What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Published 5:36 pm Friday, January 8, 2021

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With information provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health, the following Q and A has answers to what a lot of people have been asking about the COVID-19 vaccine.


Who is getting the vaccine now?

Alabama is still trying to get more of its frontline health care workers and nursing home residents vaccinated before moving to the next phase of its plan, which includes vaccinating people over the age of 75 and essential frontline workers.

However, some counties have made enough progress in getting the vaccine to health care workers and have begun offering the vaccine to other groups, including first responders, teachers and people over 75.

Who is in the next group?

Frontline healthcare workers, Americans over the age of 65, and people with certain pre-existing medical conditions will be eligible in the next few months.

When will everyone else get it?

State health officials expect the vaccine to be available to the general public by this summer.

What about children?

The vaccines have not yet been approved for use in children, but trials are under way.

How will I know when it is my turn?

Alabama health officials will make broad announcements when it’s time for new groups of people to receive the vaccine statewide, but smaller amounts of vaccine are being made available through county health departments, as supplies allow.

For example, Etowah County began offering the vaccine to residents over 75 and some teachers and school employees this week, and many hospitals or county health departments have offered vaccine to police, first responders and other emergency personnel who weren’t explicitly included in Phase 1a of the vaccine plan.

Where do you get the vaccine?

In Alabama, vaccines are now available in 16 large hospitals, 27 smaller medical centers and three independent pharmacies spread across the state. Each county health department in Alabama also received a small shipment of vaccines.

More providers are signing up to be able to distribute the vaccine, including private doctor’s offices and chain pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. In the coming weeks and months, you will likely be able to make an appointment and receive the vaccine at many chain pharmacies, urgent care clinics or your primary care doctor’s office.

How can I check on Alabama’s progress?

Alabama’s public health department is tracking the vaccine rollout on this site: https://alpublichealth.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/e4a232feb1344ce0afd9ac162f3ac4ba

As of Jan. 2, Alabama has been allocated 226,250 doses of COVID vaccines, and reports that it has received nearly 160,000 of those.

Call the ADPH toll-free phone number at 1-855-566-5333 to schedule an appointment. Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week

Will local pharmacies give out vaccines?

Alabama is one of several states relying on a federal program to vaccinate residents and staff of long-term care facilities like nursing homes. CVS and other major pharmacies are sending out teams to those facilities with vaccines for the residents and staff, so the residents don’t have to travel. That began in Alabama on Dec. 28.

In the coming weeks and months, you will likely be able to make an appointment and receive the vaccine at many chain pharmacies, urgent care clinics or your primary care doctor’s office.

Which vaccines are we getting?

Alabama has received two different vaccines so far, one developed by Pfizer and one developed by Moderna. The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and is mostly being given at large hospitals. Moderna does not and that vaccine is being given at smaller facilities.

Do I have to get two doses?

Yes. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be effective, the Pfizer dose 21 days after the first shot, Moderna 28 days after the first shot.

There is very limited data on how effective the vaccines are if a person does not receive the second dose.

Other vaccines in development only require one dose, but those have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use.

How long does it take to work?

The CDC says it takes about “a week or two” after the second dose to reach maximum benefit of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Because the vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to fight the virus, it takes some time for your body to build up your immunity.

When will teachers get the vaccine?

In Alabama, teachers are included in Phase 1b of the state vaccination plan. Currently Alabama is in Phase 1a. Some locations are already offering the vaccine to limited populations included in Phase 1b, as supplies allow.

No one knows when the state as a whole will move to Phase 1b, but multiple sources said they expect that to happen in January.

Is it safe?

The approved COVID vaccines have been proven safe through clinical safety trials involving tens of thousands of participants. There are some potential side effects, including rare allergic reactions.

The CDC recommends monitoring people who receive the vaccine for 15-30 minutes to ensure there is no allergic reaction and is implementing a new V-safe program to monitor people who receive the vaccine long-term to watch for side effects.

Does it work?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both showed more than 95 percent efficacy after two doses. A very small number of patients who received the vaccine in trials did still contract COVID.

Do I still need to wear a mask after I get the vaccine?

Yes. We still don’t know whether it is possible to spread COVID-19 after vaccination or how long immunity will last.

How did Alabama decide who’s first?

The state is following the CDC’s plan, which balances protecting the most vulnerable Americans with keeping society in operation. Alabama is giving discretion to hospitals and local officials to move between the CDC’s recommended phases as needed.

Will my employer require me to get a vaccine?

That depends. The state is not requiring any employees to get vaccinated, neither are Alabama’s hospitals. Private employers have the right to require employees to get a vaccine.

Will I be required to carry a vaccination passport in Alabama?

No. State health officials say there are no plans to require vaccination passports.