COVID-19 Vaccine & Vaccination FAQs

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Updated September 24, 2021
This page will be updated regularly as information becomes available. 
 

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How it Works

COVID-19 vaccines teach our body how to and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes two weeks after vaccination (following a single dose of Janssen or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna series) for the body to build immunity against COVID-19.

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.

No. None of the authorized vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, so they cannot give you 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.

No. COVID-19 vaccines to not change or interact with your DNA in any way. The vaccines teach our bodies how to protect against future COVID infections. Learn more about how the vaccines work from the CDC

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. Current evidence suggests that the current vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Click here to learn the latest about variants from CDC.

Currently, there is no information on how well the COVID-19 vaccines work in people who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma. Evidence suggests it is rare for people to get infected again in the 90 days after they first got ill. Because of that, people who have had one of these treatments should wait for at least 90 days after the treatment before getting vaccinated.

If you received the first dose of vaccine and then received monoclonal antibodies, you should wait 90 days before receiving your second dose of vaccine. However, if you received the first or second doses of vaccine before the full 90 days passed, no repeat doses of vaccine are necessary.

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.

As of Sept. 24, 2021, the CDC and DHEC recommend Pfizer brand COVID-19 booster shots for high-risk populations. Learn more here.

As of Aug. 13, 2021, the CDC recommends third doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised individuals, which are people with weakened immune systems. The CDC is continuing to study whether booster shots will be recommended for the general public. 

Who’s Eligible?

As of May 12, 2021, all South Carolinians 12 and older are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine and all South Carolinians age 18 and older are eligible for the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines. You do not need an ID or insurance to get your shots, and most clinics accept walk-ins (no appointment needed) or an appointment.

As of Aug. 13, 2021, the CDC recommends third doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to immunocompromised individuals, which are people with weakened immune systems. 

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.

Yes. Once they have completed their isolation period, people previously infected with COVID-19 should 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 is currently unknown how long immunity from natural infection lasts, and being vaccinated can help prevent re-infection, serious illness, hospitalization and death.

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.

What to Expect

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.

Wondering why a provider is asking for your health insurance card? It’s because a provider may get reimbursed for giving you a vaccine. They need your card to seek payment. Your health insurance company or the federal government may pay a fee.

Even if you provide your insurance card, you won't pay any out-of-pocket costs for a COVID-19 vaccine. You won't pay deductibles, co-insurance or co-payments.

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

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.

Vaccine Dosing

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. 

As of Aug. 13, 2021, the CDC recommends third doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to immunocompromised individuals, which are people with weakened immune systems.

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.

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.

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

Vaccine Safety

Development

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.

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.

On Aug. 23, 2021, the FDA issued full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 and older. This full approval further indicates how safe and effective the vaccines are.

Under 18 years

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for those who are 12 and older, and the Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are authorized for those who are 18 and older.

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. However, consent is required by a parent or legal guardian for children ages 12-15 before they can receive their Pfizer vaccine. All vaccine providers have their own unique immunization consent forms. 

COVID-19 vaccines currently are not approved in people under age 12. 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.

Special Populations

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.

The Society for Fetal and Maternal Medicine recommends women 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. More than 35,000 women pregnant at the time of vaccination have been followed by the CDC. They have not had problems with the pregnancy at a rate higher than the background rate among non-vaccinated pregnant women. Find additional information here.

COVID-19 disease during pregnancy, on the other hand, places the woman and her unborn child at increased risk. Pregnant women with COVID-19 disease are at increased risk of blood clots, preterm birth, or severe illness requiring hospitalization, intensive care, or ventilator support when compared to nonpregnant women. Find additional information here

If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems, which are problems trying to get pregnant. CDC does not recommend routine pregnancy testing before COVID-19 vaccination. Like with all vaccines, scientists are studying COVID-19 vaccines carefully for side effects now and will report findings as they become available.

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.

After the Vaccine

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.

In some settings, masks may be strongly recommended. On July 27, 2021, the CDC released updated guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.

Vaccine Records

Currently, there is no electronic confirmation version of a vaccine certificate available in South Carolina. 

The immunization records that you can get from VAMS, DHEC or your vaccine provider are hardcopy (paper) confirmations; there isn’t a digital option or a vaccine confirmation with a QR code.

DHEC recommends that anyone wishing to travel to another country learn about that country's vaccination confirmation requirements. If a digital record or QR code is required, contact the appropriate travel authorities within the destination country to discuss options.

You can contact your vaccine provider. They should be able to mail you a copy or email it to you via an online portal. Otherwise, you can get the record from VAMS, MyChart or the online portal that you used to register for your vaccine.   
 
You can also go to your local health department or contact immunize@dhec.sc.gov to request your record. You'll need to provide your name, date of birth and a phone number where you can be reached. You will receive your paper record in the mail.  
 

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COVID-19 Vaccine Statewide