Frequently Asked Questions
All three COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use by the FDA in the U.S. greatly reduce the risk of serious sickness, preventing hospitalizations and deaths due to the COVID-19 virus.
Health Considerations Before Scheduling Your Vaccination Appointment
The list of people who should not get a COVID-19 vaccine is very short:
- Anyone with a history of anaphylaxis to any component of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
- Anyone with a history of non-severe immediate allergic reactions to any component of the vaccines.
If, however, you have experienced a severe allergic reaction to anything in the past, your medical provider may redirect your COVID-19 vaccination administration to an alternate location for your safety. As of February 27, 2021, there has only been one (1) reported case of anaphylactic response to the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. You should not get a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to your first dose. If you have an allergist or sub-specialist, look to them for guidance and approval to take this vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says you should not get the vaccine if you have a rare allergy to polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG is used in everyday products such as toothpaste, shampoo and laxatives, according to Science magazine. You should not get the vaccine if you are allergic to polysorbate, an ingredient that is not found in either vaccine but is closely related to PEG. Allergies to the ingredients are rare.
Please cancel your appointment either using the online hyperlink in your appointment confirmation email or call the Symbol Vaccination Hotline to cancel. Reschedule your appointment using the Hotline once your fever is gone, and you know for certain that you do not have COVID-19. If you’d like to schedule a COVID-19 test, please call your Symbol Clinic directly.
You can still be vaccinated! Just be prepared for your medical assistant to pay extra attention to securing your bandage after administration. Although bruising or very light bleeding can occur at the injection site, the vaccine is not associated with a serious risk of bleeding. Expert guidance recommends that patients apply firm pressure to the injection site—without rubbing—for at least two minutes.
Doctors believe the vaccine is safe for people with autoimmune conditions, but there is not specific data showing how well the vaccine will work in these patients yet. People with weakened immune systems should also be aware of the potential for reduced immune responses to the vaccine, as well as the need to continue following all current guidance to protect themselves against COVID-19.
The vaccines have not been tested in pregnant women or in those who were breastfeeding, and federal health officials have not issued any specific guidance, other than allowing these women to be vaccinated if they choose. Symbol Health recommends that these women get verbal approval from their OB/GYN first before setting an appointment.
Yes. Experts say it’s safe – and probably even beneficial – for anyone who has had COVID-19 to get the vaccine at some point. It’s too soon to know how long your natural immunity to COVID-19 will last, but it’s advised that you wait about 90 days after infection before getting the vaccine. Recent reports indicate that the second dose of the vaccine results in more pronounced after-effects in patients who had already contracted the disease. “Natural immunity” is not safer than the vaccine. Symbol just recommends waiting until other priority (high-risk) patients be vaccinated first before you schedule your appointment.
The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine requires only a single dose and is not recommended as a follow-up second dose to patients who have received a Pfizer or Moderna first dose. Even though the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on the same mRNA technology, it is NOT recommended to change vaccines between your first and second dose. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently updated its guidance to permit mixed administration “in exceptional situations, Symbol Health does not recommend this. After your first dose, you’ll receive a vaccination card indicating which vaccine you were given and the recommended date of the second dose. You’ll also receive an information sheet telling you more about the vaccine. If you start with the Pfizer vaccine, you should get the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks later. If you start with the Moderna vaccine, you should get the Moderna vaccine four weeks later. Please remember to bring your Vaccination Card to your second appointment.
There is a relationship between the J&J COVID-19 vaccine and a rare and serious adverse event involving blood clots with low platelets called thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. This side effect is very rare, occurring at a rate of approximately 7 per 1 million vaccinated women between ages 18 and 49. For three weeks after receiving the vaccine, look for symptoms including: severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision, shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the injection site. Seek immediate medical care if you develop one or more of these symptoms.
Symbol can administer your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine 90 days after your monoclonal antibody therapy.
For people at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, monoclonal antibody treatment given early can significantly reduce the risk of progressing to severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalization. The treatment can also shorten the duration of COVID-19 symptoms.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is NOT a replacement for vaccination against COVID-19.
What to Expect at my Symbol Clinic
- Face Mask
- Photo I.D.
- Health Insurance Card
- Your completed & signed COVID-19 Vaccination Authorization Form (ask your Human Resources representative if you do not already have this form)
- Your Vaccination Card if you already received your first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
If you arrived on foot, or if you drove to the parking lot, please remain outside to call the Symbol Clinic. Let them know you’re outside for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment and tell them if you came on foot or let them know which car you’re in. A Symbol representative will ask pedestrians to come inside, but will come to meet drivers car-side to check your ID, health insurance, and pre-filled authorization paperwork.
If you came with a friend in your car, you may be offered vaccine administration in or just outside of your car for your convenience.
If you came by yourself, you will be asked to come inside the clinic for administration and observation.
The injection of the needle feels like any other vaccination. Sore arms are common 24-48 hours after the shot. Many who have received the vaccine say it’s just like getting a flu shot; for others, it was considerably worse. Particularly for those who have already been infected with COVID-19, we have seen reports of symptoms like exhaustion, full body ache, fever, nausea, uncontrolled shivering and “brain fog.” If receiving the Moderna vaccine: Read more in the Moderna EAU Fact Sheet.
After your shot, you’ll be given a vaccination card or printout that tells you exactly which COVID-19 vaccine you were given, and the date and place where you got the shot. If you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will only need that single shot and take your vaccine card as proof of vaccination. If this is your first dose of a Moderna vaccine, your Symbol team will help to schedule your follow-up appointment before you leave the clinic. Take a picture of the card with your phone or scan it when you get home so you have a permanent record of it. In the future, we may need to provide proof of vaccination.
You will be reminded to keep wearing your face mask, distancing yourself from others, avoiding crowds and thoroughly washing your hands.
You will then be asked to either stay in our Welcome Room or go back to your car (if you brought someone to watch you) for observation just in case you have a reaction to your shot. This is rare, but please plan to wait 15 minutes anyway.
Everyone who gets the vaccine will be asked to wait for about 15 minutes after getting the shot. This will allow Symbol staff to monitor you for any signs of an allergic reaction, which are rare. A person with a history of severe allergies may be asked to stay for 30 minutes.
Those who came to their appointment with a driver can remain in their car for 15 minutes. Your chaperone is responsible for honking the horn to alert our staff if you have any adverse reactions while waiting. After your 15 minutes are up, you may drive off.
If you arrive solo to your appointment, you will be asked to wait in our Welcome Room masked and at a distance from others only in marked seats. Your Symbol staff will let you know when your 15 minutes is up and you can leave.
Even though you just received the vaccine it will take a few weeks for the first phase of protection to kick in, and you won’t be fully protected until about a week after the booster shot.
Bear in mind that this vaccine protects you from getting sick from COVID-19. It does not prevent you from being infected. It takes a few weeks for your body to begin producing antibodies after any vaccination. And with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, you won’t get peak protection until after you get the booster shot three to four weeks after the first shot.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approximately 77% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination, and 85% effective at least 28 days after vaccination. This single-dose vaccine was tested more broadly than Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and therefore reflects effectiveness against more variants (strains) of the COVID-19 virus than the other two vaccines which were produced sooner. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was shown to be 66.2% effective against the “Brazil” variant of severe/critical COVID-19, and 52-64% effective in preventing moderate-to-severe/critical “South Africa” COVID-19 variant.
Symbol Clinics will not be administering Pfizer vaccines.
Moderna clinical trial data show it reaches 50.8% efficacy about two weeks after the first dose. Final overall efficacy of two doses of the Moderna vaccine reached 94.1%. Because Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were produced sooner, studies are still pending regarding their effectiveness against variants including those from Brazil and South Africa. Read more in the Moderna EAU Fact Sheet.
Immediately Follow Vaccination: It takes a while for the vaccine’s protection to kick in — so you’re still vulnerable to catching the coronavirus until about a week or two after getting your second dose, which is why you need to keep wearing your mask in the early weeks after vaccination.
After Full Vaccination: Even after both doses (in the case of a Moderna administration), you’ll still need to wear a mask in public spaces. Federal, state and city mask mandates will likely remain in place for a while.
Remember: the COVID-19 vaccine only protects you from getting sick. It doesn’t give you an invisible shield to prevent you from being infected – or infectious to others. So, even though you got the shot, millions more may be unprotected — so mask up for their benefit. Read more.
The COVID-19 vaccine series should be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccine. Please notify your Symbol team if you recently had another vaccination, or are planning to get some other vaccine within the next two weeks. Your COVID-19 vaccination may be rescheduled.
Symbol Clinics are only authorized to administer Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) COVID-19 shots. Under the Emergency Use Authorizations, the following age groups are authorized to receive vaccination:
- Moderna: ages ≥18 years
- J&J: ages ≥18 years
Children and adolescents outside these authorized age groups should not receive COVID-19 vaccination by Moderna or J&J at this time. Children as young as 12 are now able to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and can be referred elsewhere for administration.
Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe?
All vaccines go through clinical trials testing for safety and effectiveness, meeting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards after a four-phased research journey toward approval for manufacturing, and national monitoring system of reporting of any health problems that develop after a person gets a vaccine. Testing for vaccines didn’t skip any steps; developers simply conducted certain stages of the process at the same time to gather as much data as quickly as possible. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety.
Symbol follows vaccine manufacturer safety guidelines and will only administer a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to eligible patients over age 18.
The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend vaccination with the J&J COVID-19 vaccine among people 18 years and older. The CDC and FDA have recommended that the pause on administration of this vaccine be lifted and vaccinations resume effective April 23, 2021. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) also recommends resumption of J&J COVID-19 vaccine use. However, women younger than 50 should be aware of the rare but increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). TTS is a serious condition involving blood clots with low platelets. There are other COVID-19 vaccine options available (Pfizer and Moderna manufactured) for which this risk has not been seen. Call your Symbol medical provider to learn more.
While severe allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, have occurred in the minutes following an injection with the new vaccines, it’s an extremely rare event: only seen in 11.1 cases per million doses, as of December. Severe allergic reaction to the flu shot is about 1.35 cases per million doses, in comparison. While those statistics may sound frightening, severe allergic reactions are a risk with many drugs.
All the patients who experienced severe reactions to the vaccines were treated and have recovered. Most of them had a history of anaphylaxis or allergies, but some patients had no known allergies. If you normally carry an EpiPen, please bring it to your vaccination and let your Symbol staff know. If you have a history of anaphylaxis, you’ll be monitored for 30 minutes afterward.
No. The Johnson & Johnsn vaccine is based on a different technology than the Pfizer and Moderna shots, and it’s known as a viral vector vaccine, which is the same technology proven safe and effective in creating Ebola vaccine and others.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not contain any live virus, weakened virus, dead virus or any infectious element, so there is no way for the vaccine to give you COVID-19. Sometimes the side effects of the vaccine can temporarily resemble the symptoms of the coronavirus (headaches, chills, aches and fatigue). While it may seem frightening, it’s actually a good sign that your own immune system is positively responding to the vaccine.
A false claim has been circulating online that the new vaccine will threaten women’s fertility by harming the placenta. The false claim is based on the unfounded concern that antibodies could also attack a protein similar to that of COVID-19’s proteins made in the placenta during pregnancy. Several studies have proven that COVID-19 does not trigger miscarriages. The same holds true for the vaccine: the COVID-19 vaccine will not make you infertile.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives at your Symbol Clinic in a 5-dose vial and the Moderna vaccine comes in a 10-dose vial, meaning that from one container, your medical professional will be able to vaccinate either 5 or 10 people, respectively. It is impossible to draw 5 or 10 distinct microchips from this – or any other – vial of vaccine. The false conspiracy theory about microchips circulated the internet after he founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, made a comment about “digital certificates” that might one day be used to show a person had been tested or vaccinated for COVID-19. The government is not planting tracking devices in vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccines do not change your genes! The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was created using an inactivated adenovirus (which causes the common cold) so it cannot make you sick. The harmless adenovirus delivers a genetic blueprint of the protein spike to cells so that your immune system learns to recognize the spike when it encounters the COVID-19 virus.
The messenger RNA used in the in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines never enters the nucleus of your cells. There is no effect on your DNA. The mRNA molecule survives long enough for your cells to copy the instructions and create the spike protein that is used to train your immune system against coronavirus. After it delivers those instructions, the cell shreds it and eliminates it with special enzymes.
COVID-19 vaccines mimic a natural process that goes on in your body every day. The vaccines that Symbol Health offers are approved for safety, they are stored safely, they are administered safely, and you are observed afterward for your ultimate safety.
COVID-19 is by far the more dangerous option. “Natural immunity” from the coronavirus is not safer than a vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines carry little known risk. But the horrible effects of COVID-19 have been well documented. About 20% of people who catch the disease and experience COVID-19 symptoms eventually develop serious, potentially life-threatening illness. Although senior citizens, obese or otherwise compromised people are at highest risk for complications, younger people can become severely ill, too.
The long-term health complications associated with COVID-19 are still not fully known, and remain a serious concern. As many as one in three people who recover from COVID-19 have chronic complaints for months afterward, including exhaustion, a racing heart, blood clots and loss of sense of smell or taste.
Data suggests that previously-infected individuals can still be at risk for COVID-19 (reinfection) and may benefit from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so it is highly recommended. Similarly, the Moderna vaccine that Symbol may be administering has been shown to have patients with more antibodies than people who had been sick with COVID-19.