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When and where can you get the COVID-19 vaccine? Here are answers to your vaccine-related questions

Vaccines
Posted at 8:57 AM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-21 08:50:44-05

DENVER — The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Colorado and vaccinations are well underway.

We've received dozens of questions about the vaccine from viewers and are answering them all below.

In early December, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, along with state health officials, joined Anne Trujillo in a Denver7 COVID-19 Town Hall to answer your questions. Watch the town hall below:

COVID-19 vaccine Town Hall: Your coronavirus vaccine questions answered

The governor also joined Denver7's Russell Haythorn on Dec. 31 to further discuss modifications made to the vaccine distribution plan on Wednesday.

The surprise move to Level Orange and vaccines for seniors: Polis clarifies major changes with Denver7

While the U.S. is still early in the inoculation process, we're doing our best to provide the latest, accurate information about the vaccine and this story will be updated regularly. Do you have a question about the COVID-19 vaccine that you don't see answered here? Send it to 360@thedenverchannel.com or call 303-832-0676.

Here's a running list of your questions answered:

When can I get vaccinated?

In early December, the state announced it had split its vaccine prioritization into four phases: Phase 1A, Phase 1B, Phase 2 and Phase 3. On Dec. 30, the state announced some changes to the phases for vaccinations.

Below are the most updated phase descriptions and schedules:

  • Phase 1A (happening now, estimated to be complete by Jan. 15): People working directly with COVID-19 patients, and residents and staff at long-term care facilities
  • Phase 1B (happening now in some areas): Any person 70 years old and older, health care workers who have less exposure to COVID-19 patients, people working in home health, hospice and dental facilities, first responders, correctional workers, providers for people experiencing homelessness, funeral home workers, COVID-19 testing and response workers, essential frontline journalists, essential officials from executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government, frontline essential workers in education, food and agriculture, manufacturing, U.S. postal service, public transit, grocery and public health
  • Phase 2 (late spring/early summer 2021): People 60-69, those with chronic medical conditions (obesity, diabetes, chronic lung disease, significant heart disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer, are immunocompromised), health care and essential workers not covered in Phases 1A or 1B, essential workers who interact directly with the public, volunteers in clinical trials who received placebos
  • Phase 3 (Summer 2021): The rest of the general public, meaning all adults between the ages of 16-59 who are not high-risk

The CDPHE said it expects to complete Phase 1A by Jan. 15 and as we near that date, they'll have more information on where people in Phase 1B can get vaccinated. Some counties have already moved into Phase 1B.

Government IDs or other identifying documentation is not required in Colorado — a directive aimed at ensuring non-citizens and others who might not have an ID are included in the vaccination drive.

The CDPHE says once it believes enough vaccines have been distributed to those who want it in Phase 1A and 1B, it will move on to Phase 2. The speed of this depends on the vaccine supply from the federal government.

You can keep track of how much vaccine the state is distributing by clicking here.

CDPHE Executive Director Jill Ryan said local public agencies and the CDPHE will let people know when the phases change and who will be eligible when. She said they encourage people to stay in contact with their primary care provider.

On. Jan. 5, the CDPHE sent formal guidance to Phase 1 vaccine providers better clarifying the priorities under Phase 1B.

The guidance said that local public health agencies should prioritize vaccinating any hig-risk health care workers from Phase 1A and moderate-risk health care workers and first responders in Phase 1B, then move onto the rest of the Phase 1B group involving people age 70 and up. Hospitals, health systems, pharmacies and other clinics will provide vaccines to that group.

The state said Jan. 5 that it still hopes to have Phase 1A finished “around” Jan. 15 and that the supply of vaccine received through late February would go toward the aforementioned groups.

After that, the state will begin vaccinating frontline essential workers, including teachers, child care providers and more – likely at the end of February, the CDPHE said.

The department also said that providers should be sure no dose goes unused.

“If faced with a choice of wasting vaccine doses or vaccinating someone earlier, providers should choose to vaccinate someone earlier,” the CDPHE said in a news release.

If you’re not sure which phase you fall into, you can call the state’s hotline at 1-877-462-2911 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also visit their website.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Most recipients in Phase 1A will get the vaccine from their employer, local public health agency or through the federal government's Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program.

Those who qualify for Phase 1B, including Colorado residents 70 years old and up, can call their local hospitals or drive-through clinics to ask about getting the vaccine once it is available at those locations, which won't likely happen until after Jan. 15.

In an interview with Gov. Polis on Dec. 31, he told Denver7 that health care providers will let people 70 years old and up know when it's time for them to set up an appointment, and where to go. This will happen over the course of the following four to five weeks, he said. Polis said many communities are still in Phase 1A, not 1B, and do not yet have community-specific plans for vaccinating people 70 years old and up.

Here's the latest information on how to get the vaccine through hospital systems:

UC Health
UC Health is using its My Health Connection online patient portal to communicate with 70-and-up patients about when they are eligible to receive the vaccine. If someone does not have a My Health Connection account or are new to UC Health, they can sign up to be placed on a list to receive the vaccine. Signup information can be found here.

Denver Health
Denver Health is working to contact and make appointments with 70-and-older patients who have received care at a Denver Health facility in the last three years. Denver Health is sending vaccine invitations through MyChart, which can be accessed here. You can also sign up for MyChart on the website.

Centura Health
All Centura Health patients will receive information directly from Centura about when they can receive the vaccine. Check your MyCenturaHealth patient portal for information about when you can receive the vaccine. Centura is working to make the vaccine available to everyone in the community and details will be posted on Centura.org when available.

Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente members can completed a vaccine signup form on the Kaiser vaccine website. Kaiser will make vaccine appointments on a first-come, first-served basis for eligible patients.

Boulder Community Health
All vaccine notification from Boulder Community Health will be done through the BCH patient portal. If you have an account, make sure your information is up to date. You can sign up for an account on the BCH portal website.

SCL Health
SCL Health is contacting 70-and-older patients who are receiving care at an SCL Health facility. These patients are being emailed and directed to sign up for the vaccine on the SCL Health online portal. Anyone 70 and older who is interested in getting the vaccine at an SCL Health facility can visit the SCL Health website or call 303-812-2051.

Vail Health
Anyone eligible to receive the vaccine can visit Vail Health's website to make an appointment for a vaccine clinic.

Banner Health
Banner Health is offering the vaccine at several facilities. Any eligible person interested in receiving the vaccine should visit one of the following website to take a survey to determine if they can receive the vaccine:

Kaiser Permanente
Click here to sign into your account to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. Kaiser Permanente members and the community can sign up for virtual wait list. Those visiting kp.org/covidvaccine will be prompted to complete a quick and easy “COVID-19 Vaccine Sign-Up” questionnaire. After signing up, no further action will be needed as Kaiser Permanente will outreach by phone, email, or text once the person is in an eligible phase and vaccine supply is available. Those who are not in the current eligible phase are also able to use the online option to be placed on the wait list.

In Colorado, some counties are taking the lead and issuing specifics for their residents:

  • Boulder County: Boulder County Public Health rolled out a website to help streamline the vaccination process and mitigate confusion. Sign up on the Boulder County website. Start by answering a few questions and then you will be notified via email once you're eligible for the vaccine.
  • Summit County: The county will use an alert system called Summit County Alert to inform the public of vaccination opportunities via text, phone calls or email. The county has started administering the vaccine to those 70+ through drive-up sites
  • Eagle County: The county released a series of clinics to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents 70 and older in Eagle County. Click here to learn more and sign up.
  • Garfield County: COVID-19 vaccinations are now available for residents 70 years old and older in Garfield County. Appointments are required. To make an appointment at Valley View Hospital, call the COVID-19 community hotline at 970-384-7632. Click here for more information.
  • Lake County: The Lake County Public Health Agency is providing vaccinations to first responders and healthcare workers now. As soon as sufficient vaccine supply is provided, other people will be included in the process, including residents 70 years old and up, educators, and other frontline workers.
  • Costilla County: Costilla County Public Health Agency is currently making appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for county residents who are high- or moderate-risk health care workers and first responders, plus individuals age 70 years old and up. Call 719-672-3332 for more information.
  • Clear Creek County: Residents in the county who are 70 years old and older can fill out a short electronic form. Click here for the form. Call 303-670-7528 with questions. Once this form is complete, the county will contact you on scheduling, which is set to begin on Jan. 11.
  • Gunnison County: Sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine by visiting the One Valley registration website here.
  • Pueblo County: Residents in the county who are 70 years old and up can sign up to be vaccinated at this website or by calling (719) 583-4444.
  • Elbert County: Elbert County Public Health will begin to vaccinate first responders and people 70 and older on Feb. 2 in the Exhibit Building at the Elbert County Fairgrounds, which is located at 95 Ute Avenue in Kiowa. Call 303-621-3144 to schedule an appointment and leave a message if prompted.

The CDPHE said the state has not specified if residents of one county can visit another to get the vaccine, though some counties say they're only vaccinating their own residents.

The state said they are working with local public health agencies across the state to create a vaccine rollout program for individuals who are homebound. In a similar fashion, the CDPHE partnered its Vaccine Support Team with local public health agencies to get the flu vaccine to those people in 2020.

Information on providers for Phase 2 and 3 will be available closer to the spring.

Vaccines are not sold over the internet — if you see one, it's a scam.

For questions about where to receive the vaccine in Colorado, call 1-877-462-2911. Denver7 is working to learn more.

How much will it cost?

The vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, vaccination providers will have the ability to charge an administration fee for administering the shot. Providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company, or by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund if the patient is uninsured.

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance are required to cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Colorado providers are not allowed to turn away a person who cannot pay for the vaccine.

When will I gain immunity from the virus?

Gov. Polis says the 95% immunity won't come into play until a month or a month and a half after the first vaccine is administered to an individual. By this time, the person will have had both vaccines, plus 10 days for their body to develop the immune response to fight off the virus.

The CDC says it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after a vaccination. It's possible that a person may become infected with the virus shortly after getting the vaccine because the body has not had enough time to provide protection, however it will likely be much more mild than it would have been if the person wasn't vaccinated, according to Dr. Richard Zane, who is leading UCHealth's novel coronavirus response and vaccination efforts.

Pfizer reported that its COVID-19 vaccine starts to work just 10 days after the first dose, but immunity likely won't be attained after the second dose.

How long will the vaccine protect me? Will this be a yearly vaccine, like the flu shot?

It could be several months until researchers will know how long vaccinated people are protected.

Can a vaccinated person pass the virus on to other people?

Possibly. This sometimes happens to people who have had the flu shot, though at much lower rates than an unvaccinated person. Dr. Richard Zane, who is leading UCHealth's novel coronavirus response and vaccination efforts, said vaccinated individuals should still continue to social distance, wear masks and wash their hands regularly.

Will the vaccine become mandatory in Colorado?

As of now, the state is not considering a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Business owners cannot require patrons to prove they've been vaccinated — that's customers' protected health information.

Airlines or cruise lines may have something like this, but the state of Colorado doesn't not have any plans to make this vaccine mandatory, Gov. Polis said, just like how shots for measles and mumps are also not mandatory, though highly recommended.

"They're the right thing to do. They're the way to protect yourself, but nobody is going to come and stab you in the arm without your permission," Polis said.

If my first vaccine is from Pfizer, does my second vaccine need to be from Pfizer too? Or can it be from Moderna? Do I need to get the vaccine at the same place both times?

The FDA says if you receive one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, you should receive a second dose of this same vaccine three weeks later to complete the vaccination series.

The CDPHE recommends getting both vaccines at the same provider. Due to a limited supply, the provider will need to place an order for your second dose after administering the first one. This process ensures the state's weekly allocation from the federal government will have enough second doses of the same product at the right time.

What's the difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine?

While the vaccines are similar, there are a few differences. The most important one is the way they are stored. While the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -75 degrees Celsius (-103 degrees Fahrenheit), the Moderna vaccine can be stored at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit). The latter is about the same temperature as a home freezer.

In addition, the Pfizer vaccine can be placed in a refrigerator for only five days maximum before it expires. The Moderna vaccine can be kept in a refrigerator for up to 30 days.

The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for people 16 years old and older. The Moderna vaccine is available for people 18 years old and up.

Lastly, the two doses of each vaccine is slightly different. Pfizer's vaccine is two 30 micrograms each, given 21 days apart. Modern's vaccine is two 100 micrograms each, administered 28 days apart.

Why should the public feel confident the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

Dr. Richard Zane, leader of UCHealth's novel coronavirus response and vaccination efforts, says people should feel confident because of the way in which it was tested. Even though it was expedited — meaning the amount of time it took to make this vaccine, it is truly unprecedented — no corners were cut. It was essentially done with a lot more energy and money than has ever been done before. But it is highly effective — it has a 95% efficacy rate — and it was tested on tens of thousands of people.

Gov. Polis explained that if you have the chance to get the vaccine soon, it's a blessing.

"You're one of the most fortunate people in the world," he said, explaining how it won't reach millions of other people around the world for a year or two. "Please, when you have that chance, don't waste that opportunity by not getting protected by a deadly virus that has caused so much pain and suffering... We can end it. We have the tools thanks to modern science. All it takes is two pricks of a needle, 21 days apart."

READ MORE: Debunking COVID-19 vaccine myths

Click here to read more about the safety of the vaccine on the CDC's website.

What are the side effects?

The side effects that have been reported are minor and commonly associated with first vaccines, Dr. Richard Zane said. This includes muscle aches, pain at the sight of the injection and low grade fever for less than 24 hours. Some people have reported nausea and diarrhea. And most of the people who have reported the symptoms felt better after taking Tylenol or Motrin.

These side effects are a sign that the vaccine is working as your body builds and remembers defenses against a future attack.

If the FDA and CDC see new serious side effects from the virus, the vaccine may be removed from the market.

If someone has already had COVID-19, do they need the vaccine?

Dr. Richard Zane as well as the CDC say yes. However, if you are currently symptomatic with COVID-19, you should wait until symptoms have abated.

Currently, there is not enough information available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, according to the CDC. Early evidence shows natural immunity may not last very long, according to the CDC. The World Health Organization says available data suggests that most people who recover from COVID-19 develop an immune response that provides some period of protection against reinfection, but researchers aren't sure how strong the protection is or how long it lasts. There have been cases of reinfection.

How long will it take to get enough people vaccinated before we see an impact?

Dr. Richard Zane, who is leading UCHealth's novel coronavirus response and vaccination efforts, says we will likely see impact when 30% or 40% of the population is vaccinated. But the number to get herd immunity is over 50% or more ideally, 60 or 70%.

Gov. Polis said as long as we reach a "reasonable" amount of the population that has the 95% level of protection, the pandemic will be over. That doesn't mean nobody will ever get COVID-19 again — just like how today people still get measles and mumps — but it will be rare and there's no concern for overwhelming health care facilities.

Should I get the vaccine if I have allergies? What about autoimmune issues?

A very small number of people who have a history of severe allergic reactions to injectables or the contents of vaccines should not get the COVID-19 vaccine, said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for CDPHE.

But if you have other allergies — a food allergy, bee sting allergy, latex allergy — you should get it, France said, even if the allergy is serious. He said the person who administers the vaccine may ask you to stay at the facility for about 30 minutes to ensure you do not have a bad reaction.

Individuals with autoimmune issues should talk to their doctor about their interest in the vaccine so the doctor can review their medical conditions. But as of now, the only conditions under which a person should not get the vaccine is if they have a severe allergy to the vaccine's contents or if they're under the age of 16.

Do we really need the vaccine if we’re wearing masks and socially distancing?

The CDC says stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available.

“Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed,” the CDC says on its website. “Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.”

Can family members of a high-risk person get the vaccine early too?

No. The CDPHE says until a vaccine is widely available, they must prioritize health care providers and those most at risk of getting severely sick or dying.

Do the COVID-19 vaccines use the live virus?

According to the CDC, none of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccines contain the gene for a virus protein only — it provides a body with the tools needed to fight the virus if a person is infected. The CDPHE says it is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

How can I prove I received the first COVID-19 vaccine to get the second?

According to the CDC, you should receive a vaccination card, which will tell you what vaccine you received, when and where. Keep this handy, as you'll need to show it to receive your second vaccine. It's very important to receive the second dose on time.

What happens if I skip the second dose of the vaccine?

The worst case scenario of skipping the second shot is that the expanded timeframe could allow the virus to spread and mutate, and potentially build resistance to the vaccines, according to Penn State University biologist David Kennedy. However, that outcome is unlikely, though the World Health Organization announced Dec. 14 that it detected a new variation of the virus in England, showing the virus is already mutating without the evolution pressure of a mass vaccine program. In late December, the variant was confirmed in Colorado.

Vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit said a person who gets the first vaccine but not the second would likely have as short-lived but incomplete protection. Therefore, it is vital to get the second dose.

How will the vaccine impact the mask mandate? Should I still wear one?

In short: Yes, you should still wear a mask. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine require two shots — Pfizer’s is three weeks after the first one and Moderna’s is four weeks. The effects of the vaccines are not immediate. It will not kick in until a couple weeks after the second shot, according to CDPHE COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman.

There is not enough information available yet to determine when the CDC will stop recommending that the public wear masks.

What are all the ingredients in the vaccines, even the inactive ones?

According to the FDA, the ingredients in the Pfizer vaccine are as follows: mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.

According to the FDA, the ingredients in the Moderna vaccine are as follows: mRNA, lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

Click here to see how mRNA vaccines work. They do not interact with your DNA.

What conditions are considered high risk for COVID-19 that could get me early vaccination?

The CDC has said that people who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, regardless of their age, will be able to get the vaccine early.

In this case, "underlying medical conditions" means any severe illness or condition that a person has that would, if they contract COVID-19, require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or that they may even die. This includes the following, according to the CDC:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
  • Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

The CDC said based on what we know now, adults of any age with the following conditions might be at an increased risk:

  • Asthma (moderate to severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus

What about children, or pregnant or breastfeeding women? Will it have an effect on fertility?

The clinical trials for Pfizer’s vaccine were conducted on people over the age of 16. Younger kids and pregnant women were not included. Dr. Anthony Fauci said clinical trials to test the vaccine safety on those two groups could begin in January. Children represent about 7% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Modern began testing the vaccine in a trial with teenagers on Dec. 10.

On Dec. 30, Gov. Polis said information on vaccines for children likely won’t be available until the summer.

There was a small number of pregnant women who participated in the Pfizer vaccine trials.

Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the CDPHE, said women should be talking with their health care providers to see if they should consider the vaccine given the rate of COVID-19 in their community.

Currently, there is no data about the safety or efficacy of the vaccine on pregnant or breastfeeding women, or its impact on fertility.

Does the vaccine work against COVID-19 variants?

The CDC said scientists are working to learn more about whether currently authorized vaccines will protect people against COVID-19 variants. Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death, however they appear more contagious.

The CDC said as of late December, there is no evidence that the variants will change the effectiveness of the vaccine. There isn't any reason to believe this is happening, the CDC said, and most experts believe it's unlikely because of the nature of the immune response to the virus.

What will happen to the thousands of volunteers who received the placebo in the COVID-19 vaccine trials for Pfizer?

About half of the trial volunteers were given a placebo. Typically, after a trial, everybody who got a placebo would be offered the real vaccine following FDA approval. But the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were approved under Emergency Use Authorization, which is not the same as FDA approval. Colorado announced that those who received the placebo in the trial would receive the vaccine in the state's Phase 2.

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Do you have a question about the COVID-19 vaccine that wasn't answered here? Send it to 360@thedenverchannel.com or call 303-832-0676.

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