COVID-19 Vaccines

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, finding a vaccine has been the top priority. The FDA recently authorized emergency use for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

As vaccine distribution begins, Rush is here to help you understand what this means for you and your community. We will provide you with the most up-to-date information on this page. We also encourage you to review national sources for information about the vaccine.

Rush is currently focused on providing both doses of the vaccine to our employees. We are working with local and state public health agencies on plans to begin offering the vaccine to the community. We will share details widely with our patients and communities as soon as our community vaccination plan is finalized.
(Latest update: 1/4/2020)

A Nationwide Effort

While vaccines play a critical role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and, eventually, helping us out of the pandemic, this will not happen overnight. Rush is working closely with public health departments, the CDC and other governing bodies to ensure a fair and equitable distribution.

Rush supply chain worker

Slow the Spread

Distributing the vaccine widely will take time and patience. That’s why it is important to continuing doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself, your loved ones and community by doing the following:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid indoors gatherings with those outside your immediate household
Woman getting her temperature checked

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine FAQs

Who will be the first to be vaccinated?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first recipients will be health care personnel, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities.

Other priority groups include people with one or more comorbidities (e.g., diabetes); people age 65 and older; and essential workers.

State and city guidelines are still being finalized, so we don't yet know how distribution will be prioritized, or exact timing. We will share that information as soon as it becomes available.

Is there a waiting list for receiving the vaccine?

Rush does not have a waiting list. As soon as we receive guidance on when and how vaccines will be distributed, we will share that information.

We will continue to update this page with the most up-to-date information on the vaccines.

How effective are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

Both vaccines showed around 95% effectiveness. To break that down further:

  • The Pfizer trial included 44,000 volunteers. Of those participants, only 170 developed symptoms of COVID-19. Of the 170, 162 were in the placebo group (did not receive the vaccine) and 8 were in the vaccine group. Of the 10 participants who developed more severe COVID-19 symptoms, only one was in the vaccine group.
  • The Moderna trial had more than 30,000 volunteers. Only 196 developed symptoms of COVID-19, and only 11 of those who developed symptoms were in the vaccine group. There were 30 cases of more pronounced COVID-19 symptoms — all of which were in the placebo group, meaning they did not get the vaccine.

Both vaccines require two doses: Pfizer’s 21 days apart and Moderna’s 28 days apart. The second dose is essential. In the Pfizer study, the number of COVID cases was lower in the vaccine group than in the placebo group during the 21-day period between doses. There is some protection after the first dose. However, the second dose is required to achieve 95% efficacy; the full benefit is achieved 7 to 14 days after that second dose is given.

Both vaccines use the same messenger RNA technology to deliver the vaccine, which is great from a production standpoint because the vaccines can be manufactured and distributed a lot more quickly.

How does the vaccine work? What is messenger RNA?

mRNA, or messenger RNA, is a molecule that carries the information cells use to produce different proteins: Think of it as a blueprint. The vaccines harmlessly mimic the virus’ ability to trigger the body’s immune responses to infections. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines include mRNA from the coronavirus “spike” protein — which is what enables the virus to infect cells.

Can the vaccine give you COVID-19?

As with other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you the virus. They contain neither a weakened version of a live virus nor a dead version of the virus. mRNA does not get into the nucleus of your cells, and it does not change your DNA. It's rapidly broken down and not infectious because it's a portion of the virus. So there is absolutely no way you can get COVID infection from the COVID vaccine.

Are the vaccines safe?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have an excellent safety profile, and most people have been able to tolerate them well. Neither of their phase 3 clinical trials was discontinued or even temporarily halted due to any adverse event, and fewer than 2% of recipients of these vaccines developed fevers of 102.2°F to 104°F.

Tens of thousands of people participated in these trials, including people of all ages, races and ethnicities. The trials also included people who have other health conditions, such as diabetes, HIV, heart disease, lung disease and more — and there were no specific complications for these groups either.

The COVID-19 vaccines have gone through rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. The top vaccine experts in the world reviewed and approved the results of these trials.

Is the vaccine safe for people with severe allergies?

We recommend you consult your allergist or primary care provider about whether your allergy would prevent you from receiving the vaccine. The CDC has said that people with most allergies can get the vaccine. The CDC advises caution for people who have a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to another vaccine or an injectable medication.

If your allergies are so severe that you need to keep an EpiPen with you, it might be best to wait on vaccination until more is known.

The CDC also advises against vaccination for people with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccines (Pfizer ingredients | Moderna ingredients). For more information, please see the CDC's updated guidance about COVID-19 vaccines and severe allergic reactions.

Should women who are pregnant or breastfeeding get the vaccine? Is it safe for them?

There is currently not enough data about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy. But there is no data to indicate that the vaccine should be withheld from pregnant or lactating women. We do know that this type of vaccine (mRNA vaccine) cannot cause genetic changes or COVID-19 infection in you or your baby.

At Rush, we follow guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which has advocated that pregnant and lactating women be included in vaccine trials and recommendations. Visit ACOG's practice advisory for more information.

Pregnant women are at higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19, and pregnant women with certain health conditions, such as diabetes, are at even greater risk. We encourage women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant soon or breastfeeding to consult with their doctor about the decision regarding the vaccine.

What are the potential side effects?

The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are similar to other vaccines. The most common side effects included soreness where the shot was given, headache, fatigue and muscle pain. One thing to keep in mind is that mild side effects are actually a sign that your body is starting to build immunity (protection) against COVID-19.

The independent board that conducted the analysis of Moderna’s trial found that side effects included fatigue in 9.7% of participants, muscle pain in 8.9%, joint pain in 5.2% and headache in 4.5%. For the Pfizer vaccine, the numbers were lower: Side effects included fatigue (3.8%) and headache (2%).

The symptoms are more frequent than what you are likely to experience with the flu or pneumonia vaccines, but the majority of symptoms experienced in the studies were felt to be in the mild to moderate range. Pfizer did report that a small percentage of participants had high fevers in the 24-hour period after receiving their vaccine.

Both studies also found that side effects to the vaccine were more significant following the second dose, as well as in younger people.

But the benefits outweigh any potential side effects. As these studies have shown, there's a significantly lower risk of getting COVID-19 if you are vaccinated — and in those who did get the disease, the symptoms were milder in people who were vaccinated than those who were not.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be needed annually, similar to the flu vaccine?

All COVID vaccine trials will follow participants for two years to determine both long-term side effects and the durability of the antibody response. Currently, we don't know whether people will need booster doses. Researchers will check participants' antibodies over that two-year period, and that will inform decisions about whether booster doses will be necessary.

Will people who had COVID-19 already be able to get the vaccine? Do they need to get it?

As of right now, we don’t think there’s any reason not to get vaccinated, but we will clarify that issue with the local health departments.

If you had COVID-19 and recovered from it, you probably have some antibodies to the virus that causes the disease. But we don’t entirely know what that means as far as your protection against reinfection. While we have not seen too many people get reinfected with COVID within six months of becoming sick, we don’t know how long any immunity might last. So pending guidance from the local health departments, our recommendation will likely be to get vaccinated even if you previously had COVID-19.

The vaccines were developed so quickly, how can we trust that they truly are safe?

The CDC and FDA take many steps to ensure that any vaccine is safe. These vaccines are being tested in large numbers of people to look at both safety and effectiveness.

The rapid development and production has been possible because the mRNA vaccine technology is much more efficient than prior methods of producing vaccines and can be scaled up quickly.

It's important to note that this is not the first time we've had a vaccine developed this quickly. With H1N1, we started seeing cases in March 2009, and by October 2009 we had a vaccine.

Do the vaccines prevent the transmission of COVID-19?

We don't yet have any information on whether the COVID-19 vaccines will prevent transmission. But we do know that almost all of the other vaccines we've used in the past have prevented transmission, so we expect that there will be a decreased risk of transmission with these vaccines as well.

However, until we know for sure, and until enough people are vaccinated, we recommend continuing with universal masking and social distancing.

How many people will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity?

The percentage of a population that needs to be immune to a disease so that the disease is unlikely to spread — and if it does spread, it won't spread extensively — is around 70 to 80%. In the U.S., that would be around 230 million people.

What is the most compelling argument for getting the vaccine?

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your family and our communities. Through clinical studies, these vaccines have gone through rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness — and they have been found to be both safe and effective at preventing COVID-19.

COVID-19 is widespread, and we all have a significant risk of getting it given the current infection rate. The risks of COVID-19 and its subsequent complications are far worse than the risks of the vaccines themselves. Vaccination will significantly reduce both the number of COVID-related deaths and the serious health issues that survivors face. Also, if you have family members who are immunocompromised, vaccinating yourself will prevent you from potentially spreading COVID-19 to them.

In a nutshell: Vaccinating will help us get our lives back.

COVID-19 Vaccines by the Numbers

View the FAQs above for more information

Effectiveness of the vaccines

95.00 %

Participants in the vaccine tests

74,000.00

Percent of population that needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity

~ 75.00 %

We understand that there are many unknowns about the COVID vaccine. Let us know other questions you have, so we can continue to keep you updated with information you can trust.

Let us know your vaccine questions
Let us know your vaccine questions
Beverly-sha
Testimonials

It is very exciting to see the impressive results from Pfizer and Moderna. The side effects from the vaccines — such as site injection reactions, fatigue and muscle pain — are in line with those we see in other vaccines. In my opinion, the risk of developing COVID is greater than the risk of getting a COVID vaccine.

Beverly Sha, MD, infectious disease specialist
steve-lowenthal
Testimonials

The emergency use FDA approval of these vaccines is a pivotal moment in our battle against COVID-19. We've been on the defensive caring for those ravaged by this illness. Now, finally, we can go on the offensive and eliminate the virus itself. We will get to the light at the end of the tunnel when the entire country gets vaccinated. I have complete faith in the rigorous research which resulted in some of the most effective vaccines we have ever seen.

Steve Lowenthal, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Rush Copley
John Segreti, MD
Testimonials

Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent serious diseases. These COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to a large number of people in trials to look at safety and how effective they are. The FDA, CDC and others go through many steps and stringent protocols to make sure vaccines are safe.

John Segreti, MD, infectious disease specialist
Paul Casey
Testimonials

This year of unparalleled challenges is ending with the promise of hope. We also want to temper the hope and optimism that the vaccine provides with the reality that we are in for some challenging days with COVID continuing to spread in our communities. What has worked well for us in the last nine months in terms of social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands will continue to protect us in combination with the vaccine.

Paul Casey, MD, medical director

Enroll in a COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial

Rush University Medical Center is currently recruiting participants for a nationwide trial of a COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, developed by the University of Oxford in England and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The trial will test the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness and ability to produce an immune response for the prevention of COVID-19.

Learn More
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