COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs for Healthcare Providers and Professionals

These FAQs and answers are intended for healthcare providers and professionals. They are reviewed and updated on a weekly basis. This content may change frequently. 

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About COVID-19 vaccines

Updated 3/4/21

In clinical trials, researchers found the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine to be 100% effective in preventing death. The vaccine is approximately 85% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination. Importantly, the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated protection against several emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, including the Wuhan-H1 variant D614G (predominant in the United States), the B.1.351 variant (predominant in South Africa), and a P.2 variant (predominant in Brazil). Read more in the Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers.

There has been some news coverage comparing the efficacy (or protection) level of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, compared to the Janssen vaccine. However, these vaccines should not be compared for the following reasons:

  • The vaccines were tested at different times, in different places, with different groups of people.
  • Different strains were more prevalent than others, depending on where the trials were done. For example, the Janssen vaccine was tested in multiple countries, including South Africa, where the dominant strain is more contagious.
    • The vaccines will continue to be studied over time, so we will have more comparable data in the future.
    • Janssen has also started a Phase 3 clinical trial of a two-dose vaccination to evaluate protection against the virus and potential additional benefits with a second dose.

Updated 3/4/21

The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine uses an adenovirus type 26 (Ad26) vector to deliver a piece of the DNA that is used to make the distinctive “spike” protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, whereas the Pifzer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA). While adenoviruses are a group of viruses that are relatively common, Ad26, which can cause cold symptoms and conjunctivitis, has been modified for the vaccine so that it cannot replicate in the human body to cause illness. After a person receives this vaccine, the body can temporarily make the spike protein, which does not cause disease but triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response against SARS-CoV-2.
 
The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered intramuscularly as a single dose (0.5 mL). The mRNA vaccines require a two-dose series.

The Janssen vaccine does not need to be stored at extremely low temperatures like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It can be kept safely in a refrigerator.

Vaccine storage and handling 

Updated 2/17/21

The vaccine does not need to be kept in a different container once it reaches a distribution site. CDC recommends that vaccines and diluents be stored in their original packaging with lids closed until ready for administration. Note that, upon arrival, shipments of refrigerated and frozen vaccine should be immediately examined for signs of damage, for indication of a temperature excursion during transit, and to guarantee receipt of the appropriate vaccine types and quantities. (Source: CDC)  

Updated 1/11/21

Emergencies such as equipment failures, power outages, severe weather conditions, or natural disasters usually happen without warning and may compromise storage conditions. Because of the limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccines, especially during early US vaccination efforts, it is critical that COVID-19 vaccination providers have plans in place for emergency situations. Some key issues to remember include:  

  • Vaccines may remain inside a nonfunctioning unit as long as appropriate temperatures are maintained. Monitor your Digital Data Logger (DDL) to determine when additional action should be taken.  
  • Having an on-site generator(s) prevents the need to transport vaccines to an alternative storage facility during a power outage.  
  • Emergency situations can arise outside of normal business hours, so your office staff as well your facility’s building manager and/or security staff, if appropriate, should understand how to implement your emergency operation plans or access your facility if necessary.  
  • Ensure your facility has the resources on hand to safely pack vaccines for transport during emergencies. (Source: CDC

Updated 3/4/21

On February 25, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is allowing undiluted frozen vials of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to be transported and stored at conventional temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers (-25°C to -15°C; -13°F to 5°F) for a period of two weeks. This reflects an alternative to the recommended storage of undiluted vials in an ultra-low temperature freezer between -80°C to -60°C (-112°F to -76°F).

  • Storage between -60°C and -25°C (-76°F and -13°F) is considered an excursion from the recommended storage condition, and any time vials are stored within this range should be counted against the 2 weeks allowed for storage at -25°C to -15°C (-13°F to 5°F).
  • The data loggers RIDOH supplies for temperature monitoring are set up to alarm when the routine frozen vaccines go out of range—not the tight range for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • If a site plans to use a freezer solely for storing Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, they must adjust the settings on their datalogger so it will alarm when temperatures go out of the -13°F to 5°F range. RIDOH can supply a datalogger for sites that do not have one for a separate freezer.

For more storage information related to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, read the Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers.

Updated 3/4/21

CDC does allow the transport of frozen vaccine when packed appropriately, so sites that do not have ultra-low cold storage can receive redistributed frozen vaccine.

COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility and Distribution 

Updated 1/11/21

Yes. Healthcare workers practicing in Rhode Island who live in a different state will be able to receive the vaccine the same way healthcare workers who live in Rhode Island do.  

Updated 2/17/21

Please speak with your employer to determine whether and/or when you qualify for vaccination at your site of work. You will qualify for vaccination in Rhode Island as well as part of the general age-based prioritization approach.  

Licensed home healthcare providers, and community and family caregivers who are formally part of the Personal Choice Program, the Independent Provider Program, and the Shared Living Program, have been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated in Phase 1. Unlicensed home healthcare providers are being considered for the next phase of vaccination. See Rhode Island’s vaccination timeline

Updated 2.24.21 
 
While all individuals are encouraged to seek vaccination opportunities through vaccination clinics and retail pharmacies, there are individuals who are unable to leave home to attend such opportunities. If you are unable to leave home to receive COVID-19 vaccination or are the healthcare provider or family caregiver of someone who is homebound, please inform RIDOH through the following form: http://bit.ly/homeboundvax

Administering COVID-19 Vaccine

Information about enrolling as a COVID-19 vaccine provider will be shared with healthcare providers on a rolling basis as Rhode Island receives additional doses of vaccine. All organizations and providers that want to administer the COVID-19 vaccine must be enrolled as State-Supplied Vaccine (SSV) providers for the 7/1/2020 - 6/30/2021 calendar year. If you are not currently enrolled in the SSV program learn more about enrolling in the SSV Program

If you are interested in a paid opportunity, The Wellness Company is hiring vaccinators and administrative staff. For more, please see: http://twc.thewellcomp.com/about/careers. If you are interested in volunteering as a vaccinator, please sign up at: https://www.riresponds.org. For other paid and volunteer opportunities, please see: https://covid.ri.gov/howtohelp.

Updated 2/17/21

People who are otherwise eligible to be vaccinated can be vaccinated in a hospital. RIDOH has offered all of the hospitals vaccine to help support vaccinating individuals 75 years and older. If their doctor feels that a hospital is where a patient should be vaccinated, then the physician should call a hospital with which they have a relationship to discuss. Rhode Island Hospital is the only hospital that has set up a special clinic for its own patients with high-risk allergies, but all of the hospitals currently have the ability to vaccinate.

Updated 2/25/2021 

The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible.   

However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. There are currently limited data on efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.  

Updated 3/4/21

V-safe is an opt-in smartphone-based app that allows patients to submit information about side effects to CDC. This information helps CDC monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in real-time. If any serious health problems are reported, they can be quickly investigated by CDC’s medical experts and scientists. V-safe also provides second vaccine dose reminders if needed, and telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically serious adverse events.   

For people who received a vaccine requiring a second dose, we recommend they sign up for their second dose appointments when they are at the clinic to receive their first dose of vaccine. RIDOH is looking into several different methods to help people remember which vaccines they received and to notify people when they need to get their second dose. People who receive COVID-19 vaccine will also receive a vaccination card that states when they received the vaccine and which vaccine they received.

Updated 1/11/21

Yes. The patient is prompted to enter this information into v-safe when setting up the program. For more, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html  

Updated 3/4/21

The current mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable with each other or with other COVID-19 vaccine products. The safety and efficacy of mixing these vaccines has not been evaluated. Per the CDC, in exceptional situations in which the first-dose vaccine product cannot be determined or is no longer available, any mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at a minimum of 28 days between doses. 

There are no data available to support using the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to complete a vaccination series initiated with another COVID-19 vaccine.

Updated 1/11/21

Yes. It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 among staff and residents of long-term care facilities, as well as in all settings and in the community where surveillance testing is recommended.  

Updated 3/4/21

 

Because there’s a small chance someone who has been vaccinated may still get infected and spread the virus to others, once someone has gotten any COVID-19 vaccine, they must take the following steps:

  • Continue to wear a mask and watch distance around anyone they don’t live with. 
  • Continue to take part in required and optional testing at workplaces and elsewhere. 
  • Nothing changes with isolation.
    • If they have symptoms of COVID-19, they must isolate at home and get tested.
    • If they test positive for COVID-19, they must still isolate for 10 days after symptoms start or after the COVID-19 test date if they have no symptoms.

Updated 3/4/21

 

If you’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or you’ve recently arrived in Rhode Island from outside the 50 states or the District of Columbia (DC) or from a hot spot within the 50 states or DC, you do not need to quarantine if:

  • You’ve gotten a final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before your last exposure or out-of-state travel that is either FDA approved or received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and
  • It’s been less than 90 days since your final vaccine dose and
  • You haven’t had symptoms of COVID-19 since your last exposure or out-of-state travel.

Always watch for symptoms for a full 14 days. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate at home and get tested. Vaccinated close contacts and travelers should still get a COVID-19 test between 5 and 10 days after their last exposure or out-of-state travel. Vaccinated hospitalized patients and long-term care facility residents must still quarantine for 14 days.  

Updated 2/16/21

RIDOH has established a provider-only Help Desk to assist with technical issues related to provider standup, PrepMod support (online clinic management and appointment scheduling system), onboarding providers, and staff inquiries.

For inquiries related to PrepMod or data reporting requirements, please call the COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Help Desk:

  • Phone: 888-662-4341
  • Hours
    • Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
    • Saturday – Sunday: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Email: [email protected]

Updated 2/25/21

CDC has issued guidance for clinicians if there are errors in vaccine administration related to site/route, age, vaccine intervals, mixed series, dosage, storage/handling, and diluents. 

For all vaccine administration errors: 

Updated 3/4/21

Rhode Islanders can now get a copy of their COVID-19 vaccine record through portal.ri.gov/VaccineRecord. From this website, you can search for and print proof of your COVID-19 vaccination. If you need a second dose of vaccine, this record will tell you when you are eligible to get your second dose. Please note that only people who have received their COVID-19 vaccination in Rhode Island will be able to look up their vaccination record online.
 
If you are having trouble finding your vaccination record or are not able to go online, you can call 401-222-8022 for help.

COVID-19 Vaccines and Contraindications

Updated 3/4/21

A history of the following are contraindications to vaccination with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines: 

  • Severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components 
  • Immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components (including polyethylene glycol [PEG])* 
  • Immediate allergic reaction of any severity to polysorbate (due to potential cross-reactive hypersensitivity with the vaccine ingredient PEG)* 

A history of any immediate allergic reaction to any other vaccine or injectable therapy (e.g., intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous vaccines or therapies not related to a component of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines or polysorbate) is a precaution but not a contraindication to vaccination for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. These persons should be counseled about the unknown risks of developing a severe allergic reaction and balance these risks against the benefits of vaccination. Deferral of vaccination and/or consultation with an allergist/immunologist may be considered until further information on the risk of anaphylaxis is available. 

Allergic reactions (including severe allergic reactions) not related to vaccines, injectable therapies, components of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (including PEG), or polysorbates, such as food, pet, venom, or environmental allergies, or allergies to oral medications (including the oral equivalents of injectable medications) are not a contraindication or precaution to vaccination with either mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. 

Persons with a known (diagnosed) allergy to PEG, another mRNA vaccine component, or polysorbate, have a contraindication to vaccination. Persons with a reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy that contains multiple components, one of which is PEG, another mRNA vaccine component or polysorbate, but in whom it is unknown which component elicited the immediate allergic reaction have a precaution to vaccination.

CDC recommends an observation period following vaccination with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Persons with a history of an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a vaccine or injectable therapy, people with a contraindication to a different type of COVID-19 vaccine (for example, people with a contraindication to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines who receive Janssen viral vector vaccine should be observed 30 minutes following Janssen vaccination), and persons with a history of anaphylaxis due to any cause should be observed for 30 minutes.  All other persons should be observed for 15 minutes.

Updated 2.25.2021 

Appropriate medical treatment used to manage immediate allergic reactions must be immediately available in the event an acute anaphylactic reaction occurs following administration of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. For more information on anaphylaxis management, visit CDC’s interim considerations for the management of anaphylaxis following COVID-19 vaccination and laboratory evaluation of persons who experience anaphylaxis after vaccination

To date, no cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) have been reported following vaccination among participants in the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials. With few exceptions, ACIP’s general best practice guidelines for immunization does not include history of GBS as a contraindication or precaution to vaccination. Persons with a history of GBS may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a contraindication to vaccination. Any occurrence of GBS following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).  

Updated 2/25/21

Pregnant and breastfeeding women can be vaccinated if they choose, after they have had the opportunity to discuss risks and benefits with their healthcare providers.  

There are limited data about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant. Researchers have studies planned including people who are pregnant. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are monitoring people in their clinical trials who became pregnant while participating in the trial. Experts believe that mRNA vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant. 

On February 18, 2021, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced that the first participants have been dosed in a global Phase 2/3 study to further evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in preventing COVID-19 in healthy pregnant women 18 years of age and older. Visit ClinicalTrials.gov to learn more. 

Limited data are currently available from animal developmental and reproductive toxicity studies. Researchers found no safety concerns in rats that received Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before or during pregnancy; studies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are ongoing. 

Post-vaccination symptoms can occur after receiving either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, especially after the second dose. These symptoms are not expected to be any different for pregnant people than for non-pregnant people. 

There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in women who are breastfeeding or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or on milk production/excretion. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant.  

For more, see CDC’s page on COVID-19 vaccination considerations for people who are pregnant.  

Updated 2/25/21 

There have been some reports of patients developing swollen lymph nodes under the arm in which they received their COVID-19 vaccine. Because breast cancer can present with lymph nodes that are swollen under the arm, patients may be concerned that a COVID-19 vaccination would cause a false positive breast cancer diagnosis.  

It is important to keep your mammogram screening appointment. Patients should let the mammogram technologist know that they’ve received the vaccine and which arm it was administered in. If a doctor sees swollen lymph nodes, they will conduct further analyses to make sure it is related to the vaccine and not to breast cancer.  

Updated 1/11/21

CDC advises waiting 90 days after monoclonal antibody treatment before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Updated 2/18/21

Given the lack of data on the safety and efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine series should routinely be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration with any other vaccine. However, mRNA COVID-19 and other vaccines may be administered within a shorter period in situations where the benefits of vaccination are deemed to outweigh the potential unknown risks of vaccine coadministration (e.g., tetanus toxoid-containing vaccination as part of wound management, rabies vaccination for post-exposure prophylaxis, measles or hepatitis A vaccination during an outbreak) or to avoid barriers or delays to mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (e.g., in long-term care facility residents or healthcare personnel who received influenza or other vaccinations prior to/upon admission or onboarding). However, if mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are administered within 14 days of another vaccine, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine.

Updated 1/26/21

CDC advises deferring vaccination until recovery from acute illness (if person had symptoms) and until after criteria have been met to discontinue isolation. In addition, and while vaccine supply is limited, CDC advises that people who were recently infected could choose to temporarily delay vaccination for 90 days during this period, due to lower risk of reinfection. 

Updated 2/17/21

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can be administered to persons who have received injectable dermal fillers who have no contraindications to vaccination. No additional precautions are needed. However, these persons should contact their healthcare provider for evaluation if they experience swelling at or near the site of dermal filler following vaccination.

Infrequently, persons who have received dermal fillers might experience swelling at or near the site of filler injection (usually face or lips) following administration of a dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. This appears to be temporary and can resolve with medical treatment, including corticosteroid therapy.

According to the CDC, routine prophylactic administration of drugs (e.g., antipyretics, analgesics) to prevent post-vaccination systems is not recommended. This is because there is not currently information on the impact of such use on mRNA COVID-19 vaccine-induced antibody responses.

Similarly, it is not recommended that patients take antihistamines prior to vaccination for the purposes of preventing allergic reactions. Antihistamines do not prevent anaphylaxis and their use might mask cutaneous symptoms, which could lead to a delay in the diagnosis and management of anaphylaxis.

However, patients may take antipyretics or analgesics for the treatment of post-vaccination local or systemic symptoms, if medically appropriate.

For more, please see the CDC’s Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States.

Updated 2/1/721

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has recently formed a COVID-19 Vaccine Committee including top hematology and oncology experts with expertise in infectious diseases, vaccination development, medical ethics, and health information technology. This committee has established recommendations that can help cancer care providers make informed decisions on how to protect their patients from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, based on available evidence plus expert consensus.

Talking with patients about myths and misconceptions

Updated 1/11/21

No. There is no vaccine microchip, and the vaccine will not track people or gather personal information into a database. This myth started after comments made by Bill Gates from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about a digital certificate of vaccine records. The technology he was referencing is not a microchip, has not been implemented in any manner, and is not tied to the development, testing, or distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.  

Updated 3/4/21

No. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines will not alter your DNA. Messenger RNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response, according to CDC. Messenger RNA injected into your body does not enter the cell nucleus where DNA is located and will not interact with or do anything to the DNA of your cells. Human cells break down and get rid of the messenger RNA soon after they have finished using the instructions.  

Updated 1/11/21

No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development or in use in the US contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. The goal for each of the vaccines is to teach our immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.  

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick, but this is not because they got the vaccine. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.  

Updated 1/19/21

It is unclear how long immunity lasts after natural infection after recovering from COVID-19. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 can have serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months.  

Updated 1/11/21

No. Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19; however, flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting a flu vaccine this season will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources.  

Updated 3/4/21

Yes. In a March 2 statement, chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine and the Committee on Pro-Life Activities state that it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines. For more information on this, please see: 

Moral Considerations Regarding the New COVID-19 Vaccines (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Answers to Key Ethical Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Note of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life “Vaccine for all. 20 points for a fairer and healthier world” (Vatican Covid-19 Commission in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life)

Updated 1/11/21

No. Neither the authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the US cause you to test positive on viral tests (for example a nasal swab), 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 you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results

Updated 1/22/21

No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccine causes increased risk of infertility, first or second trimester loss, stillbirth, or congenital anomalies of any kind. Several national medical organizations have put out statements that say as much, such as this statement from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also shared information on vaccines during pregnancy here