COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers

Updated April 5, 2021

Answers to common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Additional information can be found at NortonHealthcare.com/COVID-19 and in these recent Get Healthy posts.

Vaccine update information is subject to change. Please refer to this page regularly.

Who can get vaccinated at Norton Healthcare?

Norton Healthcare has opened COVID-19 vaccination appointments for Kentuckians ages 16 and older. Norton Healthcare continues vaccinating health care workers.

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How do I get vaccinated?

You can sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination online at NortonHealthcare.com/COVID-Vaccine. Norton Healthcare, in cooperation with the city and state, is offering vaccines to anyone 16 and older and health care workers.

If you need to cancel your appointment, please let us know — to help prevent your dose from going to waste.

Norton Healthcare also will continue partnering with churches, faith-based organizations and other community partners to provide vaccinations at their locations.

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I made an appointment to get vaccinated at Norton Healthcare, but was able to get a shot elsewhere. How do I cancel my appointment?

Thank you. If you don’t need the shot we set aside for you or you need to reschedule, please cancel your appointment so it doesn’t go to waste. You can cancel or reschedule online.

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How can I check that my vaccine appointment has been scheduled and the location?

You can confirm the date, time and location of your appointment by signing in to your free MyNortonChart account.

All scheduled appointments will receive a confirmation email. If you do not receive a confirmation email, your appointment may not have been successfully scheduled.  Please try again and make sure that you click “Schedule It” at the end of the scheduling process. 

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Will there be a wait list and difficulty getting an appointment for the second dose?

When you get your first dose, we’ll line up your second dose and make your appointment.

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How long does a vial last once folks line up to start getting the vaccine?

Once the Pfizer vaccine is removed from the deep freeze, it can last in the refrigerator for five days. The Moderna vaccine can be refrigerated for 30 days.

Once a vial – which has five or six doses in it – is taken out of the refrigerator to start administering, the Pfizer is good for six hours and Moderna for 12.

Because of that, providers are very careful how the doses are prepared each day to prevent waste. That’s why it’s important to let us know if you won’t be able to make your appointment.

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Who received the COVID-19 vaccine first?

Norton Healthcare is using guidelines from the National Academy of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine, available to patient-facing health care workers, was distributed using a thoughtful and orderly process to ensure providers, clinical staff and other team members susceptible to the highest risk of exposure based on their work in close proximity to COVID-19 patients were among the first to receive the vaccine.

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When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available to the general public?

The vaccine is being distributed based on risk, with priority for high-risk health care workers, first responders and others at higher risk of developing serious complications with COVID-19. The rollout is currently broken into four tiers.

The timetable for widespread distribution will become clearer as vaccine production ramps up and once more vaccines are authorized as safe and effective.

Currently, Kentucky officials have identified the following four tiers of vaccine distribution:

Tier 1

Tier 1a: Long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, health care personnel.

Tier 1b: First responders, anyone age 70 or older, K-12 school personnel.

Tier 1c: Anyone age 60 or older, anyone age 16 or older with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highest-risk COVID-19 risk conditions, all essential workers.

Tier 2

Anyone age 40 or older.

Tier 3

Anyone age 16 or older, or 18 and older if the Moderna vaccine is all that is available.

Tier 4

Children under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group (estimated 18% of Kentucky population)

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How should I prepare for my COVID-19 vaccination appointment?

Appointments are required for COVID-19 vaccination at a designated Norton Healthcare Vaccine Clinic location. Important things to know about your appointment:

  • You must be within one of the designated tiers to receive your vaccination.
  • Please arrive on time. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with directions to your designated Norton Healthcare Vaccine Clinic prior to arrival.
  • Bring photo ID and if you have insurance, your insurance card.
  • Stay 6 feet apart from others and do not arrive more than five minutes before your appointment to maintain social distancing.
  • Wear a mask at all times. If you do not have a mask, one will be provided to you.
  • Wear a shirt that allows easy access to the upper arms.
  • Plan to stay at the site for 15 to 30 minutes after you get the vaccine.

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How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The vaccine is free of charge.

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What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Known side effects of the vaccine have been very rare and typically very mild.

Side effects of the Pfizer vaccine — the first to be distributed — include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. The side effects typically last several days. More people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.

The most common side effects of the Moderna vaccine are very similar to the Pfizer vaccine and were pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain and chills. The Moderna vaccine’s side effects were more common than with the Pfizer shots.

There have been a handful of reports around the word of anaphylaxis after getting a vaccine outside of the clinical trials. These patients have recovered, and providers are required to have appropriate medical treatment for severe allergic reactions, including epinephrine, immediately available when administering the vaccine.

Everyone is monitored for 15 minutes after the injection, and those with a history of severe allergic reaction are monitored for 30 minutes. Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past still can get either vaccine, but should take precautions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We recommend discussing your specific health concerns with your physician(s) before getting the vaccine.

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How many doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will I need?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require an initial vaccine and a booster. The Pfizer vaccine requires a booster 21 days after the first and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose 28 days after. There may be reasons for delaying the second dose, and that is something you should discuss with your provider. The different vaccine products are not interchangeable. The second dose must be completed with the same vaccine brand as the first dose. Both doses are important to ensure full protection.

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When are you supposed to get the second COVID-19 vaccine dose?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. The clinical trials showed a significant amount of protection after the first dose and the most significant protection after the second dose.

The booster shot needs to be administered 21 days after the first Pfizer shot and 28 days after the first Moderna shot. There are additional vaccines being tested that require just one shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance on timing of the second shot. The shot shouldn’t be scheduled any earlier than the appropriate interval and can be given up to 6 weeks after the first shot whether Moderna or Pfizer.

If you need to cancel your appointment, please let us know — to help prevent your dose from going to waste.

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Will I be able to choose which COVID-19 vaccine I get, and are they so similar that I can mix the initial dose and the booster?

Your booster shot needs to be the same as your initial vaccine — there’s been no testing of the safety and effectiveness of mixing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. As for choice, there’s currently no significant difference between the two shots. Which shot you get likely will depend on what version your provider receives.

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What does the COVID-19 booster shot do? When will the vaccine have full effectiveness?

When you get the first shot, your body starts the immune reaction, and the vaccine is about 50% effective. The need for a second shot is based on studies and how the vaccine was dosed in these studies. At 14 days after the second dose, both Pfizer and Moderna report around 95% effectiveness. Some vaccines being tested are intended to deliver high levels of immunity with just one shot.

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How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines use novel messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. It uses genetic material which causes the body to create a protein, and our body then develops antibodies toward the virus. This process helps to direct the immune system to attack the COVID-19 virus.

The Pfizer study has enrolled 43,538 volunteers, and the Moderna study has enrolled more than 30,000.

In both late-stage clinical trials, 50% of the volunteers got the vaccine, while the other half got a placebo of saltwater. Then researchers waited to see who would get sick with COVID-19. An independent board of experts looked at the placebo and vaccine participants and reported that both vaccines are about 95% effective.

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Why are there two doses?

There is some immunity from the first dose, but it’s unknown how complete the protection is and how long it will last.

The first dose primes your immune system so it can start looking for the virus. With the second dose, your immune system is already on the lookout and can now recognize the virus more readily and give you a more complete long-term immunity to COVID-19.

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Who shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer vaccine has been approved only for those age 16 and older. The Moderna vaccine is available to those over age 18. Clinical trials recently began in younger children.

Except for anyone who has a severe allergic reaction to the first vaccine dose, there are currently no medical conditions that have been identified as a reason not to get the vaccine. Even those who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past are cautioned to be aware of the risks and to balance those with the potential illness and death that can result from COVID-19.

If you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Wait at least 14 days before getting any other vaccine, including a flu or shingles vaccine, if you get your COVID-19 vaccine first. And if you get another vaccine first, wait at least 14 days before getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

If a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently given within 14 days of another vaccine, you do not need to restart the COVID-19 vaccine series; you should still complete the series on schedule. When more data are available on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, CDC may update this recommendation.

If you are currently infected with COVID-19, or have recently recovered, wait until you are fully recovered and no longer in quarantine to schedule your vaccination. You may want to discuss with your primary care provider the appropriate time to schedule.

There is no complete data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in pregnant or lactating women. These women should stay in touch with their obstetricians, who will have the latest data to allow a consideration of the risks and benefits of vaccination.

Precautions and risk assessments should be considered before vaccinating those with a moderate or severe acute illness and those with a history of severe allergic reaction to vaccines or other injections in the past.

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Why will we still have to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash our hands often after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Even once you’re vaccinated you’ll need to protect others who have yet to get the vaccine. That means continued masking, distancing and hygiene steps.

The vaccine creates antibodies that circulate in your system. If you’re exposed to the virus, the antibodies go to work fighting the virus and wiping it out. That can take weeks, and during that time you can spread it to others, risking the health of those who haven’t had an opportunity to be vaccinated.

Additionally, the studies don’t yet show whether the vaccine prevents someone from carrying COVID-19 and spreading it to others.  It’s possible that even after being fully vaccinated you could still carry the virus and be contagious to others without becoming symptomatic yourself.

There are people in the community whose immune system is compromised even with the vaccine.

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I’ve already recovered from COVID-19. Do I still need the vaccine?

In short, YES, current data suggest that the vaccines convey more effective immunity than the type your body created while fighting off the disease. Those who were more severely stricken by the disease may have developed more antibodies than those who had mild or no symptoms after infection.

Current recommendations suggest waiting at least 14 days from onset of symptoms and at least 24 hours without fever, though given our understanding of natural COVID-19 immunity, one may wish to wait for 90 days to receive their vaccine without negative effects.

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When will the COVID-19 pandemic be over?

It’s too soon to know. It will depend on how quickly vaccine doses become available and how many people choose to get the vaccine.

For instance, if only 40% of the population gets vaccinated, we’re going to have COVID-19 with us longer than we would if 70% are vaccinated. The current estimates are that 70% immunity — either through vaccination or infection — will be enough to achieve broad immunity. Broad (herd) immunity is achieved when there as a critical mass of the population immune, robbing the virus of hosts and eventually its ability to spread.

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Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientific staff, an independent panel of vaccine experts and others review the safety and efficacy data collected as the vaccines are tested on thousands of volunteers.

Currently, all available data suggests these vaccines are safe, with minor side effects such as pain at the site of the shot, headache, fatigue and other flu-like symptoms for a short period of time. These side effects seem to follow the second shot more than the first.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration will continue to monitor for signs of even rarer safety issues.

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Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

NO, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use only a small gene from the virus while other vaccines being studied use inactivated virus or other methodology. None of these can cause COVID-19.

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Should I take Tylenol or ibuprofen before receiving the vaccine?

Taking the drugs to prevent post-vaccination symptoms is not recommended. Information on the impact of these drugs on antibody responses triggered by the vaccine is not available.

If you currently take over-the-counter acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, you can use them to ease the sore arm, headache and other potential temporary side effects of the vaccine.

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What about the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy or breastfeeding?

There is incomplete data available at this time on the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Data, however, does indicate that pregnant women are potentially at increased risk for severe illness from the COVID-19 infection.

Further considerations around use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant or breastfeeding individuals will be provided once data from Phase 3 clinical trials and conditions of Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization are reviewed.

These women should stay in touch with their obstetricians, who will have the latest data to allow a consideration of the risks and benefits of vaccination.

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Will COVID-19 vaccines cause me to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests?

No. These vaccines will not cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.

If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility to test positive on certain antibody tests. These tests indicate you had a previous infection or vaccination and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.

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Does alcohol make the COVID-19 vaccine less effective?

Alcohol’s effect on the COVID-19 vaccines wasn’t studied as part of the clinical trials prior to approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

But we know that alcohol can affect the body’s ability to generate an immune response. Moderate alcohol consumption before or after your vaccination shouldn’t have an effect. Binge drinking and heavy drinking should be avoided especially around the time of your vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as drinking enough to bring your blood-alcohol level above 0.08% (legally drunk). For men, that typically happens after five or more drinks in about 2 hours. In women, four or more drinks in about 2 hours will typically exceed the blood-alcohol level.

For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week, according to the CDC. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming eight drinks or more per week.

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COVID-19 Tests

Vaccines are not available at testing sites.

COVID-19 tests are available at drive-thru or in-person locations by appointment.

Rapid PCR testing is available at Norton Immediate Care Centers and Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens clinics.

Rapid PCR testing with international travel documentation is also available at Norton Immediate Care Centers for a $150 fee.

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