doses administered at or after day 24 are considered.  For more information on the Moderna vaccine, visit the site below:
    Moderna's Work on a COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate 

    The Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine requires 1 dose. For more information on the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine, visit the site below:
    Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

    Both doses of the vaccine need to be from the same manufacturer. You will receive patient fact sheets that will note which vaccine you received. We encourage you to communicate with your provider about the vaccine you received both when you schedule and when you receive your second dose. When you receive your first dose, you should receive documentation noting which vaccine you received. Keep that document and bring it with you for your second dose (if needed).

    If the vaccine I receive requires 2 doses, will my second dose of the vaccine have to be exactly 21 days or 28 days after my first dose?

    Depending on the COVID-19 vaccine that you receive, a second dose may be required to achieve the full immune response. The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. Second doses administered within a grace period of 4 days earlier than the recommended date for the second dose are still considered valid. Doses inadvertently administered earlier than the grace period should not be repeated. However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. There is currently limited data on the efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.

    How will my follow-up visit be scheduled for my second dose of the vaccine if necessary?

    Please follow up with your provider based on the documentation you receive at your first vaccination. At the time of your first vaccination, you will receive details about the vaccine you received and instructions about when your second vaccination will be scheduled.

    What happens if the timing for my second dose falls on a weekend and the site I received my first dose at is closed?

    At the time of your first dose, your provider will schedule your second dose as close to the recommended interval as possible. Second doses administered within a grace period of 4 days earlier than the recommended date for the second dose are not advised but still considered valid.

    What should I do if I miss my window for my second dose? What will happen?

    There should be no ill effects, but it could potentially impact the degree of protective immunity provided by your vaccine. If you cannot get your second dose within the recommended time-frames, the  Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. There is currently limited data on the efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.

    Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other routine vaccines?

    The COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including the influenza vaccine, on the same day, as well as administration within 14 days. It is unknown whether reactogenicity – the property of a vaccine of being able to produce common, "expected" adverse reactions – is increased with coadministration, including other vaccines known to be more reactogenic, such as adjuvanted vaccines (i.e. DTaP, Hep A, Hep B, HIB, HPV, Tdap and Pneumococcal).

    I understand that multiple vaccines are available. What if I prefer to receive one vaccine over the other?

    The two vaccines approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA that use mRNA technology (Pfizer and Moderna) appear to have a similar efficacy (~95%) and similar side effects. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine approved for EUA by the FDA is an adenovirus or viral vector vaccine with an efficacy rate of approximately 66%.

    The only way to accurately compare the effectiveness of medical products, such as vaccines or drugs, is by direct comparison in head-to-head clinical trials, which did not occur for these vaccines. Furthermore, the clinical trials for these vaccines occurred in different geographic regions and at different points in time with varying incidence of COVID-19. All of the COVID-19 vaccines that the FDA has authorized for emergency use are at least 50% more effective than placebo in preventing COVID-19, consistent with FDA recommendations provided in our October 2020 guidance document, Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19. A vaccine with at least 50% efficacy would have a significant impact on disease, both at the individual and societal level.The CDC does not recommend one product over another.

    Most importantly, the sooner a person is vaccinated, the sooner they can develop immunity to the virus.

    If I tested positive and have recovered from COVID-19, do I still need the vaccination?

    Data from clinical trials indicate that COVID-19 vaccines are safe in persons with evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Vaccination should be offered to persons regardless of history of prior symptomatic or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Viral testing to assess for acute SARS-CoV-2 infection or serologic testing to assess for prior infection solely for the purposes of vaccine decision-making is not recommended.

    Vaccination of persons with known current SARS-CoV-2 infection should be deferred until the person has recovered from the acute illness (if the person had symptoms) and criteria have been met for them to discontinue isolation. This recommendation applies to persons who develop SARS-CoV-2 infection before receiving any vaccine doses as well as those who develop SARS-CoV-2 infection after the first dose but before receipt of the second dose. While there is otherwise no recommended minimum interval between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Thus, persons with documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in the preceding 90 days may delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if desired.

    Who will administer the vaccine to me?

    An Ascension nurse and or other assigned providers will administer the vaccine.

    Should I stop taking my routine medications before COVID-19 vaccination?

    For most people, it is not recommended to avoid, discontinue, or delay medications for underlying medical conditions around the time of COVID-19 vaccination. If you take medications that suppress your immune system, you should speak with your healthcare provider about what is currently known and not known about the effectiveness of getting a COVID-19 vaccine when taking immune-suppressing medications. If you have questions about medications that you are taking, talk to your doctor or vaccination provider.

    Should I take over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen before COVID-19 vaccination to prevent vaccine-related side effects?

    According to the CDC, it is not recommended to take over-the-counter medicine such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen before vaccination to prevent COVID-19 vaccine-related side effects. It is unknown how these medications might affect how well the vaccine works. However, if you take these medications regularly for other reasons, you should keep taking them before you get vaccinated. It is also not recommended to take antihistamines before getting a COVID-19 vaccine to try to prevent allergic reactions. If you have questions about medications that you are taking, talk to your doctor or vaccination provider.

    Additional information from the CDC about preparing for your vaccination visit can be found at the link below:
    www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/prepare-for-vaccination

  • What are the risks of the vaccine?

    The FDA’s rigorous testing helps ensure that vaccines are safe and highly effective. However, all medications, including vaccines, carry a small risk of side effects. Most common side effects are identified in clinical trials before the vaccine is approved, but less-common side effects may not be detected until the medicines or vaccines are more widely available. That’s why vaccines are continuously, carefully monitored for possible side effects even after they are licensed.

    After receiving the vaccine, what side effects could I experience?

    COVID-19 vaccine recipients can expect to experience symptoms such as pain, swelling, reddening at the injection site, swelling in lymph nodes on the same side as the vaccinated arm, fever, fatigue, headache, chills, and muscle/joint pain after vaccination. Depending on vaccine product, age group, and vaccine dose, approximately 80–89% of vaccinated persons develop at least one symptom around the injection site and 55–83% develop symptoms like fever, fatigue, headache, chills, and muscle/joint pain following vaccination.

    Symptoms like fever, fatigue, headache, chills, and muscle/joint pain are typically mild to moderate in severity, occur within the first three days of vaccination, and resolve within 1–3 days of onset. For two dose vaccinations, these symptoms are more frequent and severe following the second dose and among younger persons (less than 55 years old) compared to older persons (greater than 65 years old) and the intensity of side effects after the second dose tends to be more common as your body develops greater immunity to COVID-19. Unless persons experience severe allergic reactions to vaccination, they should be encouraged to complete the series even if they develop symptoms following the first dose to increase protection against COVID-19.

    I received my first dose of the vaccine, and I am not sure if I am experiencing side effects or if I have COVID-19?

    Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever, body ache, headache, and fatigue. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity, according to the CDC. While COVID-19 infection can cause these same symptoms, additional and more specific COVID-19 symptoms may include cough, shortness of breath, congestion/runny nose, and new loss of taste and smell. If side-effect symptoms worsen or do not subside within 72 hours, contact your primary care physician. If you experience an adverse event, please contact your primary care physician as soon as possible.

    What are the risks of experiencing side effects from the vaccine compared to the risks of experiencing serious health problems from COVID-19?

    COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and lead to death in some people. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you personally. If you get COVID-19, you could spread the disease to family, friends and others around you, even if you do not show any symptoms and you do not become ill.

    Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you by creating an antibody response in your body without you becoming sick with COVID-19. Or, if you get COVID-19, the vaccine might keep you from becoming seriously ill or developing serious complications. Getting vaccinated may also help protect people around you from COVID-19, particularly people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

    Should I use medications to reduce fever or pain prior to receiving my COVID-19 vaccination to lessen the presence of side effects?

    Medications that reduce fever (antipyretic) or pain (analgesic) like Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be taken for the treatment of symptoms you experience after vaccination, if medically appropriate. However, routinely taking these medications in order to prevent vaccine symptoms is not currently recommended, as information on what effect they would have on the current vaccine’s virus-fighting response is not available at this time.

    What effect might the vaccine have on individuals with chronic conditions (including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, neurological issues, etc.)?

    According to the CDC, adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions provided they have not had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. If you have a chronic condition, follow-up with your healthcare provider to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine.

    More information on the following conditions can be found at this link.

    • Weakened Immune System
    • Autoimmune Conditions
    • Guillain-Barre Syndrome
    • Bell’s Palsy

    If I have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome or Bell’s palsy, can I proceed with a FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccination?

    Persons with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome

    To date, there has been no identified association of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) following vaccination among participants in the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials. However, there have been reports of adverse events following the use of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine under emergency use authorization, suggesting an increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome during the 42 days following vaccination. With few exceptions, ACIP’s general best practice guidelines for immunization does not include the history of GBS as a contraindication to COVID-19 vaccination. Given possible association between the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine and GBS, patients with a history of GBS and their clinical team should discuss the availability of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) to offer protection against COVID-19. Any occurrence of GBS following COVID-19 vaccination should be reported to VAERS.

    Persons with a history of Bell’s palsy

    Cases of Bell’s palsy were reported following vaccination in participants in COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials. However, the FDA does not consider these to be above the frequency expected in the general population and has not concluded that these cases were causally related to vaccination. Post-authorization safety surveillance will be important to further assess any possible causal association. In the absence of such evidence, persons with a history of Bell’s palsy may receive a FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a contraindication to vaccination. Any occurrence of Bell’s palsy following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination should be reported to VAERS.

  • Where can I find information about Ascension’s approach to the COVID-19 vaccine?

    We have established COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Center sites that provides resources and updates for our Ascension community in support of our vaccine distribution and administration efforts.

    Ascension’s COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Center site for patients can be found by clicking here.

    Ascension’s COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Center site for associates can be found by clicking here.

    Ascension’s COVID-19 site can be found by clicking here.

    What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?

    According to the FDA, an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Under an EUA, FDA may allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives. Taking into consideration input from the FDA, manufacturers decide whether and when to submit an EUA request to FDA.

    Once submitted, FDA will evaluate an EUA request and determine whether the relevant statutory criteria are met. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the FDA takes into account the totality of the scientific evidence about the vaccine that is available.

    For more information, visit: Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained

    How does an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) differ from full FDA approval?

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a drug means that the agency has determined, based on substantial evidence, that the drug is effective for its intended use, and that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks when used according to the product’s approved labeling.

    In the case of a public health emergency, the FDA may issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) before the full approval process can be completed. For the COVID-19 vaccines under development for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA will make an assessment on a case-by-case basis considering all of the scientific evidence available, including data from adequate and well conducted clinical trials, as well as an assessment that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks.
    Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19

    Some believe the threat of COVID-19 is overstated and possibly a hoax. Why should I vaccinate?

    Medical experts across the globe, including the CDC and the World Health Organization, agree that COVID-19 is a very serious threat to health and wellness. An effective vaccine will help slow this spread and safely enable the world to return to a more normal life, which we are all eager to do.

    I read that COVID-19 has a very low mortality rate. Why should I get a vaccine?

    Many viruses can have devastating and lifelong consequences while maintaining a low mortality rate. We do not yet know the long-term impact of COVID-19, but we know some patients with COVID-19 are seeing serious quality-of-life issues, including continued respiratory, heart, kidney and other organ impacts – in some cases, for months after recovery. At Ascension, we are focused on keeping patients well and maintaining the highest quality of life possible. In addition to keeping you safe, COVID-19 vaccination can help prevent the spread of this serious disease that may have more severe consequences in those who are immunocompromised or with preexisting conditions.

    Do vaccines cause autism?

    No. There have been extensive studies confirming there is no link between autism and vaccines.

    Will masks still be required within Ascension facilities?

    We are committed to ensuring a safe, healthy environment for associates, patients and visitors at all Ascension facilities. Masks are currently required to ensure the safest possible experience, as well as frequent handwashing and social distancing. These safety behaviors will continue. We will continue to evaluate our mask requirement as the larger landscape evolves.

    How can I participate in the CDC’s V-safe program and what is it?

    According to the CDC, 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 CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. And V-safe will remind you to get your second COVID-19 vaccine dose if you need one.

    For instructions on how to register and use V-safe, view the link below:
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html

    For frequently asked questions about V-safe, view the link below:
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/faq.html

    For more information

    Speak to your healthcare provider to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Other Resources

  • Does the flu vaccine cover COVID-19 too?

    No. The flu vaccine is important to protect you from influenza, particularly during the current coronavirus pandemic, but it does not vaccinate you for COVID-19. Receiving both a flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine are important to stay healthy. The flu vaccine is important to protect you from influenza, particularly during the current coronavirus pandemic, but it does not vaccinate you for COVID-19. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will help protect you and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

    Do I need to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines?

    Yes. The flu vaccine is important to protect you from influenza, particularly during the current coronavirus pandemic, but it does not vaccinate you for COVID-19. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will help protect you and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Why did the FDA and CDC pause the administration of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine?

    The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a joint statement calling for a pause in the use of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine in the United States on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. After a safety review, the pause was lifted on April 23, 2021 and the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine is again available for use under Emergency Use Authorization.

    The pause was recommended after reports of six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals following administration of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine. During the pause, medical and scientific teams at the FDA and CDC examined available data to assess the risk to patients receiving the vaccine.

    Based upon this safety review:

    • Use of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine should be resumed in the United States, according to the FDA and CDC
    • The FDA and CDC have confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.
    • The FDA has determined that the available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older.
    • Health care providers administering the vaccine and vaccine recipients or caregivers should review the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers) and Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers, which have been revised to include information about the risk of this syndrome, which has occurred in a very small number of people who have received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine.

    Why have the FDA and CDC called for a pause in the administration of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine?

    On Tuesday, April 13, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint statement calling for an immediate pause in the use of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine at federal sites and urged states to do the same.

    The pause on the administration of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine comes after six cases within the United States were reported to have developed a “rare and severe” type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) after receiving the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine. All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48 who developed symptoms six to 13 days after receiving the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine. In these cases, CVST was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia), according to the FDA and CDC statement.

    “We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in the joint statement. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously.” The remainder of this statement can be found at the link below.

    Joint Statement from FDA and CDC on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine

    The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving these six cases and provided additional information during a media briefing that took place at 10 a.m. ET on April 13, 2021. A recording of that media call is available on the FDA’s YouTube channel. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will be meeting on Wednesday, April 14, and any additional information from that meeting will be shared when it is available.

    As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine have been administered in the U.S., according to the FDA and CDC.

    What should I do if I’ve received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine and suspect I’m having a reaction?

    In most cases, discomfort from pain or fever after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is a normal sign that your body is building protection, according to the CDC. If after receiving the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine you suspect you are having a reaction, please contact your doctor or healthcare provider. You should also seek medical attention if the redness or tenderness at the injection site gets worse after 24 hours and/or if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days. If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.

    The rare and severe adverse event of blood clots with low platelets (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) associated with the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine is occurring at a rate of about 7 per 1 million vaccinated women between 18 and 49 years old and 0.9 per 1 million vaccinated women 50 years and older. The incidence is higher in women than in men.

    For three weeks after receiving the vaccine, you should be on the lookout for possible symptoms of a blood clot with low platelets. These include:

    • Severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Leg swelling
    • Persistent abdominal pain
    • Easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the injection site

    Seek medical care right away if you develop one or more of these symptoms.

    What should I do if I’ve received any COVID-19 vaccine and suspect I’m having a reaction?

    In most cases, discomfort from pain or fever after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is a normal sign that your body is building protection, according to the CDC. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if the redness or tenderness at the injection site gets worse after 24 hours and/or if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days. If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted expansion of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12-15 years and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has voted to recommend the use of the vaccine for this age group.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Association, American Academy of Family Physicians have statements in support of adolescent COVID-19 vaccination. Since the start of the pandemic, at least 7.7 million people ages 12-29 years have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 2,767 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The pandemic also has taken a toll on all populations mental and emotional health, social well-being and educational experience.

    On June 23, 2021, ACIP met to discuss the data on reports of mild cases of inflammation of the heart muscle and surrounding tissue called myocarditis and pericarditis following COVID-19 vaccination among younger people. Following this review, a statement was released from the nation’s leading doctors, nurses and public health leaders, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, on the benefits of vaccination.

    “The facts are clear: this is an extremely rare side effect, and only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination. Importantly, for the young people who do, most cases are mild, and individuals recover often on their own or with minimal treatment. In addition, we know that myocarditis and pericarditis are much more common if you get COVID-19, and the risks to the heart from COVID-19 infection can be more severe.

    The vaccines are safe and effective, and they prevent COVID-19 illness. They will help protect you and your family and keep your community safe. We strongly encourage everyone aged 12 and older who are eligible to receive the vaccine under Emergency Use Authorization to get vaccinated, as the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any harm.”

    Pediatric and family physician leaders across Ascension support these professional organizations and the CDC guidance that recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older given the greater risk of other serious complications related to COVID-19, such as hospitalization, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in adolescents (MIS-C), or death.

    Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for my child?

    • To date, Pfizer-BioNTech has completed a study in 12-15 year olds. The FDA has granted an extension for the 12-15 year old age group for its EUA for vaccination indications that was approved in December 2020.
    • Clinical trials showed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100% effective and presented no serious safety concerns in adolescents (12-15 years of age), leading the FDA to grant the EUA.
    • Pfizer and BioNTech conducted clinical trials in 2,260 adolescents with half randomized to receive the vaccine (2 doses, 3 weeks apart) and half to receive a placebo. Participants were followed for two months.
    • Among 1,005 vaccine recipients, there were no cases of COVID-19, and 16 cases reported among 978 placebo recipients. An immunogenicity analysis in 190 participants also showed the immune response for 12-15 year olds was just as favorable as the response for those ages 16-25 years.
    • To date, Pfizer-BioNTech has started testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12.

    Is there a difference in side effects for 12-15 year olds?

    The most common side effects in adolescents were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, consistent with trials in older teens and adults. With the exception of pain at the injection site, more adolescents reported these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should not be given to anyone with a known history of a severe allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis, to any component of the vaccine.

    Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) have occurred in some people who have received the COVID-19 Vaccine. Myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. As of June 28, 2021, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has received 780 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis among people ages 30 and younger who received COVID-19 vaccine. Most cases have been reported after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), particularly in male adolescents and young adults. In most cases, patients who presented for medical care have responded well to medications and rest and had prompt improvement of symptoms. Onset was typically within several days after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination, and cases have occurred more often after the second dose than the first dose. Through follow-up, including medical record reviews, CDC and FDA have confirmed 518 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis. CDC and its partners are investigating these reports to assess whether there is a relationship to COVID-19 vaccination. Pediatricians should consider myocarditis and pericarditis in adolescents or young adults with acute chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations and report any suspected cases post COVID-19 vaccination to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

    CDC continues to monitor the situation and has created guidance for health care providers.

    CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 years of age and older given the greater risk of other serious complications related to COVID-19, such as hospitalization, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), or death.

    For more information, refer to the CDC’s Clinical Considerations: Myocarditis and Pericarditis after Receipt of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines among adolescents and Young Adults and Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination.

    A full listing of the side effects is now available on the FDA website and a summary is found in the fact sheet that is provided to everyone who receives the vaccine.

    What is the safety testing that has been done on COVID-19 vaccines? How do we know it is safe long-term?

    The safety follow-up for COVID-19 vaccines is consistent with all other vaccine trials. As part of the original EUA request, Pfizer Inc. submitted a plan to continue monitoring the safety of the vaccine as it is used under EUA. This plan has been updated to include the newly authorized 12-15 year old population, and includes longer-term safety follow-up for participants enrolled in ongoing clinical trials, as well as other activities aimed at monitoring the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and ensuring that any safety concerns are identified and evaluated in a timely manner. The expectation for the adult phase 3 trials is 2 years of safety follow-up –longer than for most vaccines during development. It is impossible to know the very long-term safety profile of vaccines that have only been used in humans for several months, since December 2020. That said, no currently approved vaccines have been found to have an unexpected long-term safety problem years or decades after introduction.

    How quickly after immunization does the vaccine protect the recipient, and how long does immunity last?

    For the mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, studies reported vaccine efficacy at 7 to 14 days after the second dose, which is likely how long it takes to get very high levels of neutralizing antibody. Studies to date have shown that both mRNA vaccines maintain high efficacy levels over a six-month period (eg. 91% Pfizer-BioNTech, 90% Moderna). More research will be conducted to monitor vaccine efficacy over time.

    Can my adolescent child receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other routine vaccines?

    The COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines may now be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day, as well as administration within 14 days. It is unknown whether reactogenicity – the property of a vaccine of being able to produce common, "expected" adverse reactions – is increased with coadministration, including other vaccines known to be more reactogenic, such as adjuvanted vaccines (i.e. DTaP, Hep A, Hep B, HIB, HPV, Tdap and Pneumococcal).

    If my adolescent child already had COVID-19, should they get the COVID-19 vaccine?

    Yes, children of eligible age should get the COVID-19 vaccine regardless of whether they have had COVID-19 because experts do not yet know how long they are protected from getting sick again after recovering from the virus that causes COVID-19. Even if they have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible—although rare—that they could be infected again. Learn more about why getting vaccinated is a safer way to build protection than getting infected.

    Vaccination of adolescent children with known current SARS-CoV-2 infection should be deferred until the adolescent child has recovered from the acute illness (if the person had symptoms) and they have met criteria to discontinue isolation. This recommendation applies to adolescent children who experience SARS-CoV-2 infection before receiving any vaccine dose and those who experience SARS-CoV-2 infection after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine but before receipt of the second dose.

    If my adolescent child was diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) after having COVID-19, should they proceed with getting the vaccine?

    Current evidence suggests that the risk of SARS-COV-2 reinfection is low in the months after initial infection but may increase with time due to waning immunity. Thus, people with a history of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C or MIS-A) should consider delaying vaccination until they have recovered from illness and for 90 days after the date of diagnosis of MIS-C or MIS-A, recognizing that the risk of reinfection and therefore, the benefit from vaccination, might increase with time following initial infection.

    Are there concerns about fertility after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

    There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems or problems trying to get pregnant. The CDC does not recommend routine pregnancy testing before COVID-19 vaccination. As with all vaccines, scientists continue to carefully study COVID-19 vaccines for side effects and will report findings as they become available.

    Why is it important to vaccinate adolescent children when most who have been infected with COVID-19 have had mild symptoms?

    Since March 2021, about 1.5 million adolescents ages 11-17 years have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Although most children have mild symptoms, we know they can infect adults in their families as well as others outside the home. Some of these adults may be at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19. From what we understand so far, it seems that older adolescent children are spreading the virus more easily than younger children; therefore, it makes sense to move towards immunizing the population of these adolescent children who may be contributing most to transmission. Furthermore, although infrequent, some children do get very sick from COVID-19, and prevention of serious illness in children is an important goal of vaccination.

    Where can I go to get my adolescent child a COVID-19 vaccine?

    We recommend that you contact your primary care physician or pediatrician’s office to determine the best location for your child to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

    Resources:

Learn more about COVID-19

According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe and may appear 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms seen with the infection with COVID-19 are not specific, with symptoms ranging from cold-like symptoms in mild cases to severe illness and death.

Learn more about COVID-19

Tips on preventing COVID-19, wash your hands, avoid handshakes, avoid public gatherings, stay away from those who are sick.