COVID-19 Vaccines: Get the Facts

by Blues Perspectives

| 8 min read

A Black man in a mask smiles as he prepares to receive a vaccine.
Editor’s note: This post was first published Jan. 22, 2021 and was last updated June 30, 2022, with COVID vaccine updates from state and federal health officials.
Click here to view an archive of the "Get the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant" series COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and widely available in preventing severe illness. All Michiganders age six months old and up are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine. Health experts are urge everyone to continue following COVID-19 precautions: get a vaccine, wear a mask indoors if you are not vaccinated and to frequently wash your hands. There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines both require two doses to be effective in most cases; except for children age four and under who need three doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine requires only one dose. Here's the latest news on COVID vaccines:
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be used in children ages six months to four years old and for the Moderna vaccine to be used in children ages six months to 17 years old.
  • The CDC advises everyone age 5 years old and up is eligible for a booster dose. Learn more here.
  • Federal health officials are advising that women who are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant get vaccinated against COVID.
  • The FDA advises there is a risk of a rare side effect -- Guillain-Barre syndrome -- associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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. However, if you're in an area of substantial or high transmission, the CDC advises fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask in public. 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:
AvailabilityLocations
Two ShotsSide Effects
Vaccination TrackerEffectiveness
Prior COVID-19 InfectionsMyths
DevelopmentAt-Risk Groups
CostGet the Facts with Dr. Jim Grant Video Series

When will COVID vaccines be available to me?

Vaccines are widely available. All Michiganders age six months old and up are eligible to receive a vaccine. Find a vaccination location near you by visiting vaccines.gov. Once you are vaccinated, 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.
  • Find a vaccination location near you by visiting vaccines.gov.
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 in adults and children; however, children ages six months to four years old need three doses of the Pfizer vaccine to achieve best results. The second and third doses of the vaccines are identical to the first doses of the same brand. COVID-19 vaccines that require two or three 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. 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. For children under four years of age who receive the Pfizer vaccine, all three doses must be of the Pfizer vaccine. Johnson and Johnson's Janssen vaccine is administered in one dose. You may need a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more here:
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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. The FDA advises there is a risk of a rare side effect -- Guillain-Barre syndrome -- associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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.

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).

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

There are some groups that are not be able to get vaccinated:
  • Infants under six months of age.
Some individuals might want to talk to their doctor about the best course of action:
  • 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 2/22/2021Are 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 3/1/2021What 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 3/8/2021What 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 3/15/2021How 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 3/22/2021How 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 3/29/2021What 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 4/5/2021When 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 4/12/2021Are there more vaccines that will be authorized by the FDA?What precautions should I continue after being vaccinated?Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA? Why has the distribution of Johnson & Johnson vaccines been paused?
Week of 4/19/2021Does the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contain a live virus?When am I considered fully vaccinated?What can I do once I've been vaccinated?
Week of 4/26/2021What are we still learning about COVID-19 vaccines?Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?What are vaccine breakthrough cases? 
Week of 5/3/2021How is COVID-19 vaccine efficacy monitored?Is vaccine safety actively being monitored?Is there a difference between natural vs. vaccine immunity?
Week of 5/10/2021Will there be a COVID-19 vaccine for children?When will children be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?Is it safe to see family members who are too young to be vaccinated?
Week of 5/17/2021What data did the FDA use to make the decision to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in 12-15 year olds?Should I still get my second dose if I miss my appointment?Is the second dose of an mRNA vaccine different from the first?
Week of 5/24/2021What happens if I skip the second dose of the COVID vaccine?Should I wait to get the vaccine if I've had COVID?What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?
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:
Photo credit: Geber86 

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55 Comments

B
Blues Perspectives

Jun 15, 2021 at 2:26pm

Barbara, sorry to hear about your brother. There was a temporary pause of the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to give officials time to investigate 28 cases of a rare blood clot condition. After reviewing the cases, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was safe and effective to use against COVID-19. More info here: CDC Recommends Use of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Resume | CDC

B
Blues Perspectives

Jun 7, 2021 at 4:03pm

Hi Deloris, if your friend received treatment for COVID-19, he needs to talk to his health care provider before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, as there are certain types of treatments that require a waiting period before vaccination. However, if your friend did not require treatment for COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise he can get the vaccine anytime. More info here: Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination | CDC

B
Blues Perspectives

Jun 7, 2021 at 4:01pm

Hi Robert, we’ve got a list of the side effects here. These side effects mean your immune system is responding by producing an immune response and is completely normal. Typically, they last a few days. Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. If you believe your side effects are persisting, call your doctor.

B
Blues Perspectives

Jun 7, 2021 at 4:01pm

Hi Tom, experts believe booster shots may be needed in the future to maintain immunity against the coronavirus. It’s important that both doses of the vaccine be from the same manufacturer. If you received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you should get the same product for your second shot.

A
Amy Barczy

Jun 4, 2021 at 5:27pm

Hi Stella, it’s important for you to ask your health care provider about the COVID-19 vaccine – especially if you’re on a medication regimen. They’ll have the most up-to-date advice that’s specific to your health needs and concerns.

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