COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs for Workpartners

It’s understandable to have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or the process you and your family will follow to receive it. We’ve answered the most frequently asked questions below so you can be as informed as possible about this vital topic.


COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs to support members 

Getting vaccinated is an important step you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Pandemics require us to use every available tool to protect ourselves and others from getting sick. This means getting the vaccine, washing our hands, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing.

About the COVID-19 Vaccine

What is a vaccine?

Vaccines stimulate your immune system to create antibodies against diseases. Those antibodies can give you immunity against a disease without you ever becoming sick. Vaccines have been around for more than 200 years, and there are currently vaccines for over 20 life-threatening diseases. According to the World Health Organization, vaccines prevent the death of between
2 million and 3 million people each year.

Where do vaccines come from?

When developing a vaccine, scientists study an infectious disease in the laboratory and break it down into its components. Then, they attempt to find out what component causes the disease. They use this information to create a vaccine that can neutralize the disease-causing portions. The goal is for a vaccine to be both safe for people who get it and effectively prevent the disease.

Vaccines go through extensive clinical trials to determine their safety and effectiveness—first in animals, then in humans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the trials. If a vaccine is shown to be both safe and effective, the FDA can approve the vaccine for widespread use in humans.

How does a person become immune to COVID-19?

When a person is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it can take a couple of days or weeks for their body to make and begin to use all the germ-fighting defenses needed to get over the infection.

After the body fights off the virus, the immune system remembers how to protect the body against that disease. Scientists are still learning how long the immune system remembers this particular infection.

How does the vaccine work? 

When a person receives the COVID-19 vaccine, his or her immune system is activated by the contents of the vaccine and begins to build defenses. Once the vaccine takes effect, the body will remember how to fight the virus in the future.

How long does it take for the vaccine to work?

Vaccines usually take a few weeks to provide protection. Some COVID-19 vaccines require two doses—given a few weeks apart—to offer full protection.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No. The COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized by the FDA do not include a live virus. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. For more information, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC’s) Myths and Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines website.

Can I still get COVID after being vaccinated?

It is possible for a vaccinated person to become infected with the virus and become ill. In many cases, this happens because of the time needed for the vaccine to offer full protection. In other cases, individuals may contract COVID-19 because the COVID vaccines are not considered 100 percent effective. However, those who do get COVID-19 after being vaccinated are less likely to experience severe or life-threatening symptoms, and the chance of contracting COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated is relatively small.

This is also why it is important to continue to social distance and wear masks after getting your vaccine—especially between doses or in the weeks just after your second dose.

Why is it important to get the COVID vaccine?

A vaccine is the best way to reach herd immunity against COVID-19. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a population is immune to a disease. This widespread immunity can slow or stop the disease’s spread within a community.

Scientists estimate that 70-90 percent of the population will need to become immune to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity. For that to happen, vaccination is crucial.

Do I still need to wear masks and socially distance after getting vaccinated?

Yes, you should still wear a mask, stay away from crowds, and stay at least 6 feet away from people who don’t live with you. Continued social distancing measures will protect you, your family, and your community.

Is the vaccine safe? Does Workpartners recommend that everyone get the vaccine?

Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect yourself and those around you from serious illnesses. The COVID-19 vaccine(s) underwent clinical trials and scientific evaluation that includes multiple levels of review for safety and effectiveness. This process is administered by the FDA and the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

If you have questions about whether the COVID-19 or any vaccine is recommended for you, you should talk to your health care provider.

Do I need to wear a face mask when I get vaccinated?

Yes, both you and your medical provider must wear masks when you get vaccinated.

Does the vaccine have side effects?

Some mild side effects have been noted. You may feel tired, have a slight fever, or have sore muscles in the days following your vaccination. These symptoms arise because your body is working hard to build immunity. These symptoms typically pass after a few days, and they do not mean that you have COVID-19. There have been reports of individuals having more severe allergic reactions shortly after receiving a vaccination, but this should not be of concern unless you have a history of having severe allergies.

If you are concerned about the possibility of having an allergic reaction, speak to your PCP or another vaccine provider.

Is there more than one vaccine?

At this time, multiple COVID-19 vaccines are either approved for use or will be undergoing clinical trials in the U.S. More vaccines continue to be developed.

If I had COVID, should I still get the vaccine?

You should get the vaccine even if you have recovered from COVID-19. If you currently have COVID-19, contact your provider to learn when the best time is to get vaccinated. For more information, click here.


The COVID-19 Vaccination Process

When can I be vaccinated?

Each state has its own vaccine distribution plan. Please visit the CDC website to find your state’s distribution plan.

If you live in Pennsylvania and are eligible to receive the vaccination per Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) recommendations, you can click here to be notified when vaccines become available.

We are hopeful that vaccines will soon be available to the public at hospitals, pharmacies, and community sites. We will share more information as soon as it is available.

Where can I find more official information about the status of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and when I might be able to get it?

For your state’s COVID-19 vaccine distributions plan, visit the CDC website and select your state from the list.

Once the vaccine is more widely available, you will be able to locate vaccine locations on the CDC’s CDC's VaccineFinder portal.

Do I have to get the COVID-19 vaccine from a network provider?

While we encourage you to use network providers for quality and care coordination purposes, you are not required to see a network provider to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine will be covered at no cost regardless of the provider you see.

Can you help me find a provider that has the COVID-19 vaccine available?

Federal and state governments are handling vaccine distribution. Vaccine doses are being prioritized for healthcare workers, individuals in nursing homes, and patients who are at the highest risk of infection or severe illness. As additional vaccines are distributed, hospitals, pharmacies, and other vaccine providers should offer vaccines to eligible individuals based on your state’s distribution plan. 

In most cases distribution priority is based on the CDC's recommendations. Different each state may have different rules for when and how vaccines are made available to additional groups or the general public. 

Vaccine shipments have recently increased and we are hopeful that they will soon be available from a variety of health care providers, pharmacies, and other community sites.   Information about vaccine availability may change frequently, and we encourage you to check for updates on the CDC's VaccineFinder portal.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy?

Yes. Please contact your health insurance provider for information regarding coverage. Keep in mind that the first vaccine doses sent to pharmacies are still being distributed in accordance with the CDC and DOH recommendations, so many pharmacies do not have vaccines available for the general public.

Do UPMC hospitals have the COVID-19 vaccine available?

Although many hospitals, including those in the UPMC system, are receiving limited shipments of the first COVID-19 vaccines, the DOH has called for phased distribution throughout Pennsylvania. While Pennsylvania recently expanded Phase 1A, UPMC and many other providers do not yet have the additional vaccines necessary for general distribution. Vaccine doses should be more widely available soon.

Vaccine information and updates from UPMC are available on UPMC’s COVID-19 website.

Can I choose the kind of vaccine that I receive?

While there is likely to be more than one vaccine option available, the availability of any particular manufacturer’s vaccine may be limited based on your geographic location or provider. Even when more than one vaccine is available, distribution will remain limited and it is not likely that a single provider will offer a “menu” of vaccine options in the near future. 

What if my provider bills me for the vaccine? Do I have to pay upfront?

Providers should not bill you for the COVID-19 vaccine. During the initial phase of distribution, vaccine doses are being paid for by the federal government. While providers are allowed to charge for an office visit and administration of your vaccine, those charges should be billed to your health insurer or, if you are uninsured, submitted to the federal government’s Provider Relief Fund.

If you receive a provider bill related to receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine, you should contact your health care provider and health insurer.

I have heard about changes to the federal government’s plan for distribution. How does this impact me?

The federal government, working primarily through the CDC, generally issues recommendations for state distributions of the vaccine. Each state is ultimately responsible for its own distribution plan. You can find the most current vaccination plan for your state on your state’s department of health website.

Why is it taking so long?

The currently available COVID-19 vaccines have very specific criteria for deep-cold storage, transportation, and tracking. This makes the process of delivering these vaccines much more complicated than that of other vaccines (like those for shingles or the flu). Because of limited national supplies and the complexities of distribution, it may be several months before the vaccine is available to you. You can get more information and stay informed on the CDC’s COVID-19 website

Do I need to make an appointment?

Yes. You will need to make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Some providers or pharmacies may have specific appointment scheduling instructions. Be sure to contact the location where you’d like to get the vaccine before going.

Do I have to get the COVID-19 vaccine from a primary care provider (PCP)?

No. Due to the storage limitations for the vaccine, your PCP may not initially have the vaccine.  You may get your vaccine from a PCP, hospital, pharmacy, or other health care provider whenever it is available to you.

After the body fights off the virus, the immune system remembers how to protect the body against that disease. Scientists are still learning how long the immune system remembers this particular infection.


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Emergency use authorization for vaccines explained. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Updated November 20, 2020. Accessed January 14, 2021. 

Facts about COVID-19 vaccines [PDF]. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 23, 2020. Accessed January 14, 2021.

Grady D. Early data show Moderna's coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective. The New York Times. Published November 16, 2020. Accessed January 7, 2021.

New COVID-19 variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated January 9, 2021. Accessed January 14, 2021. 

Sun H, Stanley-Becker I. Health care workers and nursing home residents should be the first to get coronavirus vaccines, CDC advisory group says. Washington Post, December 2, 2020. Accessed January 14, 2021. 

Thomas K. New Pfizer results: Coronavirus vaccine is safe and 95% effective. New York Times, November 18, 2020. Accessed January 14, 2021. 

Vaccines and immunization. World Health Organization. No date. Accessed January 14, 2021. 

Vaccines: The basics. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. March 14, 2012. Accessed January 14, 2021.