COVID-19 Vaccines: Get the Facts
Editor’s note: This post was first published Jan. 22, 2021 and was last updated at July 28, 2021, with COVID vaccine updates from state and federal health officials. This post will be updated monthly.
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 May 12, all Michiganders age 12 and up are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine. The Michigan health department, in accordance with CDC guidelines, is recommending providers vaccinate individuals in this age group.
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: get a vaccine, wear a mask indoors if you are not vaccinated, wash your hands, practice social distancing and limit gatherings outside of your household.
Individuals who are fully vaccinated can resume activities as they did prior to the pandemic and do not have to wear masks or physical distance, except for where required by law, rules or regulations, including local business and workplace guidance, as a result of updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of June 22, Michigan residents do not need to wear a mask in most places with some exceptions, including in health care settings. However, due to the emerging prevalence of the more contagious Delta variant and the need for more individuals to become vaccinated, the CDC is advising fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask indoors in public if you’re in an area of substantial or high transmission.
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 July 13, the FDA advises there is a risk of a rare side effect — Guillain-Barre syndrome — associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
To view the latest available vaccine pipeline dashboard, click here (last updated May 13).
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:
|Two Shots||Side Effects|
|Prior COVID-19 Infections||Myths|
|Cost||Get the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant Video Series|
When will COVID vaccines be available to me?
Vaccines are widely available. All Michiganders age 12 and up are eligible to receive a vaccine.
Initially, health officials in Michigan distributed 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.
- Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine by visiting Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine
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?
Vaccines are widely available across the U.S. Appointments may be necessary, but some locations may offer walk-in vaccinations. Retail pharmacies across the country are offering the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC also has an online tool to help people find vaccination opportunities near where they live.
- Search for a COVID-19 vaccination location on VaccineFinder.org
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
Primary care providers may also be providing vaccines as the supply allows. Federally qualified health centers across Michigan also offer vaccines.
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.
What are the potential side effects?
Side effects to the COVID-19 vaccines may include:
- Pain and swelling at the injection site
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. As of July 13, the FDA advises there is a risk of a rare side effect — Guillain-Barre syndrome — associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
How many COVID vaccines have been administered?
As of July 28, 2021, here’s how many vaccines have been administered:
- Michigan: 4,623,302 people fully vaccinated; 53.8% of eligible population vaccinated
- U.S.: 163,312,474 people fully vaccinated; 57.6% of eligible population over the age of 12 vaccinated
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.
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.
- Related: What to Know About the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
- Related: Some COVID Long-Haulers Report Reprieve After Vaccination
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 11. As of May 10, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for persons age 12 and older, but 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.
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:
This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr. S. George Kipa, deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
More from MIBluesPerspectives.com:
- COVID-19: What You Need to Know
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will provide $0 cost sharing for COVID-19 vaccine coverage
- Grant: What We Know About the COVID-19 Vaccines
Photo credit: Geber86