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COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

It is natural to have questions about the rollout of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. This page answers some frequently asked questions about the vaccines.

Vaccine Distribution

Vaccines are available in all 95 counties and will be administered based upon individual risk. Find additional information here.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe? 

Yes! These vaccines have already been given to tens of thousands of volunteers and have been shown to be safe and very good at preventing them from getting sick with COVID-19. The safety of COVID-19 vaccines is a top priority. The vaccine will continue to be monitored to make sure any rare problems are found as soon as possible and studied to see if they were caused by the vaccine.

How do the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines work? 

These vaccines work by giving your body the recipe to make the protein that is on the outside of the coronavirus. When your body sees that protein, it will make protective antibodies to it. Later, if the body sees the real virus, it will remember seeing that protein and destroy the virus before it has a chance to make you sick. 

After receiving the vaccine, when will I be immune from COVID-19?

We have learned from clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people who took the vaccine that the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective at preventing illness from COVID-19 after 14 days from the second dose of vaccine, and Moderna is 94.5% effective at preventing illness from COVID-19 after 14 days from the second dose of vaccine. You must get both doses to have the best protection against the virus.

How do I know which “Phase” I am in so I know when I can get the vaccine? 

Supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. is limited right now. Tennessee’s COVID-19 Pandemic Vaccination Plan is designed with phases to help distribute the vaccine as fairly as possible. You can read this plan and find more information about COVID-19 vaccines here, and check your eligibility for vaccination through our vaccine eligibility tool.

Vaccine doses

Who decides the Phases and how the vaccine is distributed?

The TN Department of Health, in partnership with the State Government and the TN COVID-19 Pandemic Vaccine Stakeholder Group, has developed a vaccination plan based upon the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine and the CDC’s Playbook for Jurisdictions. You can read Tennessee’s Vaccination Plan and find more information about COVID-19 vaccines here.  

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How do I know when it’s my turn to receive the vaccine, and how do I register? 

Tennesseans can follow a simple, three-step process to learn when they’re eligible for vaccination and register for a vaccination appointment:

  1. Find Your Phase: Tennesseans can find out what phase of the vaccination plan they’re in by visiting this page
  2. Find the Phase Your County is Vaccinating: To learn what phase your county is vaccinating, visit this page.
  3. Register for a Vaccination Appointment: People who are in a phase currently being vaccinated in their county can register online here for an appointment time to receive a vaccination through their county health department. Click your county on the map and then click “Make an Appointment” to register. Those who register will be asked to enter their name and contact information to be notified of their appointment date, time, and location as soon as vaccine becomes available.

How do I get the vaccine if I am in Phase 1a1?

Most people in Phase 1a1 will receive vaccine through their employer, through events planned by their local or regional department of health, or through vaccination strike teams deployed across the state. Please look for communications from your local health department or ask about details from your employer about vaccination events. More information about various locations to get the vaccine for Phase 1a1 will also be made publicly available as soon as possible.

Long term care facilities will be vaccinated through the federal partnership with Walgreens and CVS, through agreements with local pharmacies, or through vaccination strike teams deployed across the state.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

Practice social distancing, wear a mask when around others, wash your hands, avoid being around others who are sick. For more information about protecting yourself visit the CDC website. 

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best and safest way to become immune to COVID-19. Getting the vaccine will help your immune system build protection against the virus in case you are exposed in the future. Even though catching the virus may be another way to build protection, this is dangerous because you could get very sick or even die. You can also spread the virus to others when you are sick. The COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you COVID-19 and are a safe way to become protected from the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have already been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 90 days may choose to delay getting the vaccine because getting sick with COVID-19 again is unlikely during that time. However, there is no harm in getting the vaccine if you have already had COVID-19. You may also choose to wait to get the vaccine in order to allow those who are more high-risk to be vaccinated. 

Those who choose to receive the vaccine will receive a card with the date of their first dose, the name/manufacturer of the vaccine received and the date on which they should receive their second dose. Your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine must be from the same product name/manufacturer as your first dose. We recommend when you receive your card, take a picture as a back-up, add the date to your calendar, and download the v-safe app. The v-safe app can remind you when it’s time to receive your second dose. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine series should be given alone with a minimum time of 14 days before or after any other vaccines. If the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is given within 14 days of another vaccine by mistake, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine. 

No. It will still be important to continue to follow public health recommendations to protect themselves and others. This includes wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, and washing hands often. 

Given the currently limited information on how much the COVID-19 vaccines may reduce transmission in the general population and how long protection lasts, people who have received the vaccine should continue to follow all current guidance to protect themselves and others. This includes wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, following quarantine guidance after an exposure to someone with COVID-19, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing.

If you have symptoms shortly after receiving the vaccine, these symptoms do not mean you have developed COVID-19 from the vaccine. You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may feel like flu and may even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. For more information about symptoms after receiving the vaccine download the CDC’s What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine fact sheet.

The FDA has issued emergency use authorization for Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, but there are other COVID-19 vaccines in development. A clear time frame is not known at this time for when children will be recommended to get the vaccine. Pfizer added children under the age of 12 to their clinical trials in November, so we hope to learn more about this sometime next year as clinical trials progress.

Very rarely, severe allergic reactions have been reported in persons receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. While these reactions are being studied, it is advised that people with severe allergic reactions to injected or infused medications or vaccines in the past be observed for a minimum of 30 minutes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. People with allergies to foods, animals, venom, environmental dusts or pollens or pill medicines have not been shown to have any bad reaction from the COVID-19 vaccines.

No. None of the vaccines currently being developed in the United States contain the virus, so there is no possibility of the vaccine infecting someone with the COVID-19. Some people who receive the vaccine will develop arm soreness or redness, fever, headache, chills, and fatigue as their immune system responds. These symptoms typically go away after a day or two.

You should still plan to receive the second dose after you recover from your COVID-19 illness and after you finish your isolation period for COVID-19 infection (for most people, this will be 10 days after symptoms started or positive COVID-19 test, and no fever for 24 hours). Note that the second dose of vaccine should still be no sooner than the recommended waiting period for the second dose (21 days for the Pfizer vaccine, 28 days for the Moderna vaccine).

None of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the US can cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. Additionally, the first dose of vaccine only gives a partial amount of protection, so if you test positive by PCR after receiving the vaccine, it is likely a true positive. You should isolate for 10 days, inform your close contacts to quarantine, and seek medical care as needed.

The CDC has very helpful information on the vaccines available here.

There is no list maintained by the TN Department of Health for vaccine distribution. Vaccine will be distributed in “Phases” according to the TN Vaccination Plan. You can see which phase your county is currently in by checking the County Phase Status.

While COVID-19 vaccine supplies are limited, Tennessee’s vaccination plan focuses on providing vaccines to those at highest risk of becoming infected with the virus and suffering from life-threatening disease. The plan hopes to help protect those Tennesseans who are most vulnerable or at highest risk of infection, protect those with no means to socially distance, and to protect the systems that keep us all safe. We will work as quickly as possible to provide vaccines to Tennesseans according to the phased approach set out in the state’s plan, which is posted here. As vaccine supplies become increasingly available, we look forward to accelerating through our priority phases to cover the maximum number of Tennesseans in the shortest time possible.

They should follow the individual risk phase based on age or co-morbidities.

When you receive the vaccine, you will receive a card with the date of your first dose, the name/manufacturer of the vaccine received and the date you should receive your second dose. People who receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a county health department will be instructed by the health department as to how to schedule a second dose of vaccine. The health department will send out communication stating you are due for your second dose and when that location will be open / available for second doses.

Many of the health departments have moved to online registration and there will be the ability to register specifically for a second dose. You should plan to return to the same location where your first vaccine was given to ensure you receive the same manufacturer of vaccine for the second dose. Not all sites have both manufacturers of vaccine.

Vaccines for those in Phase 1a2 (for example, outpatient medical providers) will be made available at local health departments and through partnerships with other local hospitals, business or community partners.  Some counties will move through the Phases at different paces because there are different numbers of people in each Phase in our TN counties. You can see which phase your county is vaccinating here.

Talk with your employer/supervisor at the hospital.

Talk with your home health agency supervisor.

If you’re a supervisor/director of a home health agency seeking to organize a vaccination event for your staff, please contact your local or regional health department to learn of their plan for vaccination of Phase 1a1.

Your local or regional health department or local emergency management agency will be reaching out to your employer to let them know when COVID-19 vaccine will be available to you. First responders will receive vaccine through their local or regional department of health.

Phase 1a1 groups not associated with a hospital will receive vaccine through events planned by their local or regional department of health. Please watch for communications from them about upcoming vaccination events.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant people are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people based on what we know now. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk for other adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth. Currently there are no studies on safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women to inform vaccine recommendations. ACIP has stated that pregnant and lactating women may receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.  A conversation between you and your healthcare provider may help with the decision about taking the vaccine.

There is no recommendation for pregnancy testing before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccination.

At this time, we only know specifics around the Pfizer vaccine, although it is likely that some vaccines will have advantages over others in specific populations. ACIP has advised that pregnant and lactating women may receive the Pfizer vaccine. A conversation between you and your healthcare provider may help with the decision about taking the vaccine.

There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in breastfeeding people or the effects of mRNA vaccines (like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine) on breastfed infants. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. A lactating person who is part of a group recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g., healthcare personnel) may choose to be vaccinated. A conversation between you and your healthcare provider may help with the decision about taking the vaccine.

It’s called V-SAFE, and it’s a smart-phone based monitoring program. It uses text messaging and web surveys to check-in with vaccine recipients after vaccination. Participants would report side effects and health impact events after the COVID-19 vaccination. Depending on your answer, someone from CDC may call to check on you and gather more information. V-safe will also remind you when it’s time to receive your second dose if one is needed. Before receiving the vaccine, you will receive an information sheet from your healthcare provider with v-safe information and a link to register.

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County Vaccine Information & Appointments

Stay up to date with the latest information on your county’s vaccine phase and request an appointment.

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Vaccination Communication Toolkit

This toolkit from the Tennessee Department of Health provides information, graphics and other vital resources to help community leaders communicate important information related to COVID-19 vaccines.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Phases

While the vaccine supply is limited, it is necessary to prioritize who gets the vaccine, with people who are at highest risk of getting the virus or becoming seriously ill receiving the vaccine first.

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Read the draft of Tennessee’s Vaccine Plan

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