COVID-19 Vaccine Updates: What to Know

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COVID-19 Vaccine Updates: What to Know

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Welcome to the UTHealth and UT Physicians COVID-19 vaccine information page. As part of being named a COVID-19 Vaccine Hub in Harris County by the Texas State Department of Health Services, UTHealth is distributing the vaccine to the most vulnerable community members who qualify for Phase 1A/B according to federal and state guidelines.

Distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

UTHealth is working diligently to schedule members of our community as quickly as possible, but please be aware we are limited by the number of vaccines received. Here is a quick look at the distribution plan in place:

  • Phase 1A focuses on frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Phase 1B focuses on people 65 and older and those with a medical condition that puts them at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

UT Physicians patients

For Phase 1A and Phase 1B patients who have seen a UT Physicians doctor in the last 18 months, you do not need to sign up on our registry. We are currently notifying patients via text message and email to schedule their vaccine. Invitations are based upon vaccine shipment numbers. For patients without text messaging capability or an email address on file, we will personally call you. UT Physicians clinics are experiencing a high number of calls regarding the vaccine. We ask that patients please wait for their invitation to schedule an appointment.

UTHealth Hub Vaccine registry

For the general public, UTHealth has opened a registry for eligible Phase 1A and Phase 1B community members to register for the COVID-19 vaccine. Please note this is a registry, not a confirmed appointment. Once the registry spots are full each week, the registry will close. Please check back often as we update availability. Wait times for appointments could be weeks or months based off of vaccine availability. If you have an opportunity to receive the vaccine at your doctor’s office or another Hub Vaccine location, please do so.

Have questions?

In the section below, please read the answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. The answers have been provided by our physicians who are on the faculty at McGovern Medical School.




COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for your interest in receiving the vaccine. If you are a patient of UT Physicians, you will receive an email or text message to schedule an online appointment when available. If you are not a patient of UT Physicians, please contact your primary care physician for availability. You can also access additional opportunities through community pharmacies and state/city vaccination hubs. UTHealth strongly recommends receiving the vaccine to reach immunity within our community.

Currently, multiple vaccine candidates are going through clinical trials (the scientific process by which a vaccine is tested for effectiveness and safety) and regulatory review. At this time, two vaccine candidates, produced by Moderna and Pfizer, are the first to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. Both COVID-19 vaccines need two shots to be effective.

  • The FDA approval process, even in an EUA situation, prioritizes health and safety.
  • Both the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should not be administered to individuals with known history of a severe allergic reaction to previous vaccines, to any component of the vaccine, or to the first dose of this vaccine, without additional clinical evaluation.
  • Immunocompromised people, including individuals receiving immunosuppressant therapy, may have a diminished immune response.
    • Adverse reactions reported in vaccine trials were mild and included: injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, injection site swelling, injection site redness, nausea, malaise (generally not feeling well), and lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes).
  • There is a remote chance that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. For this reason, your vaccination provider may ask you to stay at the place where you received your vaccine for monitoring after vaccination.

  • Yes, eventually. Though several steps have been taken to streamline the process and reduce regulatory obstacles, the underlying full approval process remains the same. Currently, the FDA has granted “Emergency Use Authorization” (EUA) for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. EUA occurs if there’s evidence that strongly suggests patients have benefitted from a treatment or test and the treatment is safe, but not all regulatory steps have been completed. Other vaccines that are in the pipeline likely will also be granted EUA before receiving full approval.
  • The FDA, state health departments, drug producers, and independent physicians and researchers will monitor and track a wide variety of data once the vaccine is available to continue to learn about the drugs’ safety and effectiveness.

No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the virus that causes COVID-19.

Pfizer received the EUA on Dec. 11, and Moderna received EUA on Dec. 18. Vaccine supplies are becoming available in the Texas Medical Center for front-line medical workers.

Tell your vaccination provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you have allergies, fever, a bleeding disorder, pregnancy, breastfeeding, you have received another COVID-19 vaccine or you are immunocompromised.

When considering whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA recommends consulting with your primary care provider if you are pregnant or nursing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that, regardless of a past COVID-19 infection, you get vaccinated, unless you have had this infection within the previous 10 days. In those cases, you should defer vaccination until fully recovered.

Before deciding to receive a vaccine, we recommend you discuss it with the investigator for your clinical trial.

Due the unprecedented need created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA and manufacturers, supported by government investment, took the unusual step of creating manufacturing capacity before drugs were fully approved.

We will follow the guidance of the FDA and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations.

a. CDC recommends that during the pandemic people continue to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth, even if they have received the vaccine. People who have trouble breathing or who are unable to remove a mask without assistance should not wear a mask.

This is difficult to answer at this time based on a number of factors: the production schedule for the vaccines, the need to vaccinate highly vulnerable populations (people with preexisting conditions, congregate senior-care settings, individuals over age 65, etc.) and a distribution strategy for a drug that requires careful (cold) storage and two doses.

The FDA has authorized use of the Moderna vaccine in adults 18 and older. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people aged 16 and older.

No.

  • The clinical trials showed that a two-dose model was most effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • For the Moderna vaccine, a second dose is required 28 days after the first dose. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose 21 days after the first. This will be scheduled at your first vaccine appointment.

This is a question that has not yet been resolved; the medical community and vaccine producers will continue to study effectiveness and immunity levels to better understand the long-term vaccination strategy.

Yes. It will be important for everyone to continue wearing masks, washing their hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others while experts learn more about COVID-19 vaccines under real-life conditions.

Masking, physical distancing, handwashing, and other measures will remain critical as rolling vaccines occur and the medical community continues to learn more about the longevity and effectiveness of the immunization effort.

Getting the vaccine is not mandatory, although we encourage you to get it as soon as it is offered to you. If you have questions, we recommend you discuss this further with your health care provider so that you can make the most informed decision.

As more data on its effectiveness and safety become available, we will be able to know whether additional doses will be needed.

Getting vaccinated is strongly encouraged, but is not mandatory. If you decline the vaccine now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get it in the future.

When a vaccine is authorized under an EUA, they do not have an official Vaccine Information Statement. However, the FDA, together with the manufacturer, will provide a fact sheet when you are vaccinated. This fact sheet is similar to a standard Vaccine Information Sheet.

Yes, these vaccines are not made with any egg components. A history of egg allergy is not a contraindication to vaccination against COVID-19.