COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ
This page will be updated with more information as it becomes available.
Last updated: January 15, 2021.
Does APLA Health have COVID-19 vaccines available?
APLA Health has begun administering the Moderna vaccine to our front-line staff and to health care workers from other organizations beginning the week of January 11th, 2021.
We are authorized by the County of Los Angeles to administer the vaccine when it becomes available to the public. At that time, we will only vaccinate existing APLA Health patients.
I am 65 and older, why can’t I get a vaccination appointment at APLA Health?
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced he is opening vaccine administration to residents 65 and older (Tier 1B). While this is welcome news for our patients, decisions about vaccine administration are determined by Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health. They alone determine when and how to implement the governor’s directive.
Who is able to get vaccinated right now in Los Angeles County?
Los Angeles County’s vaccine roll-out is currently on Phase 1A Tier 3. Any changes to current phases/tiers will be listed here on the county’s website.
Please be aware that Los Angeles County will not begin vaccinating people age 65 and older until we complete vaccinations for healthcare workers and receive more vaccine from the State to vaccinate those in 65 and older (Tier 1B).
What Vaccine Phase/Tier am I eligible for?
Prioritization for receipt of the vaccine takes into account many things, including age, other medical conditions, and your work role. The State of California has been transparent and careful to ensure equitable vaccine distribution. Vaccine production is expected to increase significantly in the coming months.
To see the Phases/Tiers in detail, please refer to the State of California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Website
Can you place me on a priority list?
We will be administering the vaccine to all APLA Health patients when their respective Phase/Tier (See above) is eligible. APLA Health has no say in the composition of Phases/Tiers and is only allowed to administer the vaccine to prioritized groups.
At present, we don’t know exactly when we will be able to offer vaccines to our patients. When we are authorized to proceed, we will notify our patients immediately.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a substance that stimulates your immune system to make antibodies — blood proteins produced in response to a foreign substance — as it would if you were exposed to the actual disease. After vaccination, you develop immunity to the disease, so you are protected from getting sick if you get exposed.
Are eggs involved in the making of the COVID vaccines?
Unlike some other vaccines, the current COVID-19 vaccines are not made with eggs or egg products.
How do the vaccines work?
The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use a technique known as mRNA, or messenger RNA. These vaccines “give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein”. This protein is found on the surface of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The spike protein is what our immune system recognizes. That triggers our immune system to mount an attack and fend off infection.
Once these molecular instructions, or mRNA, are injected, your cells use it to make the spike protein; then the mRNA is broken down and eliminated. The spike protein is produced, triggering our immune system to make antibodies against it, just as it would if it were exposed to the real coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In this way, the body learns how to protect itself when and if the real virus shows up.
The mRNA vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19, nor does the mRNA get into the cell’s nucleus, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is stored.
How are the vaccines administered?
COVID-19 vaccines will be administered by intramuscular (IM) injection, a shot in the arm.
How many doses do you need?
Two doses are needed for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
What is the interval between doses?
For the Moderna vaccine, the two doses are given 4 weeks apart. For Pfizer’s vaccine, the two doses are given 3 weeks apart.
How will I know to get my second dose?
After receiving your first shot, everyone will receive a paper immunization record that will be completed at the time of vaccination. It will include the vaccine you received, date and location, and date when your next shot is needed. Individuals will be reminded when it’s time to receive their second shot.
What happens if you don’t take the second dose?
Protection is assumed to be less. In data that Moderna submitted to the FDA before its Dec. 17 review for its request for emergency use authorization, for instance, its analysis suggested that the first dose provides protection from getting COVID-19, but the data did not allow for a “firm conclusion,” the FDA says. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are believed to be around 50% effective after just one dose.
After the required doses, how long until it takes effect and provides protection?
That happens approximately a week after the second dose. Once the second dose kicks in, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown in studies to be about 95% effective.
How well do the vaccines work?
Overall, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective.
Because the vaccines are new, this is not yet known for sure. Based on other viruses that are similar to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccines that are shown to be highly effective might protect people for a few years. This is an educated guess based on expert opinion and known facts about the virus that causes COVID-19.
What about side effects?
People should expect to have some side effects, similar to what some people report after getting a flu vaccine, according to experts meeting recently with the CDC. These experts said to expect temporary side effects such as soreness in your arm where you got the shot, fatigue, body aches, and perhaps a fever.
At least two people getting the Pfizer vaccine in the U.K. had severe allergic reactions, promoting the British government to tell those prone to anaphylaxis-like reactions not to take it.
As for serious side effects, it’s too soon to know about rare side effects. As millions of doses are distributed, if there are very rare side effects, they are expected to show up in a very short time frame.
How can a safe vaccine be made so quickly?
Vaccine development typically takes many years, however, scientists had already begun research for coronavirus vaccines during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses, such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). That earlier research provided a head start for rapid development of vaccines to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
After the FDA’s emergency authorization (EUA) is granted, are the vaccines still tracked?
Yes. The FDA expects the manufacturers to continue their clinical trials to find out more about how safe and effective they are, and pursue full FDA approval or licensure. The EUA, which is different from FDA approval, is based on the FDA’s evaluation of available evidence, assessing risks and benefits. It issues the EUA if the benefit-risk balance is favorable.
Do the COVID vaccines not only keep the person from getting sick, but also from spreading the virus if exposed?
That is not yet known. As more data and monitoring are done, experts will be able to find out if a vaccinated person, if exposed to the virus, can still spread it even if they don’t get the disease themselves.
Are the vaccines free?
Yes, for patients, but the health care providers will bill insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare, or tap federal funds for the uninsured.
Will it be possible to choose which vaccine you prefer?
In general, it does not matter, since the two vaccines available now are equally effective. And even as more vaccines become authorized and available, you may have only one choice.
If a vaccine needs two doses, can you switch to another vaccine for the second one?
No. Experts advise staying with the same vaccine for both. That’s true even for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which use the same general approach.
Should people who have already had COVID-19 be able to get the vaccine?
Yes. According to data reviewed by CDC, people appear to become susceptible to reinfection after >90 days after initial infection.
Does the COVID-19 Vaccine interact with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
After I get vaccinated, do I still have to wear a mask?
Yes. Even after vaccination increases, preventive behaviors will still be needed. The ability to reduce transmission will require not just high vaccine uptake, but ongoing social distancing and masks.