COVID-19 Vaccine Update – February 8, 2021
Alabama Oncology is not yet able to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to our patients, but we strongly encourage our patients to get the vaccine where and when it is available. Currently, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is directing most of the state’s COVID-19 vaccines to hospitals, county health departments, and large chain pharmacies. Patients may check with their primary care physician, local pharmacy, or a local county health department to see if vaccines are available and visit the ADPH Vaccine Availability website for more information on Prioritization and Availability of vaccines.
In Alabama, the new prioritization for vaccination that begins February 8th includes a large group–persons age 65 and above. In addition, workers listed here meet eligibility criteria:
- Healthcare workers
- First responders including EMS, firefighters and law enforcement
- Frontline essential workers as follows:
— Corrections officers
— Food and agriculture workers
— U.S. Postal Service workers
— Manufacturing workers
— Grocery store workers
— Public transit workers
— People who work in the education sector
— Childcare workers
The COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Hotline at 1-855-566-5333 is answered from 8 am until 5 pm seven days a week. In addition to the hotline, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has launched an online portal for individuals to check their eligibility for vaccination and make appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations at county health departments. The easy-to-navigate portal also provides up-to-date information about additional drive-through and walk-in clinics being offered. The portal can be accessed at https://www.alcovidvaccine.gov/
Visit the Mass Vaccination Clinics page on the ADPH website for more information on dates and times for vaccine administration clinics in Alabama cities.
Jefferson County appointments can be made by contacting the Jefferson County Unified Command (JCUC) COVID-19 Call Center at 205-85VACC1 (205-858-2221). A timeline for general distribution has not been established. However, we encourage you to visit the ADPH for updates on vaccine availability and locations.
We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines. This information is generally available to all individuals seeking information about the available vaccines regardless of pre-existing health conditions. In addition to the FAQ’s, we’ve also provided helpful links to more comprehensive information. You can visit ADPH Vaccine FAQ Page for additional frequently asked questions and answers.
Specific information for cancer patients and the COVID-19 vaccines is also available from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES
Which vaccines are available?
At this time, two vaccines have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Vaccine availability in particular areas will depend on a number of factors, including availability in the state and region as well as vaccine storage capabilities. General information published about each vaccine includes:
- The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: Contains a tiny fragment of the virus’s genetic code made in the lab – called messenger RNA, or mRNA – that codes for a part of the virus called the ‘spike protein’, which sits on the outside of the virus. When the mRNA is injected into the body it can instruct cells to produce these proteins, priming the immune system to be able to recognize and destroy the coronavirus, without exposing the body to the virus itself. This vaccine must be stored at -70°C (-94 oF). This vaccine received FDA EUA approval on December 11, 2020.
- Moderna vaccine: Like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine contains mRNA that codes for the virus’s spike protein. It can be stored at –20°C (-4oF; normal freezer temperature) for up to 6 months. This vaccine received FDA EUA approval on December 17, 2020.
- Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are also still under development. Large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials are in progress or being planned for two additional COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.
Which vaccine is most appropriate?
All vaccines that are approved by the FDA may be used depending on availability. Please speak with your healthcare provider about which vaccine is appropriate for you.
Is the vaccine effective against COVID-19?
Detailed information about each vaccine’s effectiveness is available from the respective manufacturers, the FDA and the CDC. Based on clinical trials reviewed by the FDA:
- The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective 7 days from the second dose.
- The Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective 14 days from the second dose
- Trial efficacy is based on rates of COVID-19 infection in the treatment vs placebo groups. Additional details regarding study design, outcomes, and secondary outcomes (e.g., positive antibody response) can be found using the reference links below:
- Ongoing studies to assess how well the vaccine works in real-world conditions will continue.
- Studies are also underway to clarify how long the vaccines will be effective.
- There is no currently recommended booster shot, but that may be considered in the future.
How do we know the vaccine is safe?
- FDA EUA approval requires the same rigorous review of clinical trial data as any other FDA approval.
- The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) reviews all safety data before recommending any COVID-19 vaccine for use.
- FDA: Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained
- Studies included more than 50,000 people who received a vaccine, and they continue to be monitored for side-effects.
What are the common side effects?
Most people do not have serious problems after being vaccinated. Side effects may feel like flu and even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Often times, people will have symptoms like mild fever, tiredness, and body aches after getting a vaccine. These symptoms are normal and signal your body’s immune response to the vaccine to help you prevent future infections.