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COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers

Frequently Asked Questions

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VACCINE BASICS

How are the COVID-19 vaccines given?

Similar to the flu vaccine, a COVID-19 vaccine is given as a shot into the muscle of the upper arm. Currently, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses 3 or 4 weeks apart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that some people get a supplemental dose (also called boosters). This is given the same way as the initial vaccines.

Can I get other vaccines at the same time as my COVID-19 shot?

Yes, you can get other vaccines, including the flu shot, as the same time as an initial or booster COVID-19 vaccination.

Will I be able to choose which vaccine I receive?

Yes. You will be able to choose which vaccine you receive. However, the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine authorized for those under age 18 (and is fully FDA approved for those 16 and older). Studies have shown all three vaccines are almost 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and death. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released all three vaccines for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) given the expected benefits of these vaccines outweigh any potential risks.

I already had COVID-19, should I still get a vaccine?

Yes. At this time, the data support vaccination for those who had COVID-19. We know you can get the virus more than once, plus it remains unclear how long protection from infection lasts. There is also concern that infection may not offer protection against newer variants. Getting a vaccine after having COVID-19 will provide an additional boost to your body’s immune system against the virus. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer choice to protect yourself, your loved ones and our community.

If you had COVID-19, you should NOT come to a medical facility until:

  • It has been 10 days since you first had signs of COVID-19 or a positive COVID-19 test AND
  • You have been fever-free for 24 hours without using any fever-reducing medications AND
  • Your other symptoms of COVID-19 are getting better.

If you received a monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19, you should wait at least 90 days before receiving a vaccine as there could be a risk that the antibody might interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

Is there a minimum age to receive the vaccine?

Yes. If you are receiving the Pfizer vaccine, the minimum age is 12. If you are receiving the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the minimum age is 18. Scientists are still testing whether these vaccines will work for younger people.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19?

If you are a UNC Health patient and need to get a COVID-19 test, here's how you can get tested:

  • Schedule your test using My UNC Chart and selecting “Schedule an Appointment” from the menu. 
  • Contact your UNC Health provider https://healthtalk.unchealthcare.org/when-can-young-children-get-vaccinated/ and ask to be scheduled for the test. 

If you are not a patient at UNC Health, here is how you can get tested:

VACCINE BOOSTERS

Why are boosters of the COVID-19 vaccines being recommended?

Your body’s immunity to many viruses, whether acquired naturally or through a vaccine, declines over time. A booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine that gives a “boost” to your immunity and provides better protection from disease. Many routine vaccines require more than one shot to maintain immunity. For example, adults should get a Tdap booster every 10 years; that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). With a booster, the immunity that has already been established by a vaccine is stimulated again. So, in a way, the booster serves as a reminder to the immune system’s memory, which can fade over time after vaccination.

Studies show that some people with weakened immune systems do not respond fully to COVID-19 vaccination and that a third dose of the vaccine can boost the levels of antibodies the body makes to fight COVID-19. In addition, the delta variant, which is responsible for almost all COVID-19 cases in the United States right now, is much more easily spread than previous variants of the COVID-19 virus. Higher levels of immunity, such as those produced by a booster shot, may be needed to better protect against this variant, especially for those who are immunocompromised, were vaccinated earlier, or at risk for severe COVID-19.

Do I need a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

The CDC has recommended that individuals with a weakened immune system who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines obtain a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, as part of a three-dose primary series. Ideally the third dose should be of the same type they have already received. Examples of those with weakened immune systems include, but are not limited to, those who have had a solid organ transplant such as a kidney or lung, have advanced or untreated HIV, or are undergoing chemotherapy or receiving other immune-suppressing treatment. 

In addition, the CDC recently expanded eligibility for a booster vaccine to those 65 and older who received the Pfizer shots initially, people 18 years of age or older at high risk for COVID-19 complications, and those who work or live in places where exposure to COVID-19 may be high such as healthcare workers, teachers and day care employees.

If you meet any of these criteria and are a UNC Health patient, you can schedule your appointment for a supplemental dose through My UNC Chart.

Supplemental doses are widely available at local pharmacies and through NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). If you are not a UNC Health patient, visit the NCDHHS website for a full listing of where vaccines are available in your community.

If you are unsure if you qualify, talk to your healthcare provider about your medical condition and whether getting a supplemental dose is appropriate for you.

If I received Johnson & Johnson vaccine, will I need a second dose?

Right now, people who initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not yet eligible for a booster. There are study data expected shortly that will help the FDA determine how best to boost people who received this vaccine. Similarly, for those who initially were vaccinated with Moderna and are not immunocompromised, a booster dose has not been authorized by the FDA but may be soon.

How soon after completing my original COVID-19 vaccination series should I receive the supplemental dose?

If you are immunocompromised and eligible for a third dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you can receive your third dose 28 days or more after your second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. If you are eligible for a booster for a reason other than being immunocompromised, and initially received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, you can get a booster shot six months or more after the second Pfizer dose.

If it is not time for me to receive an extra dose, what should I do?

By being fully vaccinated you still have a much lower risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 than those who are not vaccinated. However, you should continue to follow all of the recommended COVID-19 precautions (remaining in your household bubble, wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, practicing good hand hygiene and disinfecting potentially contaminated surfaces) to protect your loved ones, coworkers and community.  

Do I need to receive the extra dose from the same manufacturer of my first COVID-19 vaccination series (if I had Pfizer, can I get Moderna instead?)

At this time, it is recommended that you receive supplemental doses from the same vaccine manufacturer as your original vaccination.

Does getting a booster use vaccine supply that could have been given as an initial vaccine to someone outside of the United States?

This is a legitimate concern. COVID-19 is much more likely to continue to be a major health crisis if many people across the world remain unvaccinated. New variants may emerge in places outside the United States where vaccination is less available, causing illness and death among people there and potentially spreading here. The U.S. federal government has stated there is ample supply of vaccine to provide initial and booster doses in the United States, as well as 500 million to 1 billion doses for donation to other countries in need of vaccines.

Will additional booster shots (beyond a third shot) be required in the future?

Future booster shots may be needed to keep immunity against COVID-19 high and protect against any new variants. Whether or not we will we face a future with annual COVID-19 boosters depends on many factors including the durability of the protection provided by the vaccines, the proportion of the population that remains unvaccinated, and how much COVID-19 is being spread.

YOUR VACCINE APPOINTMENT

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

UNC Health offers vaccines at multiple locations throughout North Carolina. You can see all locations with open appointments when scheduling your appointment or by calling (984) 215-5485. We encourage minors to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Supplemental doses are widely available at local pharmacies and through NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). Visit the NCDHHS website for a full listing of where vaccines are available in your community.

Do I have to live in the county where I get the vaccine?

No. You can go to any location that is most convenient for you.

Where can I find my appointment details?

If you have a My UNC Chart account, you can find your appointment details there. If you do not have a My UNC Chart account, you should have received a confirmation email or text message with appointment details.

You can call 984-215-5485 with any questions or concerns. The scheduling line is open 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

How can I change or cancel my vaccination appointment?

If you have a My UNC Chart account, you can reschedule or cancel your appointment there. If you do not have a My UNC Chart account, please call 984-215-5485. The scheduling line is open 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

How long will I need to wait after receiving my shot before I can drive home?

Everyone is monitored for at least 15 minutes after getting the shot. Please plan to wait up to 30 minutes after you receive your vaccine before you can leave to drive home.

Is there a cost for UNC Health patients to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

There will be no charge to patients. If you have insurance, we will bill your insurance company. The patient will have no responsibility for any payment.

I received a phone call from UNC Health asking for my personal information including my social security number so I could get the COVID-19 vaccines. Why would they need this?

UNC Health will never ask patients for personal information such as social security numbers, bank accounts or other financial data. COVID-19 vaccines are not for sale, and no one representing themselves as having vaccines for sale is a legitimate representative of UNC Health or the UNC Health Alliance.

SAFETY

How can I be sure the vaccines are effective and safe?

UNC Health is confident in the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were each studied in large clinical trials that enrolled tens of thousands of people. These trials include both women and men from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. They found that the vaccines are well-tolerated with no unexpected unfavorable effects.

The FDA continues to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. Over 200 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (more that 180 million have been fully vaccinated). Worldwide almost half of all people on the planet have had a COVID-19 shot. Serious side effects following vaccination with the three vaccines used in the United States have been extremely rare.

About a dozen women out of several million who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine developed a rare type of stroke. In addition, myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, has been observed especially in young men and boys who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Most of these cases resolved quickly. In one large study of people receiving the Pfizer vaccine, there was a slightly higher risk of myocarditis among those vaccinated compared to those unvaccinated. However, for those who were not vaccinated and got infected, there was a much higher risk of myocarditis compared to those who did not get infected. Therefore, when it comes to myocarditis, COVID-19 was a greater risk than vaccination.

Did those who made or approved the vaccines cut any corners to make it available faster?

The development of the COVID-19 vaccines – and the clinical trials testing their safety and effectiveness – were accomplished in record time but without any cutting of corners or disregarding of standard research procedures. This was to respond to the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Scientists from across the world, including at UNC, worked hard to conduct large, rigorous studies to ensure the safety of the vaccines before they became available. These clinical trials also included a diverse group of participants. In addition, two groups of non-government scientists – along with the FDA and CDC – independently reviewed the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine before they became available in the U.S.

Can the vaccines cause COVID-19?

No. The vaccines do not contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. All of the COVID-19 vaccines work by helping your body build up its defenses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Are there any groups who should NOT get a vaccine?

At this time, children under the age of 12 cannot get a vaccine.

If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, especially to vaccines, discuss getting the COVID-19 vaccine with your doctor and possibly an allergist. If you have a known allergy to the components of the COVID-19 vaccines, you should not receive them.

If you have a history of fainting with needles or a fear of shots, the CDC recommends doing the following:

  • Have a beverage or snack before getting your vaccine.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply before getting the vaccine and think of something relaxing.
  • Sit or lie down after you receive your vaccine.

Note: Pregnant women are encouraged by to get the COVID-19 vaccine by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

If someone has allergies, including allergies to the flu vaccine, should they receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

At this time, only those with a known allergy to the components of the COVID-19 vaccines should not receive them. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions – especially to vaccines – you should discuss your situation with your primary care provider before scheduling your vaccination appointment. For all other types of allergies including to food, pollens, pets, insect stings, latex and oral medications, the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly recommended. Additionally, a history of allergic reactions to other vaccines may not indicate an allergy to this one.

Everyone is monitored for at least 15 minutes after getting the shot, and if you have a history of severe allergic reactions, you will be monitored for 30 minutes. It is important that you share any history of severe allergic reactions to those providing a COVID-19 vaccine, so you can be monitored appropriately.

Although the likelihood of a bad reaction is very small, our patients’ safety is our priority and our medical staff is fully prepared. The observation period is required, medication (epinephrine) is available, and everyone has the right training to make sure you are safe.

EFFECTIVENESS OF THE VACCINES

How long is the COVID-19 vaccine effective?

Studies are looking at how long the vaccines provide protection from getting infected with or sick with COVID-19. At present, the data suggest the vaccine remain effective for at least 6 months to a year.

Are the vaccines effective against the new types of COVID-19?

Viruses are constantly changing, and new versions—called variants—can develop. At present, the delta variant is responsible for almost all COVID-19 cases in the US. The three vaccines available in the United States provide high levels of protection against severe disease due to delta. However, there has been some decrease in vaccines’ protection from becoming infected with this variant. Among those who get infected despite being fully vaccinated, there is not only a reduced risk of progressing to severe COVID-19 but also a short time that the virus can be found in the nose or throat – meaning a lower likelihood to spread the infection to others.

Can I still get COVID-19 if I have been vaccinated?

Yes, but the vast majority of breakthrough cases are mild or even asymptomatic (no symptoms). Vaccines aren’t meant to completely prevent infection or even mild cases. The main goal of any vaccine is to keep you from getting very sick and needing to go to the hospital or dying if the virus enters your body. That is what we are seeing now, with over 90 percent of those getting hospitalized with COVID-19 being those who are not vaccinated.

SIDE EFFECTS

Will I experience side effects right after I get the vaccine?

Your arm may be sore, red or warm to the touch after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Other possible side effects include a headache, fever, chills or muscle aches – especially after receiving the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. These symptoms usually go away on their own within 1-2 days. Side effects are normal and are a sign the vaccine is working. If you get a sore arm, it can help to move it often. For headaches and body aches, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is preferred, but you can take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) if needed. Rest if you can.

Are there long-term side effects to the vaccines?

In clinical trials, there have been no reports of long-term side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines. Since then, a small number of people out of millions were diagnosed with a rare type of stroke after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All of the people diagnosed with this stroke have been adult women. 

What should I do if I have any side effects or adverse reactions after my vaccine?

You should talk to your primary care doctor if you are concerned about your side effects. If you do not have a doctor, please call the place where you received your shot with any concerns.

VACCINES FOR CHILDREN

Can my child get a vaccine without parental consent?

Parents and guardians are encouraged to attend COVID-19 vaccine appointments with adolescent patients. If you cannot attend an appointment with your child, you can provide consent over the phone. However, NC Carolina law permits minors to self-consent for medical health services for the prevention of COVID-19.

Is the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine effective for this age group?

In a clinical trial, involving 2,260 people ages 12 to 15, the Pfizer vaccine was found to be as – or more – effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 when compared to the studies with adults. None of the adolescents in the clinical trial who received the vaccine developed symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.  

What side effects did this age group experience from the Pfizer vaccine?

Almost all of the side effects experienced by the adolescents who received the vaccine in the clinical trial were expected, including a sore arm, headache, feeling tired, muscle aches and chills. These side effects were very similar to what they have seen in studies of adults who get the Pfizer vaccine.

We suggest you avoid scheduling a vaccine appointment the day before a final exam, dance recital, camp, travel or an important sporting event  – just in case.

Can my child get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine with other planned vaccines?

Yes, other vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccine can be received on the same day. 

My child is scared of needles. What should I do?

If your child has a fear of shots and/or needles, we suggest you do not tell them about the appointment too far in advance. It may be worse for them if they have too much time to think about it. Instead, wait for the day of the appointment to explain why they need the shot. You can tell them that it will keep them, their friends and loved ones safe, and help us return to a more normal life.

Make sure you tell the person who is administering your child’s shot if they have a history of fainting with needles. If your child has fainted while getting a shot before, the CDC recommends they do the following:

  • Have a beverage or snack before getting your vaccine.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply before getting the vaccine and think of something relaxing.
  • Sit or lie down after you receive your vaccine.

YOUR SECOND DOSE

How do I schedule my second dose of the vaccine?

If you receive a two-dose vaccine, you will make your appointment for your second dose of the vaccine at your first vaccine appointment. If you need to change your appointment for your second dose, you can do so in My UNC Chart.

If you do not have a UNC MyChart account, please call (984) 215-5485.  The scheduling line is open 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Can I schedule my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at UNC Health if I received the first one elsewhere?

UNC Health asks that you get your second dose at the same location where you received your first dose. If you are unable to get a vaccine at the location where you received your first dose, please call 984-215-5485. The scheduling line is open 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

What if I test positive for COVID-19 after getting the first dose of a vaccine?

If you got a vaccine that requires two doses and you test positive for COVID-19 after your first dose, you should NOT come in for your second vaccine until:

  • It has been 10 days since you first had signs of COVID-19 or a positive COVID-19 test AND
  • You have been fever-free for 24 hours without using any fever-reducing medications AND
  • Your other symptoms of COVID-19 are getting better.

If you received monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19, please wait for at least 90 days before scheduling your second-dose appointment.

If you have a My UNC Chart account, you may cancel your appointment online by going to www.myuncchart.org. If you do not have a My UNC Chart account, please call the location where you received your first shot to cancel or reschedule your appointment or call (984)-215-5485.

BECOMING FULLY VACCINATED

How soon after I get a COVID-19 vaccine – either first or second dose – can I spend time with others? Do I still need to wear a mask?

It takes time for your body to build up protections against COVID-19 after your vaccine. If you get a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), you are considered to be fully protected from COVID two weeks after receiving your second dose. If you get a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson), you are considered fully protected two weeks after receiving your vaccine. Given the spread of the delta variant, even if you are fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends you still wear a mask.

Do I still need to quarantine if I have been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19 even if I am fully vaccinated?

According to the CDC, you should quarantine if you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 unless you have been fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. However, fully vaccinated people should get tested three to five days after their exposure even if they don’t have symptoms.

Get Your Vaccine Today

Schedule an appointment to receive your COVID-19 Vaccine at a UNC Health facility. We offer both two-dose (Pfizer and Moderna) and one-dose (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines.

Schedule your Appointment

Booster Guidance

Read latest guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccines- who is eligible, which vaccine needs a booster, and more.

View Booster Guidance

UNC Health Immunization Records (including Covid-19 Vaccination)

Your UNC Health immunization record can be found in My UNC Chart.  If you have My UNC Chart, you can login to access these records. If you do not have My UNC Chart and would like to activate your account, you may activate online at https://myuncchart.org/MyChart/accesscheck.asp or by calling UNC HealthLink at;(888) 996-2767. You may also contact UNC Health Medical Records at 984-974-3226 for a copy of your Epic@UNC immunization record, but please note that they will not be distributing CDC Vaccination Cards.

NC DHHS Immunization Record

You may also contact NC DHHS on their Help Desk number at (877) 873-6247 to get your vaccination records printout.