Learn more about the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Last updated: March 15, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Terminology

  • ACIP – The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
  • CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the novel coronavirus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person (much like the flu or common cold) through the air by coughing or sneezing; through close personal contact, like touching or shaking hands; by touching an objector surface with the viruses on it; and occasionally, through fecal contamination.
  • Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a vaccine is based on the need to use a vaccine quickly to save lives during a public health emergency
    • EUA is a shorter process, but no steps are skipped in the safety evaluation process
    • An EUA does NOT imply that the authorization was done too quickly or that the vaccine is not safe
  • FDA – Food and Drug Administration
  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. These vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This immune response, which includes making antibodies, protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
  • Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells. For COVID-19 viral vector vaccines, the vector (not the virus that causes COVID-19, but a different, harmless virus) will enter a cell in our body and then use the cell’s machinery to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. This piece is known as a spike protein and it is only found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. The cell displays the spike protein on its surface, and our immune system recognizes it doesn’t belong there. This triggers our immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating other immune cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection.
  • VRBPAC – The Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee

Vaccines Approved for Emergency Use Authorization

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for three vaccines – the Pfizer-BioNTech, the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines. A EUA is a request based on the need to use a vaccine quickly to save lives during a public health emergency like the one we are facing with COVID-19. Although the EUA is a shorter process, there were no steps skipped in this safety evaluation process that assesses whether or not the known and potential benefits of a vaccine outweigh the known and potential risks. Two independent advisory committees: (1) The Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) that advises the FDA and the (2) The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that advises the CDC reviewed the results of the vaccine trials and recommended that the vaccine be authorized for emergency use. Members and experts of these committees have no conflict of interest and are not associated with any vaccine manufacturers.

The CDC and Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership initiated by the U.S. government to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, jointly oversee vaccine distribution.

  • The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two administrations approximately 21 days apart between doses.
  • The Moderna vaccine requires two administrations approximately 28 days apart between doses.
  • The Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine requires one administration.

Administration of the COVID-19 Vaccine

SpiriTrust Lutheran has no control over which one of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized and recommended for use in the United States (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen) you will receive. That is dependent on the provider of the vaccine.

The vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle.

Life Plan Communities

There is a prescribed process for the prioritization, timing and overall method for administering the vaccine. We followed the process identified by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the PA Department of Health, as we administered the vaccine to our skilled care, personal care and assisted living residents and team members and other eligible team members at each of our six life plan communities.

Common Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccines

The most commonly reported side effects for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines include the following:

In the arm where you got the shot:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Throughout the rest of your body:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Benefits of the COVID-19 Vaccine

  • All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
  • Experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
  • Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.
  • The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Source: CDC

Frequently asked questions about the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. It does not contain the COVID-19 virus and it cannot give you COVID-19 or change your DNA. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece that looks like the “spike protein” which is found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. Our bodies recognize that this protein should not be there, so they build antibodies that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19, if we are infected in the future.

Is it safe to receive the vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on December 11 from the US Food and Drug Administration. Although the EUA is a shorter process, there were no steps skipped in this safety evaluation process that assesses whether or not the known and potential benefits of a vaccine outweigh the known and potential risks.

How will I receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine?

A trained and certified professional from CVS Health will inject the vaccine into your arm muscle.

What is the dosage of the Pfizer vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine series consists of two doses administered three weeks apart.

What are the common side effects of the vaccine?

The most commonly reported side effects are pain, swelling or redness at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, fever, nausea, overall not feeling well and swollen lymph nodes.

What should I do if I experience other symptoms after receiving the vaccine?

Contact your healthcare provider. If your provider feels the symptoms are a result of receiving the vaccine, please call the Team Member Hotline at 717.654.0819.

Will there be a charge for the vaccine?

There is no vaccine or administration charge for eligible residents and team members. The federal government will provide the vaccine and CVS Health will be reimbursed by the vaccine recipient’s insurance carrier.

Will I need to sign a consent form?

Yes. Residents and team members who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccination must complete a vaccine consent form.

What is the efficacy of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine?

Preliminary data suggest that vaccine efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine is 95% following two doses in healthy adults. The estimated vaccine efficacy following a single dose is 52.4%. For optimal protection, everyone should receive both doses of the vaccine.