Frequently Asked Questions
To receive weekly email updates from Skagit Regional Health regarding vaccination plans, distribution and resources, sign up for our weekly COVID-19 Vaccine Update email.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
When can I get the vaccine?
Washington is currently in Phase 1B - Tiers 3 and 4 of the phased approach and is prioritizing individuals that qualify under those guidelines. Phase and Tier information changes frequently, so we encourage community members to check the Washington state Department of Health website to determine their vaccine eligibility. Vaccine appointments are dependent upon vaccine availability and weekly shipments of vaccine from the state of Washington. Phase eligible patients can now join the waitlist.
Due to limited supply, we do not know exactly when the will advance to future phases. As Washington moves forward in it's phased approach, and vaccine is available, we will update our website.
Regardless of citizenship or immigration status, all eligible people living or working in Washington should get vaccinated.
Is Skagit Regional Health offering vaccine appointments?
We have set up a waitlist for phase-eligible people who are interested in scheduling a vaccine appointment. Those on our waitlist will be called when vaccine becomes available. Please note that our waitlist has grown significantly and it will take many weeks or months to vaccinate everyone. We appreciate your patience.
Is an appointment required for the COVID-19 vaccine at Skagit Regional Health?
Yes. In order for our teams to provide vaccines safely and efficiently, appointments are required. Appointments also help to ensure that our sites are not overwhelmed by large crowds, we have the appropriate number of vaccine doses on hand and staffing levels are adequate. We are not able to accommodate walk-ins and ask that you do not visit a vaccine site without an appointment.
I am 16 years old. Can I receive a vaccine at Skagit Regional Health?
On April 15 all those 16 years of age and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. However, only Pfizer is approved for individuals that are 16 and 17 years old. Skagit Regional Health currently only offers the Pfizer vaccine at our Mount Vernon Vaccine Clinic, located on the Skagit Valley Hospital Campus. When you sign up for our waitlist, make sure you select Mount Vernon for your vaccine location.
I joined the vaccine appointment waitlist. Why haven’t I been contacted to schedule an appointment?
Currently, demand for the vaccine outweighs supply across the state. Those on our waitlist will be emailed a link to schedule their appointment when vaccine becomes available. Our waitlist continues to grow significantly each day and it will take many weeks or months to vaccinate everyone. Please be patient as we work through this process.
If I do not live in Washington, can I still make a vaccine appointment?
According to the Washington State Department of Health, you must live or work in Washington to be eligible to receive vaccine at a Washington State vaccination site. Learn more here.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
The FDA's job is to ensure that all vaccines are safe and effective. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been extensively studied and have completed the three clinical study levels required before a vaccine can be approved. While the timeline has moved quickly given the nature of the pandemic, all appropriate steps to ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccine have been completed. And as with any medication or vaccine, once the product is released to the general public where many more people receive it, there is a very small chance that very rare unexpected side effects will occur and that is why we will be monitoring people for 15 minutes after they receive the vaccine. Learn more about COVID vaccine safety from the CDC.
Will we need to continue to mask and social distance once we have received the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, even if you get vaccinated, the Washington Department of Health recommends you continue with the other prevention measures you've been doing, such as washing your hands, wearing a mask, staying six feet apart and limiting gatherings.
More research is needed to determine if the vaccine prevents people from spreading the virus. The vaccine prevents symptoms, but we do not yet know if it prevents transmission.
Additionally, many people in our state will need to wait months to get the vaccine, and masks and other prevention measures are still recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to people who are not yet vaccinated.
For the latest guidance from the Department of Health, click here.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19. They do not contain live viruses. These vaccines do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.
What are the vaccine side effects?
According to the Washington Department of Health: The most common side effects of the vaccine are similar to some routine vaccines, including a sore arm, tiredness, headache and muscle pain.
Data from clinical trials showed the following in people younger than 55:
- About 80 percent reported pain at the injection site
- About half reported tiredness and headache
- Less than one-third (30 percent) reported muscle pain
- Most side effects occur within two days of getting the vaccine and last about a day
- Side effects are more common after the second dose than the first dose
Side effects typically resolve within 24-48 hours Fever may occur; Tylenol may be given if fever or pain develop but should not be taken preventatively.
Serious allergic reactions to coronavirus vaccine are extremely rare and much less dangerous than the virus itself, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found only 21 such incidents among 1.9 million people vaccinated in the program's first two weeks. The CDC said all but one of the allergic reactions resulted in full recoveries.
Is it COVID-19 or a vaccine reaction?
As we move farther into the COVID-19 vaccine roll out, there are a lot of questions about vaccine side effects. According to the Washington Department of Health: The most common side effects of the vaccine are similar to some routine vaccines, including a sore arm, tiredness, headache and muscle pain. Side effects typically resolve within 24-48 hours Fever may occur; Tylenol may be given if fever or pain develop but should not be taken preventatively.
However, some of the vaccine reactions are similar to symptoms of COVID-19. This grid, provided by the Washington Department of Health, offers some excellent guidance for patients regarding COVID-19 symptoms and vaccine reactions. We also recommend everyone who receives a vaccine sign up for V-Safe, a text-enabled service offered by the CDC offering personalized health check-ins following your vaccine.
How much does a COVID-19 vaccine cost?
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers may be able to charge administration fees for giving the shot. Vaccination providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.
What brands of vaccine will Skagit Regional Health have available?
Skagit Regional Health has been approved by the Washington Department of Health (DOH) to receive both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine was issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on December 11, 2020 and the Moderna vaccine on December 19, 2020.
Vaccines offered at the two vaccine locations are dependent upon vaccine quantities available.
Although Johnson & Johnson received EUA on February 27, 2021, Skagit Regional Health has not received any shipments of this brand, nor do we expect to since we are able to safely store Pfizer and Moderna. Johnson & Johnson has been prioritized for sites that have more standard storage capabilities.
What age groups can receive the vaccine under the Emergency Use Authorization?
Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for use under the EUA for persons age 16 and above.
Moderna vaccine is currently approved for use under the EUA for persons age 18 and above.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently approved for use under the EUA for persons age 18 and above.
What is an mRNA vaccine and how does it work?
mRNA vaccines take advantage of the process cells use to make proteins in order to trigger an immune response. mRNA vaccines do not contain live virus, so there is no risk of the vaccine causing COVID-19 in the vaccinated person. mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person's DNA. Learn more here.
How effective are COVID-19 vaccines?
After receiving two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, both are considered 95% effective in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 in a vaccinated person. For Johnson & Johnson, efficacy is considered to be at 67%. Protection is not immediate. It will take 1-2 weeks following the final dose to be considered fully vaccinated.
Why is Skagit Regional Health's Pfizer vaccine only available in Mount Vernon?
The Pfizer vaccine requires specialized “ultra-cold” storage. Skagit Regional Health was fortunate to receive an unsolicited donation of a sub-zero freezer, which is now located on the Mount Vernon campus. The Pfizer vaccine has very strict storage and transportation requirements to ensure the vaccine is kept in its ultra-cold state leading up to inoculation, therefore it currently is not feasible to transport the Pfizer vaccine to any off-site location. All Pfizer vaccines and boosters will be administered in Mount Vernon.
The Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage so we plan to offer Moderna vaccine at multiple Skagit Regional Health locations in Skagit and Snohomish Counties.
Is a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine required?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second dose. Efficacy of a single dose has not been systematically evaluated. We are currently scheduling second doses 28 days following the first dose, to fit within CDC guidelines.
Patients receiving their first dose should form a plan to return for their second dose 28 days later. DOH noted that the effectiveness of a single dose has not been sufficiently evaluated, so it is important for everyone to plan to receive both doses.
Johnson & Johnson vaccines only require one dose.
If I get my first dose from another vaccine site, can I get my second dose from Skagit Regional Health?
We recommend patients return to their original vaccine site to receive their second dose. However, if that is not possible, we do offer a limited number of second dose options at our Smokey Point location for patients who's first dose was provided at another site. Patients must join the wait list to request a second dose and wait until they are contacted for one of these limited appointment slots.
If I get a Pfizer vaccine for my first dose, can I get the Moderna as my second dose? Are the COVID-19 vaccines interchangeable?
No - people should receive the same vaccine for both doses. Safety and efficacy of a mixed series has not been evaluated. COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable.
What is the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine and is it safe?
Like all vaccines, viral vector vaccines for COVID-19 have been extensively tested for safety before being authorized or approved for use in the United States. Vaccines of this type have been well-studied and viral vector vaccines have been used to respond to recent Ebola outbreaks.
Viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus as a means to deliver instructions, in the form of genetic material (a gene) to a cell. The vaccine does not cause infection with either COVID-19 or the virus that is used as the vector. The genetic material delivered by the viral vector does not integrate into a person’s DNA.
I have heard that the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine is not as effective as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. Will I get to choose?
All three vaccines are effective in reducing risk of hospitalizations and death. This is one of the main goals of vaccinating as many people as possible to reduce admissions and deaths. We will also be reducing numbers of people who are ill. Each facility approved to administer COVID-19 vaccines will get supplies of vaccines as available by the state. Right now, we need to immunize as many people as possible to get the pandemic under control and reduce the risk of new variants developing. This means that patients need to get the vaccine that is available to them in the immunization clinic that day. All three vaccines are effective in reducing the risk of severe disease and death.
Skagit Regional Health currently only provides Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as getting another vaccine, such as the flu vaccine?
No - COVID-19 vaccines should be administered alone, with a minimum of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccines. Safety and efficacy while administered simultaneously with other vaccines has not been studied.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine needed annually?
It is currently unclear how long the COVID-19 vaccines will protect the recipient, though most experts expect at least a year. More research will be conducted over the next few years.
If I had COVID-19 previously, am I able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
According to the CDC, there is no recommended minimum interval between COVID-19 infection and vaccination, once the patient is no longer symptomatic. Current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Thus, persons with documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in the preceding 90 days may delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if desired.
If I currently have COVID-19, can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
According to the CDC, vaccination of persons with known current SARS-CoV-2 infection should be deferred until the person has recovered from the acute illness (if the person had symptoms) and criteria have been met for them to discontinue isolation. This recommendation applies to persons who develop SARS-CoV-2 infection before receiving any vaccine doses as well as those who develop SARS-CoV-2 infection after the first dose but before receipt of the second dose. While there is otherwise no recommended minimum interval between infection and vaccination, current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Thus, persons with documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in the preceding 90 days may delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if desired.
If I have been exposed to COVID-19, should I get the vaccine?
If a person has a known exposure to COVID-19 and is within a quarantine period, that person should wait until after the quarantine period has ended to avoid exposing others to the virus during the vaccination visit.
I have an underlying medical condition. Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccine may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions who have no contraindications to vaccine. Phase 2/3 of the clinical trials demonstrate similar safety and efficacy profiles for people with underlying medical conditions, including those at increased risk for severe COVID-19, compared to people without underlying medical conditions.
I am immunocompromised. Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
People with HIV infection, other immunocompromising conditions, or who take immunosuppressive medications or therapies might be at increased risk of severe COVID-19. Data is not currently available to establish safety and efficacy of vaccine for these groups. These individuals may still receive COVID-19 vaccine unless otherwise contraindicated.
Immunocompromised individuals should be counseled about:
- Unknown vaccine safety and efficacy profiles in immunocompromised persons
- Potential for reduced immune responses
- Need to continue to follow all current guidance to protect themselves against COVID-19
Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant or lactating?
Pregnant women and breastfeeding women were not included in the studies looking at either vaccine. There are plans for formal studies. However, given the pandemic and risk for disease, immunization experts and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommend consideration of immunizing those who are pregnant or breastfeeding as it is felt based on safety data to date that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. To date, many pregnant women have decided to receive the vaccine worldwide and, based on data to date, the vaccine appears safe and effective in pregnancy. Please talk more to your OB/GYN or Family Medicine physician more about this if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- COVID-19 vaccines have not been associated with infertility or miscarriage.
- Antibodies to the spike protein will not bind to placental proteins and prevent pregnancy.
- Antibodies to the spike protein have not been linked to infertility after COVID-19 infection.
- There does not appear to be an increased risk of miscarriage after COVID-19 infection.
Additional information can be located on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website.
What is a COVID-19 variant and are any variants reported in Skagit County?
Variants are strains of viruses with mutations to help them to survive. Mutations occur the longer a virus is circulating in the community. This is one of the many reasons we need to get as many people immunized as possible as quickly as possible. As of early March 2021, there are three main circulating variants worldwide. These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19 which may lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths. This is why vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, isolation and quarantine are so important to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.The three main variants include:
- The United Kingdom (UK) variant called B.1.1.7. This variant has many mutations and spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. It has been detected in many countries around the world. This variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of December 2020. This variant was detected in Skagit County in early March 2021.
- South African variant called B.1.351. This variant was detected first in October 2020 and shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant have been reported in the US at the end of January 2021. As of March 5, 2021, one case has been found in Washington State.
- Brazilian variant called P.1. This variant was first detected in January 2021 and contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies. This variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of January 2021 with no cases reported in Washington state as of March 5, 2021.
I have heard that some of the vaccines are less effective against the variants. Why should I still get vaccinated?While the vaccines currently available may be less effective against some of the variants, they are still effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death. Even when our flu vaccine is not effective some years, patients who are vaccinated are less likely to have severe disease and die. The more people get immunized, the fewer numbers of new variants will emerge as less people will be infected and thus there will be less circulating virus.
What is being done to address the variants in regards to vaccines and will we need boosters if already immunized?
Much like with influenza vaccines each year where modifications are made each year to the flu vaccine based on different circulating strains from the southern hemisphere, pharmaceutical companies are working on adjusting the COVID-19 vaccines to include coverage for some of the circulating variants. Researchers are looking at the need for boosters for those already immunized. Studies are also being done to see how long immunity lasts and will this be like the influenza vaccine where we need annual shots. More data is coming so stay tuned for updates.