When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Because initial vaccine supplies are limited, frontline healthcare workers were prioritized by federal and state agencies to receive the vaccine first, followed by the most vulnerable patients. This includes those at skilled nursing facilities, with certain high-risk health conditions and over age 65. Healthy adults under 65 who don’t work in healthcare or qualify as essential workers should have access to the vaccine in the coming weeks as supply increases.
Michigan has opened eligibility to anyone 65 years old and older, plus a larger group of essential workers and first responders, including staff and teachers in K12 education, childcare providers, police officers, jail and correctional facility workers, and more.
I meet the eligibility requirements and am a Henry Ford patient. How can I get the vaccine?
We are offering the vaccines to our patients at a limited number of Henry Ford locations across southeast and south central Michigan at this time. Appointments are required.
We are making appointments available as soon as possible. You may receive notification of your eligibility via Henry Ford MyChart, email, text or phone.
If you are a Henry Ford patient who is eligible to receive the vaccine, appointments can be scheduled through MyChart. (If you don’t have a Henry Ford MyChart account, sign up for one today.)
- If you receive notice that no appointments are available when scheduling, please check back daily as more appointments and locations will be added as supply and staffing allow.
- At this time, our call center is not able to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented vaccine roll-out.
What do I need to know before my vaccine appointment? Do I need to prepare?
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you get your vaccine:
- The vaccine is given with a needle in the upper arm, so wear clothing that allows your upper arm to be easily exposed, like a short-sleeve or sleeveless shirt.
- Eat your normal meal or a snack (depending on the time of day) and drink plenty of liquids before coming for your vaccine.
- For maximum immunity, the COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses. At your appointment for the first dose, you will need to make the appointment to receive your second dose in 3 weeks. So, you may want to bring your calendar with you or check your availability beforehand, so you are able to find a convenient time within the recommended time frame.
- Allergic reactions are possible with any vaccine, though they are rare. For your safety, you will be asked to remain in a designated waiting area for about 15 minutes for monitoring. If you’ve had a prior allergic reaction to an injectable medicine or vaccine or any of the ingredients in the vaccine, you may be asked to wait 30 minutes. The waiting area will be socially distanced.
- Mask wearing is required, and strict safety protocols are in place at all facilities providing the vaccine.
How will my vaccination be documented?
Your electronic medical record will be updated with all the details each time you receive a dose of the vaccine, including which vaccine you received and when.
You will also be given a vaccination card at the time of your first dose. Please keep this card with you when you return for your second dose. You should also keep it for your own records.
Can I get more than one kind of vaccine?
It is recommended that you not mix vaccines. If your first dose was the Pfizer vaccine, your second dose should also be the Pfizer vaccine. If your first dose was the Moderna vaccine, your second dose should be the same. There is no need to be vaccinated with another vaccine, as well.
Henry Ford was selected to receive the Pfizer vaccine by the state of Michigan, due to our ultra-cold storage capabilities and large-scale capacity. At this time, Henry Ford is administering the Pfizer vaccine to employees and patients.
What’s happening with COVID-19 vaccines right now?
Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have received emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccines from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Distribution of these approved vaccines is underway.
Since the first supply of vaccines will be limited, health systems like ours need to plan how to store and distribute the vaccines we receive. We’ve been carefully developing plans that follow the guidelines from the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state agencies.
What is the COVID-19 vaccine, and how will it be given?
Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA), which causes the body to make a viral protein that activates the immune system to fight off the coronavirus by mimicking the infection.
The vaccine does not contain live virus and cannot cause COVID-19.
Recipients need to receive two shots spaced several weeks apart for full protection.
The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage. Henry Ford has secured the appropriate freezers to store these particular vaccines. This is one reason why we are limiting locations where we distribute the vaccine at this time. We must ensure proper storage and transport of the vaccines, while maximizing the number of patients we are able to vaccinate.
How did vaccines get approved so quickly?
Production of the COVID-19 vaccines began sooner than is typical. Normally, production starts after a pharmaceutical company completes the development stage for a vaccine, which includes rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. Every vaccine goes through a series of reviews and approvals by the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), among others. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government invested taxpayer dollars to encourage pharmaceutical companies to start production before the development stage completed.
The vaccines are still going through the same rigorous testing, review and approval process to establish safety and effectiveness.
Does the vaccine mean that other safety measures and restrictions can be relaxed?
Vaccines are one important piece of the puzzle in combating this pandemic and will eventually help life return to normal. It will take many months before a large portion of the population is able to be vaccinated.
In the meantime, reducing the cases of COVID-19 needs to continue to be our priority. Efforts like wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and practicing hand hygiene remain essential to reduce the spread.
We don’t know yet whether you can still be a carrier of COVID-19 and transmit it to someone else, unknowingly, after being vaccinated. So, please continue to follow state and national safety guidelines, even after you have been vaccinated.
Can we be sure the vaccine will be safe? Will it be safe for me?
We understand that there may be concern over the safety and effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine. We have closely examined the FDA’s process for overseeing the many different vaccine trials. The FDA is required to make decisions that are guided by science and data regarding authorization or approval of COVID-19 vaccines. We have confidence in the FDA’s approval process and are committed to safety, quality and high reliability.
You cannot develop COVID-19 from these vaccines.
Does the Pfizer vaccine cause a severe allergic reaction?
Any vaccine or medication has the potential to cause a severe allergic reaction.
The FDA currently recommends that you avoid the Pfizer vaccine if you have had prior severe allergic reactions to other vaccines or if you have had reactions to the ingredients of the current Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. This does not apply to anaphylactic reactions to food items, pets or environmental allergies.
The Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices believes it is safe to receive the vaccine if you have severe reactions to food, pets, environmental allergies or medications taken by mouth.
It is important to remember that no effective medicine is without side effects. Therefore, the risks must be balanced with the benefits.
Review this Pfizer vaccine fact sheet for more information, including a list of ingredients.
If I’ve had COVID-19, can I still get the vaccine?
Evidence suggests that if you already tested positive for COVID-19, you have likely developed specific antibodies in your blood which may provide some level of natural immune defense. Research is still being done both in the U.S. and globally to determine how long that immune response lasts.
Preliminary research suggests that the vaccine will give you better protection than having had the virus. The CDC recommends that those who have had COVID-19 get the vaccine.
Can I get the vaccine if I’ve had convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19?
If you have had COVID and received either convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies, you should not receive the vaccine for 90 days as these drugs may interfere with its effectiveness.
If I have an underlying health condition, can I get the vaccine?
There is currently no data that suggests having an underlying health condition is a reason to avoid getting the vaccine.
In fact, those with an underlying illness or health condition are at an increased risk of developing severe side effects or hospitalization due to COVID-19.
If you have any condition that weakens your immune system, you may not have protection against COVID-19 infection. However, it is safe to receive the vaccine if you are immunocompromised. For instance, if you are infected with HIV, are on immunosuppressive medication, or a transplant recipient, there are no safety concerns but you may not get as strong a protective response.
You should address your individual concerns with your primary medical provider.
Does the Pfizer vaccine have any side effects?
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines can cause side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with other vaccines, such as injection site pain in the arm, fever, muscle pain, chills and headache. The frequency of these side effects may be greater than with other vaccines. While the symptoms may be uncomfortable, and at times intense, they should go away within 24-48 hours. Most volunteers in the studies continued to perform their normal daily activities.
With the Pfizer vaccine, common side effects include sore arm, headache, fatigue, lymph node swelling or fever, which may be worsen after the second dose. This is an indication that the vaccine is working. (That said, if you don’t experience side effects, you should not be concerned. The same level of protection is expected.)
Only 2% of those who receive vaccine will have side effects significant enough to stop their usual daily activities. Tylenol may be taken after vaccination to help with any symptoms you have. If symptoms persist, please consult your primary care provider.
If I have side effects after receiving the vaccine, am I contagious to those around me?
If you have side effects after vaccination, this does not mean you are in any way contagious to your family or community. You cannot develop COVID-19 from these vaccines.
We don’t know yet whether you can still be a carrier of COVID-19 and transmit it to someone else, unknowingly, after being vaccinated.
Efforts like wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and practicing hand hygiene remain essential to reduce the spread, even after you have been vaccinated.
Are side effects from the second dose worse than the first?
Yes, they tend to be more significant after the second dose. However, only 2% percent of people feel ill enough to curtail their usual activities. Symptoms usually last 1-2 days. Generally, 85% of people have some redness, swelling or pain at the injection site. Other symptoms include:
- Fatigue: 63%
- Headache: 55%
- Muscle aches/pain: 38%
- Joint pain: 23%
- Fever: 14.2%
Acetaminophen (rather than NSAIDs) is recommended to help ease symptoms after vaccination. Do not take acetaminophen before vaccination to prevent side effects – it may blunt the immune response.
How long does protection against COVID-19 last once I receive the vaccine?
We do not know how long protection will last following vaccination. But further information from ongoing clinical trials will become public over time. In comparison, immunity to two similar coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, lasted at least 3 years.
Do I have to take both doses of the vaccine?
Yes. It is very important that you return for your second dose of the vaccine in order to receive full protection from the vaccine. An appointment will be scheduled for you for this second dose at the time of your first injection. Please also remember that side effects may be more severe with your second dose.
If the vaccine is not 100% effective, can I still get COVID-19?
The vaccines with emergency approval from the FDA appear to provide significant protection against COVID-19, but they do not offer 100% protection. Preliminary data suggests the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer 95% protection against infection.
How long does it take for full protection?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, spaced about 3 weeks apart. You need to have both doses to achieve the highest level of protection. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination. Continue to social distance, wear masks and wash your hands.
Why do I still need to wear a mask and social distance after I’ve been vaccinated?
The vaccine clinical trials tracked how many vaccinated people became sick with COVID-19. That means it is possible for some vaccinated people to become infected without developing symptoms and if they did, transmit the virus to others. Until experts know more about whether vaccinated people can spread the virus, it is important for everyone to continue wearing masks, washing hands, staying six feet away from others when possible and avoiding gatherings. We expect recommendations for vaccinated people will be made in the future.
Does the Pfizer vaccine protect against the new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 discovered in the U.K. and South Africa?
Public health officials around the world are studying the new variants of COVID-19. New research by Pfizer (not yet peer reviewed) indicates the vaccine appears to be effective against a key mutation in the more infectious variants of the virus. While the study did not look at the full set of mutations, these findings suggest the Pfizer vaccine is likely to induce immunity that covers the two more infectious variants. Researchers hope to have more data on whether the vaccines work against other mutations found in the U.K. and South Africa variants in the coming weeks.
If I’m pregnant or of child-bearing age, is it safe for me to get the vaccine?
Pregnant and breastfeeding women have been excluded from the leading vaccine clinical trials so far, including those from Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen, AstraZeneca and Novavax.
This is not unusual as vaccine clinical trials typically don’t enroll participants who are pregnant or lactating until the vaccine has been shown to be safely tolerated in people who are not pregnant.
There are current studies on the COVID vaccine in which pregnant women are part of the study pool. We should have that data in the coming year.
Many experts believe that while no COVID-19 vaccines have been tested on pregnant women, the virus itself may pose greater risks both to the pregnant woman and to the fetus. Pregnant women should talk with their doctor to weigh the risk and benefit of the vaccine versus COVID-19 infection.
Does the vaccine have any effect on fertility?
There is an internet rumor that the vaccine could affect fertility. There is no evidence or scientific concern that the vaccine could impact fertility.
The vaccine mimics infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. It targets a single protein of the virus, called the spike protein. The vaccine does not contain live virus.
Research studies have shown that getting COVID-19 (not the vaccine) may affect fertility. In short, the virus itself may pose a greater risk to fertility than the vaccine.
If I’m breastfeeding, can I still get the vaccine?
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices states that breastfeeding women may receive the vaccine.
It is not known if the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is passed through breast milk. Even if the mRNA is in the breast milk, there is no known harm to feeding an infant.
It is also important to remember that live viral vaccines — measles, mumps and rubella vaccine — are routinely given to lactating women. But keep in mind that the COVID vaccine does not contain any live virus.
Did Henry Ford participate in clinical trials for the vaccine we will receive?
We participated in two other Phase 3 vaccine trials including Moderna mRNA Vaccine Cove Study, which has been completed, and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s ENSEMBLE trial, which remains active.
We did not participate in the Pfizer trial, which is the first vaccine to receive approval and will be the first to arrive.
If I participated in a clinical trial for the vaccine, am I eligible to receive early vaccination?
Henry Ford is a site for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials. The clinical trial team will communicate with all participants directly, including Henry Ford team members who participated, to help them make an informed decision about next steps.
If you are participating in either vaccine trial and have questions or concerns, please contact the research team.
Questions about your individual decision to get the vaccine should be addressed with your primary care physician.