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About the Vaccine
About the Vaccine
Multiple safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines started arriving in Massachusetts in December 2020. This is a major step forward in our fight to end this pandemic, but it’s critical that we continue to use all the tools we have to slow the spread of the virus, like wearing masks, social distancing, and limiting in-person gatherings.
When can I get the vaccine?
Massachusetts residents will get access to the vaccine in phases. First vaccine doses (Phase 1) will go to people at highest risk for COVID-19 including health care workers, residents, and staff of congregate care settings including nursing homes, and first responders. The general public (those not falling into one of the higher risk categories) is not expected to be offered the vaccine until later in 2021. This schedule may be subject to change. Please sign up for City alerts at www.somervillema.gov/alerts to get updates on local vaccine availability.
Where can I go to get the vaccine once it’s available?
Once the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to the public, you can search for a public vaccine clinic on the CDC’s interactive website: vaccinefinder.org. Once the vaccine is locally available, you can also check with your primary care provider, local pharmacy, or local health department. Information will also be available from the City of Somerville and the Massachusetts Department of Health. Please sign up for City alerts at www.somervillema.gov/alerts to get updates on local vaccine availability.
How do I prepare to get vaccinated?
Stay informed about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Somerville by signing up for alerts at somervillema.gov/alerts. Through the alert system, the City of Somerville will notify residents when, where, and how to get vaccinated according to the vaccine phases determined by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. You can also stay informed by checking this website (somervillema.gov/covidvaccine) and the mass.gov/vaccine.
How the Vaccine Works
How does the vaccine work in the body?
COVID-19 vaccines teach the body how to recognize the virus that causes COVID-19 and get you ready to fight it if you are exposed. The two COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized by the FDA are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. Both of these vaccines use strands of genetic material (called messenger ribonucleic acid or mRNA) to give your body instructions for making proteins. These proteins harmlessly mimic certain aspects of the coronavirus. This in turn prepares your immune system to recognize the actual coronavirus and produce antibodies to protect against illness. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.
How long does it take for the vaccine to start working?
It will take time for your body to build immunity to the coronavirus after being vaccinated. The vaccine may not start to protect you until 1-2 weeks after receiving the second dose. It is important to continue following public health guidelines such as social distancing and wearing a mask, even after being vaccinated. Because the current vaccines are not yet 100% effective (clinical trials found them to be 94%-95% effective), it will be important for everyone including vaccinated persons to remain vigilant until public health officials advise otherwise.
What are the benefits of getting a vaccine?
Vaccines are an important tool in helping to stop the pandemic. Other safety measures - such as physical social distancing and wearing masks - are necessary to slow transmission, but vaccines are the only safe way to create immunity to the coronavirus. Building immunity will prevent illness and death caused by COVID-19, and will eventually allow for each of us to live a more safe and less restricted life.
How effective are the vaccines?
Both of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 for the vaccine recipient. In clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was shown to be 95% effective at preventing illness, and the Moderna vaccine was shown to be 94% effective. According to the CDC, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get sick with COVID-19.
Is the vaccine safe?
Before any vaccine is made available, it undergoes extensive development and testing. The FDA approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine after reviewing data from clinical trials with 44,000 and 30,000 participants, respectively. In its review of the data, the FDA found that the potential side effects of the vaccines are mild, and concluded that the vaccines have a favorable safety profile.
What are the most commonly reported side-effects of the vaccine?
The most commonly reported side effects typically last several days and tend to be mild. They include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. After two months of follow-up from clinical trial participants, the FDA concluded that there were no long-term adverse effects that would make the vaccines unsafe for the general population. Serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to the current vaccines have been reported but are extremely rare.
When, Where, and How to Get the Vaccine
When can I get the vaccine?
Massachusetts residents will get access to the vaccine in phases. First vaccine doses (Phase 1) will go to people at highest risk for COVID-19 including health care workers, residents and staff of congregate care settings including nursing homes, and first responders. The general public (those not falling into one of the higher risk categories) is not expected to be offered the vaccine until later in 2021. This schedule may be subject to change. Please sign up for City alerts at www.somervillema.gov/alerts to get updates on local vaccine availability.
The vaccine will be available in the following phases:
- Phase 1 (December 2020 – February 2021): Approved vaccines start to go to priority groups (listed in order of priority):
- Clinical and non-clinical health care workers doing direct and COVID-facing care
- Long term care facilities, rest homes, and assisted living facilities
- Police, fire, and emergency medical services
- Congregate care settings (including corrections and shelters)
- Home-based health care workers
- Health care workers doing non-COVID-facing care
- Phase 2 (February – March 2021; listed in order of priority):
- Individuals age 75+
- Individuals age 65+, individuals with 2+ comorbidities (only those conditions listed as at increased risk for severe illness)
- Other workers, including:
- Early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, restaurant and cafe workers;
- Employees across the food, beverages, agriculture, consumer goods, retail, and foodservice sectors;
- Sanitation, public works and public health workers;
- Vaccine development workers;
- Food pantry workers and volunteers;
- Transit/transportation: Uber/Lyft/ride share services/pharmacy delivery drivers, workers in the passenger ground transportation industry (e.g. paratransit for people with Disabilities, food delivery, non-urgent medical transport), Massport workers other than police;
- Convenience store workers (under grocery workers);
- Water and wastewater utility staff
- Court system workers (judges, prosecutors, defense attorney, clerks), other than court officers who are listed under first responders
- Medical supply chain workers
- Funeral directors and funeral workers
- Shipping port and terminal workers
- Individuals with one co-morbid condition
- Phase 3 (Starting in April 2021): Vaccine is expected to be available to the general public.
You can learn more about the vaccine distribution timeline on the Massachusetts Department of Health’s website.
Where can I go to get the vaccine once it’s available?
Once the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to the public, you can search for a public vaccine clinic on the CDC’s interactive website: vaccinefinder.org.Once the vaccine is locally available, you can also check with your primary care provider, local pharmacy, or local health department. Information will also be available from the City of Somerville and the Massachusetts Department of Health. Please sign up for City alerts at www.somervillema.gov/alerts to get updates on local vaccine availability.
Is the vaccine free?
The vaccine is being provided free of charge to all individuals by the federal government. Insurance companies are also committed to not charging any out-of-pocket fees or co-payments related to COVID-19 vaccine administration, and all health care provider sites that receive COVID-19 vaccine must agree to not charge patients any out-of-pocket fees or deny anyone vaccination services.
What to Expect When You Get Vaccinated
What can I expect during my first and second vaccination appointments?
The vaccine is administered in two doses. You will need to come in for two vaccination appointments.
During your appointment, you will receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where you received it. You will also receive a paper or electronic version of a fact sheet that tells you more about the specific COVID-19 vaccine you are being offered. Each authorized COVID-19 vaccine has its own fact sheet that contains information to help you understand the risks and benefits of receiving that specific vaccine. After receiving the vaccine, you will be monitored on-site for 15 minutes.
After receiving your first dose of the vaccine, you will need to return 3-4 weeks later for a second dose. You must get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first one, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get a second shot.
You may want to sign up for v-safe, which is a smartphone app offered by the CDC. V-safe offers personalized health check-ins, allows you to report any side effects, and reminds you to follow up for your second dose. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/vsafe.
Will I be immune from COVID-19 after getting vaccinated?
Data from clinical trials showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to be 95% and 94% effective, respectively, at preventing illness from the coronavirus. It is unknown how long the protection from the vaccine will last. It is also unknown whether it is possible for vaccinated individuals to unknowingly become infected and spread the coronavirus, even if they do not become ill themselves.
Do I still need to take precautions (e.g. wearing a mask, social distancing) after getting vaccinated?
Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. (source: Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination | CDC as of 12/21/20.
January 20, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. Cambridge Health Alliance presents “Senior to Senior: COVID Q&A with Dr. Matthew Corey”
January 22, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. Cambridge Health alliance presents “Anciano a Anciano: Tu Manera de Permanecer Conectado Virtualmente”, a senior to senior event in Spanish
A conversation in Spanish with primary care provider Maria Terra, APRN. Join via Zoom at www.zoom.us/j/98643513484 or 646-876-9923, ext. 986 4351 3484#. For additional information about this event, please contact CHA at 617-806-8778.