At this time, we are awaiting the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s instructions on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for our patients. As we receive new information, we look forward to sharing these updates with you. Until further instruction is given by the state on the vaccine distribution details, we ask that you please not message your provider on MyBaystate with questions regarding vaccine eligibility, availability and scheduling. For the most current information on the Massachusetts COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan and to sign up for statewide COVID-19 news alerts, please visit Mass.Gov.
Baystate Health is offering vaccines based on the guidance of the CDC and MA Department of Public Health as they become available through Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and the state and the federal government. Once the vaccine is available to the general public, public vaccine clinics will be available on the CDC’s interactive website, vaccinefinder.org. You will also be able to check with your primary care provider, local pharmacy or local health department.
When will Baystate Health vaccinate patients?
The vaccine distribution plan for Massachusetts currently outlines three phases between now and June 2021.
Phase 1 (Now – February)
Phase 1 includes vaccines for clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-19 facing care, longterm care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities, police, fire and emergency medical services, congregate care settings, home-based healthcare workers and healthcare workers doing non-COVID-facing care.
Baystate is now able to offer the vaccine to all categories in Phase 1. If you’re eligible, you can find a location and schedule your vaccine at mass.gov.
Phase 2 (February – April)
Phase 2 includes vaccines for individuals with chronic health conditions, early education, K-12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workers, and adults 65+.
At this time, we are awaiting the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s instructions on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for our patients. As we receive new information, we look forward to sharing any updates.
Phase 3 (April – June)
In Phase 3, the vaccine will be available to the general public.
Is there a minimum age to receive the vaccine?
Until recently, vaccine trials did not include children under the age of 16. Because of this, it is likely that the EUA for the first vaccines will only be for adults. Pfizer has received FDA approval to include children 12 and older in current, ongoing trials. When the results for these trials become available in the future, there may be a change in vaccine recommendations.
Learn more about the vaccine timeline in Massachusetts at mass.gov.
The State of Massachusetts is currently in Phase 1 of vaccine distribution. If you're eligible, you can find a location through mass.gov or the map below and schedule your shot.
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This is a map that shows COVID-19 vaccine locations available in Massachusetts for currently eligible recipients. Learn more at mass.gov.
See the Pfizer-Biotech COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet (pdf).
See the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet (pdf).
What are the COVID-19 vaccine side effects?
As with any medicine or vaccine, there will likely be some side effects with COVID vaccines.
Based on data reported for the initial trials of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in adults, there do not appear to be serious adverse events or safety issues related to these vaccines.
Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines do seem to cause mild or moderate side effects for up to 50% of people within the first few hours and days of both the first and second doses of each.
These side effects include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and soreness and/or redness at the site of injection in the arm.
The CDC and the MA DPH will be closely monitoring reports and the latest news can be found on their websites. The CDC and FDA are encouraging the public to report side effects through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
Is it safe for pregnant women or women breastfeeding?
Experts don’t yet have data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women. We do know that mRNA vaccines (like Pfizer and Moderna) do not include the live virus. We also know that pregnant women are at an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, including increased likelihood of being admitted to intensive care and needing mechanical ventilation. If you are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we recommend that you talk with your healthcare provider to help you make an informed decision. Learn more.
How effective is the vaccine?
So far, in trials that have involved tens of thousands of healthy adult volunteers, both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines show that they are 90-95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. It is too early to know how long the effectiveness will last at this point.
What is the vaccine made of? What are the ingredients?
None of the COVID-19 vaccines in development in the U.S. use the “live” virus that causes COVID-19.
Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines rely on a new technology called mRNA, the synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) protein. While mRNA technology is new, it has been studied for more than a decade and the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been carefully tested for safety.
Instead of using weakened or inactivated viruses to prompt the body’s immune response, mRNA vaccines uses the cells’ own protein-making process to make proteins, trigger an immune response, and build immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
How do mRNA COVID vaccines work?
- The Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are mRNA vaccines (messenger RNA).
- mRNA is not new – our bodies are full of it. mRNA vaccines have been studied for the past two decades.
- mRNA vaccines mimic how viruses work.
- The mRNA is like a recipe card that goes into your body and makes one recipe for a brief time. The recipe is for a small part of the virus (the spike protein). When this spike protein is released from cells, the body recognizes it as foreign and the immune system responds.
- This immune response causes the side effect symptoms (like aches and fever) but leads to improved immunity.
- mRNA breaks down quickly, so it only lasts a brief time.
- This is also how the other viruses like a cold virus work – viruses use our body and cells to make their proteins. Then our immune system attacks those proteins to keep us healthy.
- There is no way for the vaccine to give people COVID.
Learn more about mRNA on the CDC’S website.
Does the vaccine prevent transmission (giving it to others)?
The vaccine will provide a 94 to 95% chance that you will not get COVID 19. However, it does not prevent transmission to others if you are already carrying COVID-19. You may be spreading the virus without knowing it if you do not have symptoms. Therefore, it will still be necessary to wear a mask and practice social distancing even after getting the vaccine.
Can I get infected from the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a gene from the virus – not the “live” virus itself. None of the COVID-19 vaccines can cause COVID-19.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have been recently received another vaccination?
Do not schedule your COVID-19 vaccine until at least 14 days have passed since getting the other non-COVID vaccine.
What did the research show?
- The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccine trials each had over 30,000 people (including those who got placebo) and showed that the vaccine lowers a person’s chance of getting COVID and severe COVID.
- In each study, over 15,000 people got the vaccine and over 15,000 people got a saline injection (placebo).
- After one dose, the vaccine appears to be 50% effective.
- After 2 doses, both vaccines are about 95% effective.
- In other words, for every 100 people who got COVID in the placebo group, only 5 people got COVID in the mRNA vaccine groups.
- Severe cases of COVID were also reduced in both mRNA vaccine groups.
- There were no serious safety concerns.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be free?
Currently, there is no cost to get the vaccine.
How will the vaccine be given?
Currently the vaccine will be an injection, the same way flu shots are given. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require 2 injections. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose 21 days from first dose and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose 28 days after the first dose.
Do I need to wear a mask when I receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. CDC recommends that during the pandemic people wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact with others outside your household. That includes wearing a mask in healthcare facilities and when receiving any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine.
If I had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?
Research is still being conducted on how and if the vaccine should be given to those who have already had the virus. We do know that you should continue following safety guidelines including wearing a mask and social distancing. At Baystate Health, our policy is that you may receive the vaccine as soon as you are medically cleared to return to work.
Do I get to choose which brand of vaccine I receive?
Yes, as supplies allow. Currently, you can choose between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
How long does it take for the vaccine to start protecting me?
It usually takes a few weeks after receiving a vaccine for the body to mount an effective immune response.
Will I still have to wear a mask and social distance after getting the vaccine?
Yes. The current safety precautions will still be important including wearing masks and social distancing. Here are some reasons why:
- As the vaccine rolls out, there will still be high levels of infection in our communities.
- You will most likely need two doses of the vaccine in order to be protected.
- Even though you are protected after getting a vaccine, you could still be spreading the virus if you were previously infected.
Do I need to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year like the flu?
We do not know yet how often a COVID-19 vaccine will have to be administered.
Can I donate blood after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
After receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you will need to wait for 2 weeks before giving blood. This is because you could lose newly formed COVID-19 antibodies and white blood cells when your blood is drawn. Those antibodies and white blood cells are important to ensure that the vaccine can do its job and trigger an immune response within your body.
If you have any side effects from the vaccine (sore arm, headache, muscle/joint pain, low grade fever, tiredness), you will need to wait to donate blood until your side effects go away.
What is the process of developing a vaccine?
All vaccines go through a similar testing process. Once products are created in the laboratory and show evidence of safety and effectiveness in animal models, they may proceed through a progressively escalating series of human clinical trials in volunteer.
Progress to each “phase” of trials depends on success in the previous one. Phase I studies are small scale human trials designed to assess safety and appropriate dosing. Phase II trials are larger human studies that assess safety in more depth and laboratory measure of effectiveness. Phase III trials are large clinical studies that seek to address safety and efficacy and are generally placebo-controlled studies, meaning that some volunteers get vaccine, and some get a non-vaccine injection.
Learn more on the CDC website.
What were the length of trials?
The length of phase III vaccine trials, which are the large-scale ones to determine safety and effectiveness, is based generally on reaching enough “endpoints” to show that the virus is safe and working. The main “endpoint” is the number of COVID infections that occur in the control group.
What are the outcomes of the clinical trials?
The Pfizer clinical trials showed that the vaccine is 95% effective while the Moderna trials have shown that the vaccine is 94% effective. No serious adverse events were noted in these trials.
How do vaccines work?
Not all vaccines work the same way. Most commonly, vaccines are made from inactivated viruses or weakened live viruses. Vaccines use antigens (substances that prompt immune responses) to train the immune system to identify threats and produce antibodies. The COVID-19 vaccines being tested by Pfizer and Moderna are different – they are gene-based. These new vaccines carry genetic instructions to help prompt the body to make antibodies.
Learn more about COVID-19 gene-based vaccine research.