COVID-19 Vaccine & Vaccination FAQs

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April 12, 2021, 12:05 p.m. 
This page will be updated regularly as information becomes available. 
 

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Vaccine Development

The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 11, 2020, and South Carolina received its first allocation of this vaccine on December 14, 2020. The FDA issued an EUA for the Moderna vaccine on December 18, 2020, and South Carolina received its first allocation of Moderna vaccine the week of December 28, 2020. The FDA issued an EUA on for the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine on February 27, 2021, and South Carolina received its first allocation of this vaccine the week of March 1.

Health experts and scientists have been monitoring the presence and significance of various genetic strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus since the beginning of the pandemic. Scientists are still working to better understand how widespread the latest variants of interest are and their impacts on existing therapies, vaccines, and tests. Early research indicates that the currently available mRNA-based vaccines provide a level of protection from COVID-19 disease, but the full impact is still being evaluated. Click here to learn the latest about variants from CDC.

It is not yet clear how long natural and vaccine-induced immunity lasts and whether additional doses of vaccine will be required in the future. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are reportedly developing a booster vaccine that could be used if a variant of SARS-CoV-2 shows evidence that the vaccines are not effective enough against them. Click here to learn the latest about variants from CDC.

The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 11, 2020, and South Carolina received its first allocation of this vaccine on December 14, 2020. The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the Moderna vaccine on December 18, 2020, and South Carolina received its first allocation of Moderna vaccine the week of December 28, 2020.

There is no COVID-19 virus in vaccines. The vaccines help your body make antibodies to a protein on the virus surface. This allows your immune system to attack the virus and fight off severe illness if you are exposed.

No, the vaccines don’t contain live, attenuated, or inactivated vaccines. The vaccines contain the gene for a virus protein only. This means you can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

You can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine. Vaccine components include:

  • Active Ingredient nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike protein of SARS-CoV-2
  • Gene for spike protein plus weakened “cold” virus for viral vector vaccines (Janssen vaccine)

Four lipids (including polyethylene glycol or PEG)

  • PEG is used in laxatives and in bowel preparation used before colonoscopy and is the most likely component to cause symptoms or allergic reaction
  • Four salts (including NaCl) which act as a pH buffer
  • Sugar (sucrose)
  • Polysorbate 80 commonly used in foods such as some ice creams, puddings, gelatin, etc. (component of Janssen Vaccine)

Current COVID-19 vaccine does not contain thimerosal, mercury, aluminum, egg, adjuvants, antibiotics, or preservatives.

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. No vaccine will be released until it has passed the same tough scientific and clinical testing that all vaccines in development are held to.

Vaccine development usually takes many years, however, scientists had already begun research for coronavirus vaccines during previous outbreaks caused by related coronaviruses, such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). That earlier research provided a head start for rapid development of vaccines to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

After receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, you may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. Side effects are typically mild to moderate, occur within the first 3 days beginning the day of the vaccination, and resolve within 1-2 days of onset. Some people have no side effects.

Common side effects on the arm where you received the shot include pain, redness, and swelling. Throughout the rest of your body, you may feel tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.

For more information, please see the CDC's Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine.

The FDA can issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to allow the use of unapproved medical products (or unapproved uses of approved medical products) in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when specific criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.

Manufactures submit a request for an EUA to the FDA which is reviewed, and a determination is made by the FDA about authorizing the EUA.

In general, people with diabetes do not have more severe or different side effects than others. However, you may experience some changes in your blood glucose (sugar) control. It is smart to plan ahead just in case. Keep a sick-day kit with extra medications and supplies just in case you do not feel well. You may want to monitor your blood glucose more closely. If you use insulin, consult with your physician about whether you should adjust your insulin if needed.

Vaccine Availability

Beginning March 31, 2021, all South Carolinians aged 16 and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

No. You won’t need to prove that you are eligible. You don't need to show an ID or paperwork to prove your age, job, or medical condition.

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for those who are 16 and older, and the Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are authorized for those who are 18 and older. As of now, no COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for those under the age of 16 although clinic trials for 15 and younger are underway.

In South Carolina, individuals 16 and older are able to consent to vaccination without parental permission. They do not need to be accompanied to a vaccine appointment by a parent or guardian.

DHEC and its partners will notify the public using several communication methods – news release, website and social media updates – as well as public service announcements; print, radio and TV ads, community-level outreach, direct mailers and other forms of outreach to ensure South Carolinians know when it’s their time to receive vaccine. Health care providers will also notify their patients.

Currently, there are no data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in people who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of COVID-19 treatment. Based on the estimated half-life of such therapies and evidence suggesting that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days.

This recommendation applies to people who receive passive antibody therapy before receiving any vaccine dose and to those who receive passive antibody therapy after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine but before the second dose, in which case the second dose should be deferred for at least 90 days following receipt of the antibody therapy. Receipt of passive antibody therapy in the past 90 days is not a contraindication to receipt of COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccine doses received within 90 days after receipt of passive antibody therapy do not need to be repeated.

At this time, those eligible to be vaccinated should make an appointment at a location currently offering appointments.

You can use our vax locator map to find the contact location for a facility near you or call DHEC's COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line at 1-866-365-8110 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week.

For general questions about COVID-19 call the Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 from a 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. The Care Line can't schedule an appointment for you.

An estimated timeline of vaccine phases is available here. This timeline is subject to change based on vaccine ability and other factors.

The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States. Vaccination providers can be reimbursed for vaccine administration fees by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay a vaccine administration fee, and no one should receive a bill for receiving the vaccine.​

Anyone who has received their vaccine and has a question about any charges, fees or associated costs should contact their vaccine provider.

No. You don’t need insurance. A provider can't deny you a vaccine if you don’t have insurance.

A provider may get reimbursed for giving you a vaccine. They need your health insurance card to seek payment. Your health insurance company or the federal government may pay a fee.

You won't pay any out-of-pocket costs for a COVID-19 vaccine. You won't pay deductibles, co-insurance or co-payments.

You DON’T have to provide an insurance card to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines will be administered by intramuscular (IM) injection, a shot in the arm.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two shots 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine requires two shots 28 days apart. You must receive both shots of the same type of vaccine: either two shots of Pfizer or two shots of Moderna.

The Janssen vaccine only requires one shot.

After receiving your first shot, everyone will receive a paper immunization record that will be completed at the time of vaccination. It will include the vaccine you received, date and location, and date when your next shot is needed. Individuals will be reminded when it’s time to receive their second shot.

The vaccine you receive and when you need the second dose is confidential health information that is carefully managed to protect your privacy.

Maybe. A number of factors would determine whether or not you're required to quarantine. The most up-to-date guidance can be found on the CDC website.

Once they have completed their isolation period, people previously infected with COVID-19 may receive the vaccine. According to the CDC, people appear to become susceptible to reinfection after more than 90 days from the time they were initially infected. Reinfection appears to be rare during the first 90 days after someone was infected with COVID-19. 

It’s recommended that you receive both shots of only one type of COVID-19 vaccine. 

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses/shots, and you must receive both doses/shots of the same brand of vaccine. Receiving both doses/shots of both vaccines hasn’t been tested, so there isn’t safety data available.

Yes. Non-permanent residents who are living in South Carolina at the time they are eligible to receive vaccine can be vaccinated here, just as South Carolinians staying in another state can receive their vaccine there. While there is currently no need for proof of residency in order to receive the vaccine, it’s advised that you receive both doses from the same vaccine provider.

The Society for Fetal and Maternal Medicine recommends women who are prioritized for initial vaccination be offered the vaccine if pregnant. While pregnant women were excluded from national vaccine trials, it’s understood that the theoretical risk of fetal harm from these vaccines is very low. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not contain a live virus. 

Additional information and resources about COVID-19 vaccine and pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding are available here and here

DHEC’s number one goal is prevent additional loss of life due to COVID-19. Because COVID-19 vaccines currently are so limited in our state and across the country, those who are most vulnerable to death or severe complications if they contract COVID-19 are prioritized to receive vaccine first. This includes the front-line medical workers who help keep us alive, long-term care facility residents and staff, and anyone who is 70 and older. Phase 1a individuals can contact a hospital or health care facility to schedule their vaccine appointments.

An estimated timeline of who will be included in each phase of the state’s vaccination plan is available here. This information is subject to change based on vaccine availability and other factors.

The South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee reviews federal recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to develop recommendations for vaccine administration that are specific to South Carolina. DHEC and other state leaders use those recommendations to adopt the state’s vaccine phases. These recommendations and guidelines are carefully developed to consider all South Carolinians and the most fair and equitable ways to provide limited doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

People with autoimmune conditions may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. However, they should be aware that no data are currently available on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for them. People with autoimmune conditions were included in the Phase 3 studies for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and no flares of disease were seen. However, this represents only a small number of people. As more vaccine is administered, the CDC and FDA will have more information on the risk of an inflammatory response (flare) for a person with autoimmune disease. There is strong evidence from the clinical trials, however, that taking the vaccine greatly reduces the chance that a person will get COVID-19, which can be a serious or even fatal illness.

Persons who have previously had GBS may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. To date, no cases of GBS have been reported following vaccination among participants in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. With few exceptions, the independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) general best practice guidelines for immunization do not include a history of GBS as a precaution to vaccination with other vaccines.

Cases of Bell’s palsy were reported in participants in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider these to be above the rate expected in the general population. They have not concluded these cases were caused by vaccination. Therefore, persons who have previously had Bell’s Palsy may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Get your second dose/shot as close as possible to the recommended timeframe. For Pfizer, get your second shot 21 days after your first dose. For Moderna, get your second shot 28 days after your first shot. The CDC advises it’s OK if the second dose of vaccine needs to be delayed past the recommended timeframe. There is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine.

It is best to get the second dose as close to on time as possible, but it is OK if it is delayed. CDC recommends getting the second dose within 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose.

If 2nd dose is given beyond 42 days, there is no need to restart the series.

If you were to get COVID-19 in between doses of vaccine, you should wait until your acute illness is over and you’ve completed your isolation period. Your doctor will provide more information and recommendations specifically for you.

This is a decision to be made with your doctor. There is no data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in persons who receive monoclonal antibodies. In theory, if you get the passive antibodies, your body might not get long-lasting immunity from the vaccine. CDC’s recommendation if you get passive antibodies is to wait at least 90 days before getting the vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines are not approved in people under age 16. There is some evidence that other vaccines, specifically MMR and Pneumovax, can help protect against COVID-19. These are routine pediatric vaccines. Check with your pediatrician to make sure your children are up to date on their vaccinations, and if they are not, talk to your health care provider about catching up on these vaccines.

Yes. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.

Vaccine Planning, Shipping and Storage

Following federal guidance, South Carolina has been planning and preparing for COVID-19 vaccine since the summer of 2020. DHEC has collaborated with the S.C. Emergency Management Division; S.C. Hospital Association; National Guard; S.C. Law Enforcement Division; Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation; and other public and private sector partners to develop South Carolina’s interim Vaccine Plan. In addition, the South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC) helps provide recommendations for the fair and ethical distribution of vaccines across the state.

The South Carolina Vaccine Advisory Committee (VAC) is a diverse group of stakeholders who help guide vaccine planning that’s specific to South Carolina. VAC members include health care and vaccine providers as well as individuals who represent the state’s various communities, including the population groups that are at increased risk for COVID-19. 

To receive and administer the COVID-19 vaccine and supplies, providers must enroll in a federal vaccine distribution program, coordinated through the state immunization program (unless they are part of a national chain that registered directly with the CDC). The federal government distributes the vaccine and ancillary supplies at no cost to enrolled providers.

Walgreens and CVS pharmacies have enrolled directly in the federal CDC Long-Term Care Program for vaccinating long-term care facility residents and staff.

Vaccines must be stored and handled properly from the time they’re manufactured until they are administered to individuals. The CDC and the vaccines’ manufacturers provide detailed information for the safe handling and storage of COVID-19 vaccines. Find more information here.

Vaccine providers are required to log and record specific information about every dose of COVID-19 vaccine they administer. This information is recorded into one of two federal systems: Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) and Tiberius.

South Carolina also has a comprehensive state immunization information system known as SIMON (Statewide Immunization Online Network) that provides a secure system to track vaccines, access vaccine records, order vaccines, and manage vaccine inventory.

Vaccine Providers

The CDC, DHEC and other public health organizations recognize why some people are hesitant to receive the vaccine. Addressing vaccine hesitancy is part of South Carolina's and the CDC's public outreach campaign and is achieved by providing factual and current information to the public.

DHEC will continue to share important messaging about the vaccine from our state's top medical leaders as well as share federal resources, like the CDC's Vaccine with Confidence campaign that promotes public of knowledge of vaccine development and distribution. We are working to share this information at the community level through essential partnerships with key community groups, including the business community, faith-based organizations, schools and universities, and many others.

Providers should observe patients for 15 minutes after they receive the vaccine. For vaccine administered in drive-by venues, adequate parking must be ensured so those receiving vaccine have a place to wait post-vaccination. Persons who have had severe allergic reactions to other vaccines should be observed for 30 minutes. Persons who have had a severe allergic reaction to a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine should not receive the second dose.

Yes. Guidance has been developed for giving vaccines at pharmacies, temporary, off-site, or satellite clinics, and large-scale influenza clinics. Other approaches to vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic may include drive-through immunization services at fixed sites, curbside clinics, mobile outreach units, and home visits. Please collaborate these plans with Local Public Health. The general principles outlined for healthcare facilities should also be applied to alternative vaccination sites, with additional precautions for social distancing that are particularly relevant for large-scale clinics, such as:

  • Providing specific appointment times or other strategies to manage patient flow and avoid crowding.
  • Ensuring sufficient staff and resources to help move patients through the clinic as quickly as possible.
  • Limiting the overall number of patients at any given time, particularly for populations at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

In accordance with the CDC, DHEC recommends that everyone six months and older receive a yearly flu vaccine. During this COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the overall burden of respiratory illnesses is especially important in order to protect vulnerable populations at risk for severe illness and reduce hospitalizations. Healthcare providers should offer flu vaccine at every opportunity all eligible patients.

CDC has recommended that no other vaccines be given 2 weeks before or after a COVID-19 vaccine.

Flu vaccine should not be given to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. If suspected, get tested. If confirmed, wait until you have completed your isolation period and have no fever before getting vaccinated

Contraindications to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine include allergy to any of the vaccine components or severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to another vaccine or injection (sub-cutaneous, intramuscular, or intravenous). There are no known interactions or contraindications to receiving antivirals for influenza, but this was not specifically tested in Phase 3 studies.

CDC has released Interim Guidance for Immunization Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This guidance is intended to help immunization providers in a variety of clinical and alternative settings with the safe administration of vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance will be continually reassessed and updated based on the evolving epidemiology of COVID-19 in the United States.

Interim guidance: immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic: Vaccination and COVID-19 Vaccination Guidance During a Pandemic Protective Measures for Vaccinating During Pandemic

It’s important to apply infection prevention strategies to all patient encounters including social distancing, respiratory and hand hygiene, surface decontamination, and source control. The CDC has developed General Practices for Safe Delivery of Vaccination Services and the Immunization Action Coalition has developed Protective Measures for Vaccinating During Pandemic.

Similar to flu vaccine requirements, decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccine in health care settings will be determined by individual facilities. DHEC highly recommends vaccination for all health care workers caring for persons with COVID-19 or those at high risk for severe disease (e.g., those working in long-term care facilities).

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