COVID-19 Vaccine Information

The COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Utah has been committed to providing Utahns with accurate, transparent, and up-to-date health information and recommendations so individuals can make informed decisions to protect their families, businesses, and our communities. Our goal is to keep Utahns safe, healthy, and working.

 

How we get back to normal

When the vaccine is available, every Utahn age 18 years or older should get vaccinated for COVID-19. If as many people as possible get vaccinated and we continue to follow health recommendations, we will win the fight against this virus.

Phased approach to vaccination

We want it to be easy for everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. However, we will only have a limited supply of the vaccine at first. This means that policymakers must develop plans to make sure those who are most at-risk get the vaccine first, and that vaccines are distributed in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. 

The Utah Department of Health organized a workgroup made up of health professionals throughout the state (The Utah Prioritization Workgroup) to develop recommendations for how to prioritize vaccination groups on the state and local level. Their final recommendations, called Utah’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, are based on current information about COVID-19 vaccines, state and local data, vaccine storage capability of facilities, and guidance from the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

More vaccines will be available over the next few weeks and months. We will continue to provide additional updates about vaccine distribution information when more doses of the vaccine become available.


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Utah’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan will likely change as more vaccines become available, more people are vaccinated, and timelines become more clear.

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For providers

Anticipated vaccine approval timeline:


Pfizer has filed an Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine.

  • It will probably take the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about 2 weeks to review data from clinical trials.
  • Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is expected to review the data and have their recommendations by mid-December.

Moderna has filed an Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine.

  • It will probably take the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about 2 weeks to review data from clinical trials.
  • Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is expected to review the data and have their recommendations by late December.

Anticipated timeline for vaccine distribution


December

Healthcare personnel who work in high-risk environments from the 5 hospitals in the state that provide care to the highest numbers of COVID-19 patients.

  • Dixie Regional Medical Center
  • Intermountain Medical Center
  • LDS Hospital
  • University of Utah Hospital
  • Utah Valley Regional Medical Center

Late December – January

  1. Healthcare workers who work in high-risk environments in the remaining hospital facilities
  2. Remaining healthcare personnel, including: clinics, pharmacy staff, Tribal health, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing staff, and other healthcare personnel who are at higher-risk
  3. EMS, first responders, public health workers, and Tribal EMS and Tribal public health workers

February – March

  1. Long-term care facilities who have not been vaccinated 
  2. Residents in long-term care facilities 
  3. Essential workers 

March – July

  1. Tribal reservation communities
  2. Utahns 65 years of age and older
  3. Employees with a risk level 3 (teachers, childcare personnel, personal care, airline workers, etc.)
  4. Racial and ethnic groups at higher-risk, food prep, Utahns with underlying medical conditions
  5. Other Utahns within the risk level model
  6. Remaining workers in risk level 2 & 3 categories
  7. All Utahns

How will we know if a COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

In the United States, there are many steps in place to make sure vaccines are safe and effective. These steps consist of independent reviews of the data from clinical trials. Information and data from the clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines will be reviewed by many scientists, medical professionals, and public health experts before you ever get a vaccine.  

Before the COVID-19 vaccine will be available:

FDA approval
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a critical role in protecting the United States from threats like the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020, the FDA released guidelines to assist sponsors (those interested in developing a COVID-19 vaccine) in the clinical development and licensure of vaccines that prevent COVID-19. 

The FDA is currently evaluating scientific data and other information to determine the safety and effectiveness of the investigational COVID-19 vaccines used in clinical trials. 

The FDA will only approve or give emergency use authorization of vaccines for use in the United States from clinical trials that were conducted according to the FDA’s guidelines and meet these rigorous safety and effectiveness standards.

Even after the FDA has approved COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, scientists will continue to critically review the methods, results, and conclusions of a study, ensuring that the approach was sound and the conclusions are valid.

It is important to understand any side effects found during clinical trials. A document called a Vaccine Information Statement, or VIS, is legally required to be given to you before you get a vaccine. This is to help you make informed health decisions based on the risks and benefits of the vaccine. For more information about Vaccine Information Statements, click here.

ACIP review and recommendation
The ACIP provides recommendations and information to the CDC and HHS about:

  • Who should get the vaccine and under which circumstances a vaccine or related agent (such as immune globulin preparations) is recommended. 
  • Precautions for use of the vaccine and related agents and contraindications. 
  • Recognized adverse events (side effects). 
  • Special situations or populations that may need to modify routine recommendations.

The committee may revise or withdraw their recommendation(s) if new data becomes available.

CDC and HHS approval of recommendations
Once the ACIP recommendations have been reviewed and approved by the CDC Director and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, COVID-19 vaccines will be published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The MMWR publication represents the final and official CDC recommendations for immunization of the U.S. population. Utah will then be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.


We have the gold standard of safety and effectiveness for all medical products. The FDA, along with all of our sponsors have top of mind the safety of all vaccines. We will not cut corners in terms of our assessment of FDA, of that gold standard of safety and effectiveness.” 

-Dr.Stephen M. Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the FDA approval process for COVID-19 vaccinations.


What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?

During a public health emergency, the FDA can use its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) authority to allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products, to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases when certain criteria are met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.

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How did they develop a safe vaccine in such a short time frame when vaccines usually take years to develop?

Operation Warp Speed is part of a broader strategy to speed up the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics (commonly called countermeasures).

The goal of OWS is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines. OWS plans to have the first doses available by January 2021.

Operation Warp Speed took processes that normally take years and compressed them into months by running these processes at the same time. 
The process to develop a vaccine is usually done in sequential steps. Usually, one step is completed before the next step begins. For example, clinical trials and the process for FDA approval are usually completed before large quantities of a vaccine are produced. However, in order to quickly have a vaccine available, OWS completed these processes at the same time. They began manufacturing the vaccine while they were running the Phase 3 trials, before they knew if the vaccine was effective or not. If the vaccine turns out to be effective and the FDA approves them, the vaccines will be ready to use immediately upon approval by the FDA If the vaccines are not effective, they won’t use them. 

OWS selected the most promising candidates and provided coordinated government support to make sure safety and efficacy standards were met while speeding up development. Traditional protocols for public-private partnerships allow pharmaceutical companies to decide their own protocols for clinical trials. However, protocols for the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccinations have been overseen by the federal government. This allows the clinical trials to proceed more quickly. 

OWS did not need to eliminate any steps of the traditional vaccine development process because the steps were completed at the same time. 
To learn more about Operation Warp Speed and COVID-19 vaccination development, click here.

Why should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

We understand some people may be concerned about getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Even though these vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, it is important to know they are using the same safety approval processes and procedures they use for other vaccines authorized or approved for use. Safety is a top priority, and there are many reasons to get vaccinated.

  • Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use in the United States. 
  • The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine for use under what is known as an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). 

Having trouble understanding all of the information about the COVID-19 vaccine? 

This video from Neil Lamb, PhD, Vice President for Educational Outreach & Faculty Investigator relating to genetics, genomics, and biotechnology at  HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology explains it pretty well.

Disclaimer: We have no affiliation with Mr. Lamb or the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, nor do we endorse either. But we do think Mr. Lamb does a great job of explaining things and wanted to share this resource.


What are the long-term symptoms and complications of COVID-19?

Organ damage caused by COVID-19, even in people who only had mild symptoms:

Who should get vaccinated?

Anyone who is 18 years of age and older should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. We should have more information about the vaccine soon.


Do I need to get vaccinated if I already had COVID-19? 

It is likely that medical professionals and scientists will recommend you get the COVID-19 vaccine even if you already had COVID-19. Right now, we do not know yet how long antibodies last after infection or if they will protect you from being infected again. That is why it is important for scientists to continue learning about COVID-19 while vaccine trials are being completed. We need to know more about whether people who got sick with COVID-19 can be re-infected.

There is not enough information right now to say how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 after being infected, or if you are protected at all. Protection from a virus after you were infected is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

COVID-19 vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccine providers will be able to charge administration fees for giving or administering the shot to someone. 

Vaccine 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.

How long will COVID-19 vaccine immunity last?

Right now, we don’t know how long someone is immune to COVID-19 after they get the vaccine or get sick with the virus. We will only have information about the length of immunity for the length clinical trials. For example, if the first people in the study were vaccinated in July 2020 and the vaccine is licensed in December 2020, we will only have information about the immune response up to 5 months after vaccination. The vaccine manufacturer will likely continue to monitor people who got the vaccine for several months or more. This information will help us be better able to understand whether you will need a COVID-19 vaccination every year. 

There are many things that affect how long you will be protected after you get a vaccine, such as which types of vaccine you are given, what part of your immune system responds to the vaccine, and the level of immunity that is generated by the vaccine.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity is a term we use to describe when a virus or bacteria is unlikely to spread and cause disease because enough people have protection. There are 2 ways you can be protected from a virus or bacteria:

  • You have natural immunity from being infected before
  • You have immunity because you were vaccinated.  

When enough people are protected, everyone in the community is protected, even if some people don’t have any protection at all.

How herd immunity slows the spread of COVID-19

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If I am vaccinated against COVID-19, can I still spread the virus to other people?

Some vaccines do not prevent you from getting the virus, but can keep you from getting sick if you get it. This means you would be able to still spread the virus to other people. We don’t know yet how well the COVID-19 vaccines will prevent you from spreading the virus, or if they will just keep you from getting sick. 

If vaccines protect against infection, this means you will not spread the virus to someone else. However, some COVID-19 vaccines may protect against severe infection, but not prevent infection. If this is the case, you could spread the virus to someone else if you were infected, even if you had been vaccinated. 

That is why it’s important right now for you to continue to practice the health behaviors we know prevent COVID-19, like wearing a mask and physical distancing.

Will there be enough COVID-19 vaccines for everyone?

There may be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of 2020, but more vaccines will be available in the weeks and months that follow. We want it to be easy for everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. Having only a limited supply of the vaccine at first means that policymakers must develop plans to make sure those most at risk get the vaccine first and that vaccinations these limited vaccines are distributed in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. The vaccine will be given in “waves” based on who is most at risk from becoming ill from COVID-19.

When FDA first authorizes or approves the use of one or more COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, there may be a limited supply. This would mean that not everyone will be able to be vaccinated right away. It is understandable how concerning this would be for people, especially for those who are at increased risk for serious illness from this virus and for their loved ones.

That is why the federal government invested in select vaccine manufacturers to help increase the ability to quickly make and distribute a large amount of COVID-19 vaccine. This will allow us to start with as much vaccine as possible and increase the supply in the weeks and months to follow. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

Where can I get a vaccination?

Right now, COVID-19 vaccination is only available to:

Healthcare personnel who work in high-risk environments from the 5 hospitals in the state that provide care to the highest numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. You can have COVID-19, the flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, all at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this is. However, there are many FDA-licensed influenza vaccines available to keep you from getting the flu. A flu vaccine will protect you against the 3 or 4 flu viruses that scientists anticipate will be going around this year.

The COVID-19 vaccine may not be available to everyone until we are well into flu season, so it is more important than ever to get your flu vaccine.

We are all in this together

We recommend everyone keep practicing the health behaviors we know reduce the spread of COVID-19, until it is safer.

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Wear a mask when you are in close contact with anyone who doesn’t live in your home, especially indoors.

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Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.

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Try to keep at least 6 feet or 2 meters between you and people who don’t live in your home, especially indoors.

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Stay home if you are sick.