COVID-19 Vaccination Updates & FAQs

The University of Vermont Health Network is proud to be working with local partners and the state of Vermont to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine across the state.

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Who Is Currently Eligible?

Last Updated March 5, 2021

As of Monday, March 8, as directed by the State of Vermont, people in Phase 5A and additional workers in Phase 1 are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes individuals who are 55 years and older with certain high-risk health conditions, K-12 teachers and onsite staff, child care workers and additional public safety workers. Visit the Vermont Department of Health website to register.

Below are some frequently asked questions to help you learn more about the vaccine. We will continue to post updates as more information becomes available.

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

This information has been developed by the UVM Health Network, based on the most up-to-date public health guidance, to respond to some of the common questions you may have relating to the vaccine and how it will be administered here.

Last Updated March 1, 2021

The Vermont Department of Health determines the order in which people are eligible for the vaccine through a phased rollout. Detailed information regarding the phases can be found on the Vermont Department of Health website.

The Vermont Department of Health will make announcements as different phases begin. These announcements will include details about which groups of people are included in that specific phase. There is currently no master timeline for when different phases will begin, or what groups of people will become eligible when.

CURRENTLY ELIGIBLE AS OF MARCH 8

Phase 1: Long-term care residents and staff, health care workers, and first responders

Phase 1A: K-12 teacher and onsite staff, child care, and expanded public safety

Phase 2-4: Individuals 65+

Phase 5A: Individuals aged 55+ with certain high-risk health conditions

See a detailed breakdown of those eligible on the Vermont Department of Health Website

As directed by the State of Vermont, people in Phase 4 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. This includes those who are 65 years and older.

  • Vaccination appointments are available through Health Department sites, Kinney Drugs and Walgreens. All sites are available to all eligible Vermonters, allowing you to choose the site most convenient for you. All registration information can be found on the Vermont Department of Health website. You can also call 855-722-7878.
  • You will not be able to make an appointment by calling any other Health Department phone number, your health care provider or hospital.

Many Vermonters will be registering for vaccination at the same time, which may cause delays. Thank you for your patience during this important process.

Get more information on Vermont's phased distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine on the Vermont Department of Health website.

The Vermont Department of Health will make announcements as different phases begin. These announcements will include details about which groups of people are included in that specific phase. Instructions about how to register will be provided at each phase.

Free transportation to vaccine clinics is available to Vermont residents and is coordinated by the Vermont Public Transportation Association. Requests must be made at least 48 hours before your appointment. Visit the VPTA website and click on your county to find your local transportation provider. All rides are ADA compliant and will accommodate people living with disabilities.

Public transportation is also available via the Green Mountain Transit bus. To get to the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds vaccination site, use the Blue Line. To access the Berlin Mall vaccination site, take the Barre Hospital Hill route, or from Montpelier, use MyRide by GMT. More information can be found on the Green Mountain Transit website.

As directed by the State of Vermont, UVM Health Network affiliates are operating vaccination clinics, but all appointments are being scheduled through the Vermont Department of Health, either through their website or phone. Walk-ins are not permitted and we are not able to schedule or change appointments.

All vaccination appointment questions and needs must be directed to the Vermont Department of Health.

Yes.

Vaccine safety and effectiveness is based on a standard and highly rigorous clinical trial assessment involving tens of thousands of volunteers. Although the current vaccines were developed more quickly than usual, they still went through the same process. The FDA approved the emergency use of vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, with other vaccines under review for use in the near future.

Yes.

Because of the severe health risks of COVID-19 and the fact that you can get COVID-19 again, you should be vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19.

The CDC recommends that people wait 90 days after recovering from COVID-19 before receiving the vaccine, except in cases of high-risk, including healthcare workers and those with high-risk conditions. In these cases, individuals should be symptom-free for 14 days before receiving the vaccine.

Yes.

The COVID-19 vaccination is very important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.

It is thought that the vaccines will still protect against severe disease caused by most of these viral variants, but clearly this is a fast-moving area that scientists and public health professionals are watching very closely.

It is therefore important that infection prevention precautions continue ­ including wearing masks, avoiding gathering with people outside of our own households, and vigilant hand hygiene. 

Yes.

We know that the vaccine makes symptomatic disease less likely, reducing the risk of hospitalization and death, but we still don’t know if it prevents infection in the first place or prevents spreading the virus to others. Therefore it remains critical that we continue to follow all of the preventive guidelines outlined by the CDC, local departments of health and state government in Vermont and New York while vaccines are administered.

After vaccination, you will still need to:

  • Wear a mask
  • Clean your hands
  • Keep 6 feet away from people outside your household
  • Not gather in groups

According to the CDC, the fit of your mask dictates how much protection in provides; the better the fit, the greater the protection. To get your mask to fit well, here are some tips:

Cloth Masks:

  • Look for cloth masks with a nose wire and adjustable ear loops or ties in order to improve the fit
  • Choose a cloth mask that is well-fitting and has at least two layers of fabric
  • It is not necessary to wear two well-fitting cloth masks

Disposable Masks:

  • Choose a disposable mask with three layers of material (3-ply)
  • Knot the ear loops and tuck in any extra material in order to get a snug fit (How-to video)
  • Wear a tight-fitting cloth mask over a disposable mask
  • Do not wear two disposable masks at once; it won’t help improve the fit

No.

There is not enough data yet to say whether there are any risks of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines. You should wait at least 14 days after you get your COVID-19 vaccine to get any other vaccine, including a flu or shingles vaccine. If you get another vaccine first, wait at least 14 days before getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

Giving a second dose of a vaccine can boost immune response and improve the chances of protection from infection. The first two vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses. The second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is given 21 days after the first, and the second dose of the Moderna vaccine is given 28 days after the first dose.

While there are a few days of leeway in timing for the second dose, it is important that you get your second shot as close to the recommended time as possible and not get the second dose any earlier.

Please talk to your doctor if you can’t get the second dose within a few days of the recommended dosage interval.

No.

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus, meaning that you can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The vaccine teaches your immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus in the event you become exposed.

It is important to know that it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. It is therefore possible to be infected just before or just after vaccination.

At this time, our Radiology Department recommends that screening studies be done either prior to a patient receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or 4 to 6 weeks after. Lymph node swelling is a common side effect of the vaccine and can complicate the reading of a scan.

No.

While you may have some antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection lasts – and you don’t want to risk getting the virus again. COVID-19 can cause serious illness, debilitating symptoms that persist for months and can result in death. Vaccination is your best protection, and it is safe.

Most people experience some minor side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The most common side effects that have been reported include a sore arm at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills and possibly a fever. These symptoms should go away on their own in a day or two.

Most people with food or medication allergies can receive a COVID-19 vaccine safely. However, if you have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or a medication (requiring you to seek immediate medical care) in the past, it is important to discuss with your doctor before getting the vaccine.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • Hives or a rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of your face or throat
  • Anaphylaxis

Pregnant patients are more likely to have serious illness from COVID-19 and are at risk of developing pregnancy complications as a result. The vaccine is very effective in reducing the risk of infection. While pregnant and breastfeeding individuals were not included in COVID-19 vaccine studies, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology does recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding be offered the vaccine to prevent serious illness. Although there is still not enough information to specifically recommend the vaccine during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as of now, thousands of pregnant women have received the vaccine and no serious safety issues have been identified. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should discuss the vaccine with your doctor so you can make the decision that is right for you.

Cancer patients are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 and should get vaccinated once the vaccine is available to them, unless their physician advises otherwise or there are contraindications to the vaccine, such as a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or medication in the past requiring you to seek immediate medical care. Cancer patients should discuss COVID-19 vaccination with their provider to to understand the effectiveness of vaccines for those being treated for cancer and to discuss any contraindications.

Safety:

Recent COVID-19 vaccine trials did not include a large number of cancer patients. However, these vaccines do not contain live virus and non-live vaccines are generally considered safe – and are commonly recommended – for cancer patients.

Vaccine effectiveness may be reduced in cancer patients with suppressed immune systems as the ability to mount a response to the vaccine may be limited. Still, the benefit of vaccination is considered greater than the risk of not getting the vaccine, barring any contraindications.

After receiving the vaccine, it is advisable for cancer patients, like everyone, to continue masking, cleaning hands and social distancing.

Eligibility:

  • Vermont plans to vaccinate cancer patients after those in Phase 4 (people ages 65 and above) have been vaccinated.

Treatment:

We do not recommend that patients delay cancer treatments to get vaccinated. However, a physician and patient may decide to hold off on treatment on a case-by-case basis depending on the urgency of treatment, the seriousness of illness, and the risk and benefit of delay.

Patients getting mammograms or CT scans may show enlarged lymph nodes after vaccination, a common physical response to the vaccine. These results may lead to further testing to rule out cancer as the cause. For this reason, if there is no urgent reason for immediate imaging, it is best to get these screening tests either prior to your COVID-19 vaccination or 4 to 6 weeks after vaccination.

Because the vaccines have not yet been sufficiently studied in children, current recommendations are guided by age limits: The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may be administered to patients age 16 and above. The Moderna vaccine may be administered to patients 18 and older.

While neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines were extensively studied in people with weakened immune systems, there is no reason to expect any safety concerns.

HIV and other conditions associated with a weakened immune system have been associated with higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Therefore, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which provides health care expertise on vaccines in the U.S., recommends vaccinating people with weakened immune systems.

The COVID-19 vaccine development process was accelerated in an effort to address the crisis of the global pandemic. One of the benefits of this worldwide focus is that multiple groups of scientists have been working simultaneously on vaccines. Ultimately, the goal is to have a safe and effective vaccine for every person, regardless of age, demographics or underlying medical conditions. By having multiple vaccines approved and manufactured, we are able to increase the number of doses available.

More than 250 participants are enrolled in the AstraZeneca vaccination trial being conducted by the UVM Medical Center and UVM Larner College of Medicine. Learn more about the trial here. While the vaccine has been approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom, it is still being studied and not yet available in the United States.

Multiple vaccines are in various stages of development, and clinical trials tell us how effective the vaccines are likely to be for different age groups and populations – and how long immunity will last. For several of the vaccines under development, we are still learning about their safety and efficacy, so it’s very important that the clinical trials continue throughout this process.

The vaccine rollout in Vermont is following CDC recommendations. These recommendations are designed to decrease death and serious disease as much as possible, preserve the functioning of society, and reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities. Since the risk of death from COVID-19 is highest among the elderly, they have been given first priority for vaccines. People with certain chronic medical conditions are at nearly as high risk, so they are next in line. The exact timing with which each state moves from one prioritized group to another depends on how quickly vaccine can be distributed to the highest priority groups.

In Vermont, people with certain high-risk health conditions will be eligible after the 65+ category. It is estimated that this will be in late March.