A Black man in a mask smiles as he prepares to receive a vaccine.

COVID-19 Vaccines: Get the Facts

Editor’s note: This post was first published Jan. 22, 2021 and was last updated at 3 p.m. April 14, 2021, with COVID vaccine updates from state and federal health officials.

Get the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant

Click here to view an archive of the “Get the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant” series

Doses of the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered Dec. 14, 2020, kicking off a massive effort during 2021 to stop the spread of the virus.

As of Monday, April 5, all Michiganders age 16 and up are eligible to receive a vaccine.

Michigan health officials aim to vaccinate 70% of Michigan residents 16 years of age or older — at least 7.2 million people — by the end of 2021. Until the number of positive tests reaches an appropriate level, health experts are urging everyone to continue following COVID-19 precautions: wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing and limit gatherings outside of your household.

There are currently three vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen – that have received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are being distributed across the country. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines both require two doses to be effective. Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine requires only one dose. The vaccines are being distributed in phases that differ by state and which depend on a growing level of supply from manufacturers and the federal government.

As of April 13, Michigan is pausing the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine under the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration after six cases of a rare and severe blood clot disorder were reported in vaccine recipients. A total of 6.8 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered to date in the U.S.

To view the latest available vaccine pipeline dashboard, click here (last updated March 18).

Here’s what you need to know about vaccination efforts in the state of Michigan.

Click on a link below to jump to the section in this blog for COVID vaccine updates:

Availability Locations
Two Shots Side Effects
Vaccination Tracker Effectiveness
Prior COVID-19 Infections Myths
Development At-Risk Groups
Cost Get the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant Video Series

 

When will COVID vaccines be available to me?

Health officials in Michigan are distributing vaccines in a phased approach per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities – including staff – were the first to be vaccinated in Michigan, and those efforts are ongoing. Demand for the vaccine continues to be greater than the supply. Vaccine appointments are being scheduled as shipments of the vaccine become more plentiful.

As of Monday, April 5, all Michiganders age 16 and up are eligible to receive a vaccine.

The Better Business Bureau is advising individuals to avoid sharing photos of their COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media due to scams.

Where will COVID vaccines be available?

Vaccine availability will vary in each state as vaccines are distributed to health departments, hospitals, commercial pharmacies and providers. Due to limited supplies of the vaccine, appointments are necessary. The CDC has launched an online tool to help people find vaccination opportunities near where they live.

Initially, the website only includes information about providers getting vaccines directly from the federal government, so you may need to check more than one website to find vaccination sites.

  • Find a vaccination location in Michigan by visiting Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine
  • If you live outside of Michigan and are seeking a COVID-19 vaccine, click here to see how to get a vaccine in your state

Registration is open for a mass vaccine clinic at Ford Field in Detroit. Here’s how to sign up:

    • Online at clinic.meijer.com/register/CL2021
    • Text EndCOVID to 75049
    • Call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 and press 1

In the future, primary care providers will also be providing vaccines as the supply allows. Federally qualified health centers across Michigan will also begin offering vaccines soon. Retail pharmacies across the country are receiving shipments of COVID-19 vaccines. These pharmacies will offer vaccines under the same vaccination schedule followed by health departments and hospitals, in accordance with state and federal vaccination guidelines and dependent upon the shipment of vaccine supply. Appointments are necessary and will likely be limited at first. 

After receiving a vaccine, you should continue to wear a mask in public and when in contact with those outside your household.

Do I need two doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines require two doses to be fully effective. The second dose of each vaccine is identical to the first dose of the same brand. COVID-19 vaccines that require two shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot, according to the CDC.  The timing between your first and second shot depends on which vaccine you receive:

  • Pfizer: 21 days after your first shot
  • Moderna: 28 days after your first shot

In most situations, the vaccination site will schedule you for your second dose when you receive your first dose. Your second shot must be of the same vaccine brand as the first shot.

Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine is administered in one dose.

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What are the potential side effects?

Side effects to the COVID-19 vaccines may include:

  • Pain and swelling at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

These side effects mean your immune system is responding by producing an immune response and is completely normal. If you do not have any side effects, that is also nothing to worry about. If your side effects do not go away after a few days, call your doctor. Call 911 and seek immediate medical care if you think you’re having a severe allergic reaction.

At this time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend taking acetaminophen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol or Advil prior to receiving the COVID-19 vaccines to prevent any vaccination symptoms. Patients who take these medications as a part of their current treatment plans should consult their primary care providers first before making any changes.

The CDC has developed a smartphone-based tool called “v-safe” to check in with people after they have received a COVID-19 vaccine to track side effects. Learn more about v-safe here.

How many COVID vaccines have been administered?

As of April 14, 2021, here’s how many vaccines have been administered:

 

Are the COVID vaccines effective?

Before these vaccines were authorized for emergency use, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson were subjected to clinical trials with tens thousands of study participants to evaluate safety and effectiveness. A rigorous review by the FDA determined each vaccine would be safe and effective, offering reliable protection against even the worst COVID symptoms.

As of April 13, Michigan is pausing the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine under the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration after six cases of a rare and severe blood clot disorder were reported in vaccine recipients. A total of 6.8 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered to date in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on how they can safely visit with others. Read more here.

The CDC advises fully vaccinated individuals can travel at low risk to themselves.

Do the vaccines cause COVID-19?

No. The vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA – called mRNA – to teach your cells how to make a protein that triggers the immune response. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses the genetic pattern of a portion of the coronavirus to teach your body how to respond to a possible infection. As your body learns how to protect against a future infection of COVID-19, your body may have expected side effects.

Should I still get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID-19?

Experts say yes. It’s unclear how long immunity from COVID-19 lasts if you’ve had an infection, so health experts are advising that those who have been infected with COVID-19 should still plan to get the vaccine. It is always a good idea to discuss such decisions with your doctor.

How were the vaccines developed so quickly?

Although the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were developed more quickly than other vaccines, the FDA announced they followed all established protocols for vaccine development and testing and met the FDA’s standards for emergency use authorization. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, scientists had a head start thanks to vaccine research already started during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

“The process for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine is scientifically sound, and no steps have been skipped,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health.

 

Are there populations who can’t get the vaccine or who should proceed with caution?

There are some groups that might not be able to get vaccinated just yet:

  • Those under age 16. While the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for persons age 16 and older, the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines’ age requirement is 18. Some additional studies for this age group should be underway.

Some groups might want to talk to their doctor about the best course of action:

  • Pregnant women are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The World Health Organization advises there are no specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of a pregnant woman being vaccinated for COVID-19, and recommends pregnant woman at a high risk for getting COVID-19 or contracting a severe illness from COVID-19 to be vaccinated after consulting with their health care provider. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends COVID-19 vaccines be offered to pregnant women who meet the criteria for vaccination. The CDC advises the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant.
  • People with past severe allergic reactions to vaccines are advised to balance the risks of allergic reaction with the benefits of vaccination, and to be monitored after vaccination for any adverse side effects.

 

What will the vaccine cost?

You should not have to pay anything to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. There are two primary costs – the cost of the vaccine, and the cost of administering it to patients like you. The federal government will be paying for the initial cost of the vaccine, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is paying for the administration for its members. No member should receive any bill. Most employer health plans are picking up the cost of administering the shots, thereby relieving members of any out-of-pocket cost.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will waive all copays, deductibles and coinsurance for COVID-19 vaccines for commercial members.

For Medicare beneficiaries, the government is paying for the vaccine and administration of the vaccine.

Get the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant Video Series

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jim Grant is addressing common questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. Find all videos in the “Get the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant” series here:

Week of 2/22/2021 Are all the vaccines effective against COVID-19?  Is one vaccine better than the other? Will I be able to choose what vaccine I receive? 
Week of 3/1/2021 What are the steps a vaccine needs to through for approval? How could the COVID-19 vaccines be created so quickly? Should I talk to my doctor before receiving a vaccine?
Week of 3/8/2021 What is the impact of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine? How is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine different? Why is there only one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
Week of 3/15/2021 How do variants impact the effectiveness of vaccines? How do variants of COVID-19 develop? How do the variants impact life moving forward from the pandemic?
Week of 3/22/2021 How many people in the U.S. need to be vaccinated? What is herd immunity explained through an example? Will COVID-19 always be around like flu strains?
Week of 3/29/2021 What happens if I only get one shot of the two-shot vaccine? Will they give me the vaccine if I have had COVID-19? What are some myths about COVID-19 that need to be busted?
Week of 4/5/2021 When will the vaccines be available to the general public? How long does COVID-19 vaccine protection last?  After receiving a vaccine, can I test positive for COVID?
Week of 4/12/2021 Are there more vaccines that will be authorized by the FDA? What precautions should I continue after being vaccinated?

This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr. S. George Kipa, deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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