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Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine With Us & Other Important Information

COVID-19 Vaccine:

Whitman-Walker Health has COVID-19 vaccine available and is contacting Whitman-Walker patients and community members to schedule vaccination appointments.

 

The CDC now recommends booster shots for certain recipients of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Booster Shot Eligibility:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;

 

  • People ages 50 to 64 with high risk medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;

 

  • People ages 18 to 49 who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to high risk medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks; and

 

  • People ages 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

 

 

DC Residents:

You can find information on COVID-19 vaccine walk-up locations and eligibility at vaccinate.dc.gov, or by calling 1-855-363-0333. Track the speed of COVID-19 vaccination lines by visiting  coronavirus.dc.gov/dontwait.

 

  • All DC residents ages 12 and up are now eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
  • All DC residents residents who are 16 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Maryland Residents:

If you are a Maryland resident, learn more about the Maryland vaccine distribution process and schedule a vaccination appointment at COVIDlink.maryland.gov, or by calling 855-634-6829. If you live in Prince George’s County, visit their vaccination registration portal here. If you live in Montgomery County, visit their vaccination registration portal here, or call 240-777-0311 to schedule an appointment.

 

  • All Maryland residents ages 12 and up are now eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
  • All Maryland residents residents who are 16 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

 

Virginia Residents:

If you are a Virginia resident, learn more about the Virginia vaccine distribution process and schedule a vaccination appointment at vaccinate.virginia.gov, or by calling 877-829-4682.

  • All Virginia residents ages 12 and up are now eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
  • All Virginia residents residents who are 16 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

 


 

Scheduling your vaccine appointments:

Please note, if you get your first COVID-19 vaccine dose at a location other than Whitman-Walker, you can schedule your 2nd dose through Whitman-Walker. Please visit your state’s local health department website for more information about eligibility and scheduling for vaccination appointments.

 

Learn facts about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines and get more information on general prevention for the coronavirus from DC Health at coronavirus.dc.gov and from the CDC at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

 

Talk to Your Provider: If you are currently getting chemotherapy for cancer, are a transplant patient, are currently pregnant or breastfeeding, or have a history of severe allergies, we encourage you to speak to your provider before getting vaccinated.

 

 

Questions We Have Heard from Community:

 

1. Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

There is strong evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective. The Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were approved by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use in the United States because the data have shown that the vaccine is safe and effective.

 

There were more than 40,000 patients enrolled in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine study, approximately 40,000 patients enrolled in the Pfizer vaccine study, and approximately 30,000 patients enrolled in the Moderna vaccine study. The FDA will be reviewing other COVID-19 vaccines for approval, and all vaccines will go through the same rigorous FDA approval process. The FDA approval process is considered to be the most rigorous in the world.

 


 

2. Who was included in the clinical trials?

People of all races, ethnicities, and genders were included in the studies.

People aged 12 and older were included in the Pfizer vaccine study. People aged 18 and over were included in the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine studies.

 


 

3. I am Black. Will the vaccine be harmful to me?

The data have shown the vaccine is safe and effective for all races and ethnicities, including Black and African American people. Black and African American people took part in the COVID-19 vaccine trials. The results indicate that the vaccine causes only mild side effects in the majority of participants, regardless of race. The results also indicate that the vaccine is equally effective in all participants, regardless of race.

 


 

4. I am a person of color. How can I trust that the vaccine is safe?

The data have shown the vaccine is safe and effective for all races and ethnicities. These COVID-19 vaccine trials included a group of more than 110,000 participants, from different backgrounds and ethnicities, including people who identify as Black and African American. We understand that generations of experimentation on Black people and persons of color globally, has left many people untrusting of the medical field and wary of taking a vaccine. Science and ethics have continued to evolve together. Today, research is conducted with community advisory boards to ensure a quality, thoughtful and ethical study. Check out our Instagram Live video series on medical mistrust and the evolution of science here!

 


 

5. Is an emergency use authorization the same as a standard authorization?

No, it is not the same. But it is still a very high standard. There is strong evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective.

 


 

6. Were the studies rushed in order to get the vaccines distributed quickly? How did this vaccine get approved so quickly compared to other vaccines?

Efforts to develop the COVID-19 vaccines have not skipped steps. Neither scientific standards nor safety standards were lessened, or decreased, in any way.

 

One of the reasons that the trials were completed quickly is because of the high rates of COVID-19 infection in the US and around the world. This means that study participants were quickly and frequently exposed to people who were infected over the course of their everyday lives. This is not usually the situation when vaccines for other illnesses are tested—so it takes more time for those studies to determine effectiveness.

 

What is still being studied is how long the immunity will last. This is something that would normally be determined through a standard authorization process where the patients were followed over an extended period of time. That part of the trial is still going on. The emergency authorization process was created in order to quickly distribute vaccines once their safety and effectiveness have been established. It is not uncommon for vaccines to require booster doses in order to shore up, or support, the immune response. As they follow the study patients over a longer period, they may discover that patients need booster doses or they may not.

 


 

7. Can patients with HIV get the vaccine?

Yes. Patients with HIV have been approved to receive the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine.

 


 

8. What will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The vaccine will be free.

 


 

9. I’ve had COVID-19 before. Will I still be able to get vaccinated?

Yes. The CDC is recommending that people with prior COVID-19 infection do get vaccinated. Health officials say that the vaccine may provide a more “robust” immune response than getting the illness itself. Also, immunity to COVID-19 can wane. So, even if someone did test positive for COVID-19 in the past, a vaccine is still important. But if you are actively sick, you should wait to get the vaccine.

 


 

10. How long does the COVID-19 vaccine last once administered?

According to the CDC, it’s not yet known how long COVID-19 vaccine protection lasts. Recent studies show that protection against the virus may decrease over time. This reduction in protection has led the CDC to recommend certain groups get a booster shot at least 6 months after completing their initial vaccination series.

 


 

11. Can my minor child get the vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for use for ages 12 years and older. The Moderna vaccine is for ages 18 and older. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is for ages 18 and older.

 


 

12. Are there any side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?

While there is no evidence of long-term side effects, notable short-term side effects include fatigue, headache and possible low-grade fever. Most people say these symptoms last about a day. These symptoms are a sign that your body is building an immune response—in other words, that the vaccine is working.

 


 

13. Does the vaccine work/is it effective?

Primary efficacy analysis of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed them to be 95 and 94 percent effective, respectively. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has 72 percent efficacy. That is good efficacy. (For reference, the seasonal flu vaccine has an efficacy rate of 50 percent among some populations.) But that doesn’t mean you should throw away your masks or plan a large gathering just yet. COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death. COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19.

 


 

14. Do I still have to wear a mask and follow the current COVID-19 preventative guidelines if I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Once you are fully vaccinated (either 2 weeks after your 2-dose or 1-dose shot), the CDC has shared guidance on when fully vaccinated people should wear mask and when they don’t have to wear a mask. See more information here. If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends that during the pandemic people wear a mask and practice physical distancing when in contact with others, including others from your household, when in healthcare settings, and when receiving any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine.

 


 

15. There are several vaccines on the market. Are they all equally effective? Can I choose which one I want?

They are all effective, though some may be considered to be slightly more effective than others. We don’t believe the differences in effectiveness is something to worry about. What is most important is decreasing your chances of getting sick with COVID-19 and all the vaccines that we offer at Whitman-Walker will do this.

 


 

16. How does the vaccine work?

All of the vaccine platforms work essentially the same way. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines make use of something called mRNA technology. It works by injecting people with a tiny fat bubble, or lipid, containing a part of the “blueprint” material for the virus.

 

That blueprint gets into the muscle and eventually white blood cells. Then, the cells make a harmless piece of “spike protein,” which is the part on the outer surface of the COVID-19 virus that binds to and infects your cells.

 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a recombinant vector vaccine that uses a harmless adenovirus to make copies of the COVID-19 spike protein.

 

Your body then recognizes that the protein doesn’t belong there and builds an immune response, which is why you may feel some tenderness, headache or experience a low-grade fever after getting the vaccine.

 

The other vaccines in development stages work essentially the same way, though they’ll use different methods than the mRNA technology to show your body that harmless spike protein and prompt it to build an immune response to COVID-19.

 


 

17. I am due for other vaccines as well. Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine too?

Yes. At this time, CDC says that the COVID-19 vaccine may be administered with other vaccines without regard to timing.

 


 

18. Does the vaccine work as post-exposure prophylaxis?

The CDC does not recommend using the COVID-19 vaccine as post-exposure prophylaxis. Individuals with an exposure to COVID-19 should wait until their quarantine period has ended before being vaccinated.

 


 

19. Does substance use affect the COVID-19 vaccine?

If a person participates in ongoing or irregular substance use (such as use of meth, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, etc.), they should still consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine. There are no contraindications, or reasons to not be vaccinated, due to use of substances.

 


 

20. What happens when I am fully vaccinated? 

    • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.

 

    • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

 

 

    • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
        • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.

       

        • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.

       

        • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.

       

        • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.

 

    • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
      • However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

 

The CDC shared recommendations on how to safely gather for folks who have been fully vaccinated. Learn more here.

 


 

21. Can I get a Pfizer COVID vaccine booster dose if I got the Moderna vaccine previously?

No. This is not authorized under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and there is not yet evidence to support a need for Moderna booster vaccines, although it is expected that the FDA will review this as data becomes available.  It is important to remember that the Moderna vaccines was granted their EUA later than the Pfizer vaccine, so it hasn’t been in use for as long.

 


 

22. Can I get the Pfizer COVID vaccine booster dose if I go the J&J vaccine previously?

No. This is not authorized under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and there is not yet evidence to support Johnson & Johnson (J&J) booster vaccines, although it is expected that the FDA will review this as data becomes available.  It is important to remember that the J&J vaccine was the last vaccine in the U.S. to be granted their EUA.  It also isn’t an mRNA vaccine and was designed as a single dose, so while we can expect the recommendation to probably be similar for the Moderna vaccine in the long run, this isn’t as straight forward with the J&J vaccine which is an adenovirus vector vaccine.

 


 

23. What is the difference between a booster dose and an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine?

There are two distinct potential uses for an “extra dose” of COVID-19 vaccine: a booster dose and an additional dose.  A booster dose is a third dose of the vaccine after the initial good immune response has started to decrease in effectiveness, while an additional dose is given as part of the initial vaccine series to those individuals who are unlikely to mount a good immune response to the initial vaccine series because they are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

 


 

24. Does this change the definition of “fully vaccinated” for those eligible for booster shots?

No. People are still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-shot series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This definition applies to all people, including those who receive an additional dose as recommended for moderate to severely immunocompromised people and those who receive a booster shot.

 


 

25. Who is most at risk of hospitalization and death from COVID?

Nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 continue to occur among the unvaccinated. The CDC emphasizes that the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 are those who are unvaccinated, and the nation’s priority should remain getting everyone fully vaccinated.

 

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