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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Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine

Last Updated September 27, 2021

Pfizer boosters are now available for those who are 65+, 18+ with underlying medical conditions, 18+ who work in high-risk settings, and 18+ who live in high-risk settings. 

Find out where to get vaccinated by visiting the Vermont Department of Health website.

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 September 27, 2021

Getting Your Vaccine

There are a number of ways to get a vaccine:

  • Find a COVID-19 Vaccine near you: search on vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233.
  • Visit Costco, Walmart, CVS, Kinney Drugs or Walgreens.
  • Register through the  Vermont Department of Health website, or call 855-722-7878.
  • Visit a UVM Medical Center pharmacy or schedule an appointment (for J&J vaccines only).
  • Make an appointment with your UVM Medical center primary care practice (including general family, internal medicine and pediatrics sites) beginning on June 21 (for Pfizer vaccines only).

Appointments are available through all UVM Medical Center primary care locations. Walk-in appointments for the J&J vaccine (for ages 18+ are available at all UVM Medical Center pharmacy locations; you can also schedule appointments directly through the UVM Medical Center.

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. 

Safety, Eligibility & Effectiveness

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, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, 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.

While the vaccines were not 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.

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. 

On September 30, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an urgent health advisory to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future to prevent serious illness, deaths, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

The CDC health advisory strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination for both pregnant persons and their fetus or infant outweigh known or potential risks. Additionally, the advisory calls on health departments and clinicians to educate pregnant people on the benefits of vaccination and the safety of recommended vaccines.

Additionally, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding be offered the vaccine to prevent serious illness.

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.

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 12 and above. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines may be administered to patients 18 and older.

It is thought that the vaccines will still protect against severe disease caused by most of these viral variants, but 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 according to national and state guidance.

In late September the FDA approved a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for certain populations 6 months after they completed their 2-dose series. Those eligible include:

  • Adults 65+
  • Adults 18+ with underlying medical conditions
  • Adults 18+ who work in high-risk settings
  • Adults 18+ who live in high-risk settings. 

The FDA is currently evaluating data on boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.  

For Cancer Patients

Cancer patients are at increased risk for 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 understand the effectiveness of vaccines for those being treated for cancer and to discuss any contraindications.

In Vermont, vaccination for cancer patients began on the following dates:

  • 55+ with current cancer*: March 8
  • 16+ with current cancer*: March 11

Current cancer is defined by the state as patients with cancer on active treatments. Cancer survivors who will not fit this definition may still qualify based on other underlying conditions including immunosuppressed status, CKD, obesity, CHF, CAD, COPD, HIV with low CD4 or not on treatments, pregnancy, sickle cell and congenital disorders as per the Vermont Department of Health website.

Cancer patients are at increased risk for 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 a medication in the past requiring you to seek immediate medical care. Cancer patients should discuss vaccination with their provider to discuss contraindications and to understand the effectiveness of vaccines for those being treated for cancer.

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 following appropriate hygiene and safety protocols.

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.

After You Are Vaccinated

Yes, you should continue to follow local guidelines around masking even after you are vaccinated.

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.

General Vaccine Information

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one 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.

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.

Vaccine Trials

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. 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.