Understanding the COVID-19 Vaccine


More about the vaccine: Frequently asked questions

Get up-to-date information on the COVID-19 vaccine and its safety, efficacy and science in the frequently asked questions and links to additional resources below. Check back as more information on the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccines work by tricking the immune system to fight off an infection. They do this in different ways. Some use weakened versions of the virus that are unable to cause illness (chicken pox and measles); some use dead virus (influenza); and the COVID-19 vaccine uses pieces of the virus to target a specific protein on the surface of the virus.

Note: You cannot get COVID-19 from a vaccine. The vaccine would contain proteins or other biological substances to stimulate the immune response, but not the coronavirus itself.

How does the vaccine work?
The COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA, or messenger RNA, a genetic material that contains instructions for making proteins. The mRNA in the COVID-19 vaccine is designed to trigger our bodies' cells to produce pieces of COVID-19 virus proteins. Our immune systems then make antibodies against these proteins. Those antibodies may either block infection or weaken infection to a mild form. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

How is the vaccine administered?
Health care personnel and patients will receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a shot into the muscle of the upper arm. A second dose is then administered either three or four weeks later.

When will I get a second dose? 
A second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is necessary to further boost the immune response and ensure long-term protection from COVID-19. We are committed to providing a second dose to everyone who receives a first dose. Community members will be scheduled for a second dose following their first dose appointment.

NOTE: Second doses are allotted by the state based on first doses administered. It is important that you receive your second dose from the same provider who gave you the first dose and that you do not miss your scheduled appointment to ensure you are able to receive the vaccine within the recommended time.

Does Spectrum Health have the COVID-19 vaccine?
Spectrum Health has the capabilities to receive, store, distribute and administer vaccines when they become available and we will be one of five health systems in the state to receive the vaccine first for our team members. We have been planning for months and are ready with freezers located at sites throughout our health system.

When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and who gets the vaccine first?
The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available; however, not everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away. 

We will be following the federal government’s phased approach for vaccinations to ensure that those most in need are prioritized. This phased approach means Spectrum Health team members who have patient contact will be able to receive the vaccine first. More information is available from the CDC about priority groups.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
The FDA carefully reviews all safety data and only authorizes vaccine use if there’s sufficient evidence strongly suggesting that patients have benefitted from the vaccine and that it meets safety standards. The FDA has rigorous scientific and regulatory processes in place to help ensure the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine

What about concerns with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
To date, more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC are reviewing data involving six reported cases of an extremely rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine.

Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for Spectrum Health Lakeland, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. Out of an abundance of caution, and following recommendations from the FDA and CDC, we have paused the use of the J&J vaccine in all clinical settings until further analysis and investigation of these cases can be performed.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective?
The COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be effective, based on initial clinical trials. Because the vaccine is authorized for an emergency use during the pandemic, the vaccine’s maker will continue to collect data to demonstrate whether the vaccine is effective over longer periods of time.

Can the vaccine mRNA affect your DNA?
No. Our DNA is located in the nucleus of each cell. The vaccine mRNA does not get into the nucleus. Soon after a cell makes the pieces of the virus proteins, the cell breaks down the mRNA into inactive pieces..

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available to me?
By getting the COVID-19 vaccine you will be protecting yourself, your family, community, and loved ones. Once it is available to you, we recommend you get the vaccine so we can move Michigan past this pandemic.

Does the vaccine have side effects?
There are usually mild to moderate side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. The most common side effect caused by the vaccine includes pain at the site where the vaccine was given, which is in the arm. Other side effects may include a headache, fever, chills or muscle aches.

What should I do if I'm pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy?
Pregnancy increases the risk for severe COVID-19 disease and it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family. Pregnant women who get COVID-19 are three times more likely to need intensive hospitalized care. They are also two to three times more likely to need advanced cardiac life support or breathing tube, and are also at an increased risk of mortality overall compared to someone who is not pregnant. 

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to engage in a discussion and shared decision-making with your provider regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Have a conversation to see what's best for you and your family.

What do we know about the vaccine and infertility?
We have no evidence that the vaccine will affect fertility in males or females. Both the Moderna and Pfizer trials have identified several vaccine recipients who became pregnant during the clinical trial and have had pregnancies that continued without incident.

Do I need the vaccine if I’ve recovered from COVID-19?
Yes, currently those who have recovered from COVID-19 are still encouraged to get a vaccination. At this time we do not know how long natural immunity lasts after having a case of COVID-19. Currently it is believed that people may be naturally immune for at least 90 days.

Do I need the vaccine if I’m a young, healthy individual?
Studies show that younger, healthy individuals are less likely to develop a severe case of COVID-19. However, there is no way to determine which specific risk factors may play a role in how your body reacts to the virus. Some people who have mild COVID-19 go on to experience lingering symptoms for many months. In addition, it is possible to transmit the virus to other people even if your case is mild or without symptoms.

Why do I still need to follow precautions if I get the vaccine?
At this time, we do not know the impact vaccination will have on transmission of the virus. This will only be answered with studies after widespread vaccine rollout. Safety measures, including mandatory masking, social distancing, and pre-procedure COVID-19 testing will still be required until more information is available.


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Steps forward
Team members at Spectrum Health Lakeland take the first step to protecting themselves and our community by receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Learn more in the video below:

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