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COVID Vaccine Q & A

On January 19, 2021, Barnstable County launched its COVID-19 Helpline for its residents.  Below lists the most common questions our volunteers have received, and the corresponding answers.

Can I Get an Email Notification of Barnstable County COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics?

Yes! Sign up for 24 advance notice of a Barnstable County COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic HERE>>

Do I still need to wear a mask after I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

While the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, it is presently unknown whether you can still carry and transmit the virus to others. Until more is understood about how well the vaccine works, continuing with precautions such as mask-wearing and physical distancing will be important.

I am eligible in Phase 1 to receive the vaccine but I still can't get an appointment to be vaccinated. How can I sign up?

There are still several Phase I candidates that have yet to be vaccinated. We currently working to address that need. Even though we are now in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout, Barnstable County clinics are still accepting Phase 1 eligible residents.  

Why aren't the Barnstable County Regional Vaccination Clinics showing up on the state's map or website?

We are currently working with the state to remedy this problem, and they should be listed very soon. In the meantime, we urge you to sign up for Barnstable County’s email notification system to receive updates regarding upcoming clinics. 

What is the difference between a public and private vaccination clinic?

The County’s PUBLIC vaccine clinics are provided for residents of Cape Cod’s 15 towns. These clinics are public because they are planned, staffed and executed by the government/public sector. Private sites include private entities such as CVS, Walgreens and Stop and Shop and are offered to eligible candidates state-wide. 

The website www.maimmunizations.org shows available appointments. Why can't I register for them?

When someone cancels their existing appointment for a County clinic, a slot opens. The system then fills that open slot with another eligible candidate, drawing from an overflow list for that clinic only. There may be a brief lag time following a cancellation during which the system will show an available appointment (there is no option to register for that spot, as it would if the spot was actually available); once the appointment(s) is/are filled with the first person/people in the overflow list, the appointment disappears. The software calls this a “waitlist” and anyone can choose to be on this list if the clinic is full. The list only exists for that specific clinic – it does not transfer to future clinic. *NOTE: This has caused a LOT of confusion for those trying to get appointments. 

Does Barnstable County have a waitlist for vaccinations?

No. There IS, however, a mechanism in the registration system to schedule overflow if someone cancels. This prevents vaccine from being wasted. If you register for one of our clinics and see an option to join a waitlist, please understand that the PrepMod vaccine registration system does process an overflow of registrants in case of a cancellation. This administrative feature is a safety mechanism; if someone were to cancel, PrepMod draws from that overflow. The process is random and based on clinic volume. It was put in place to avoid the wasting of doses that have already been allocated for a given clinic and cannot be used at a later date. 

The County does not, under any circumstances, add names to the waitlist. Further, the names on the list are not stored or transferred to a future clinic. If your name ends up on this administrative list, and a space in the clinic opens, you will receive an email notifying you that you are registered. If you do not receive an email, the clinic is full and you should try to register for a different clinic. 

I am a senior, I don't have a computer, I don't drive and I live by myself. How can I get the vaccine?

We recommend that you reach out to any family or friends that might be able help you get a vaccine appointment. You may also call the Barnstable County COVID-19 Helpline at (774330-3001 or your town’s Council on Aging, who may have the resources to assist you (also, see answer to question above regarding vaccine distribution to residents of subsidized housing; remind them that all of the towns are preparing resources to assist the elderly, especially those that are homebound).

Massachusetts has also launched a hotline to help Massachusetts residents 75 and older make appointments for COVID-19 vaccine shots.  The call center can be reached by dialing 211 and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM and is staffed by 500 operators who can help callers find appointments at vaccination centers near them.  There are both Ennglish-speaking and Spanish-speaking operators, and translation offered in many other languages.

 

What if I contact someone to help me with the computer, but there are no appointments available?

We recommend that you ask the person who is helping you to keep checking for available appointments. Ask them to subscribe to Barnstable County’s email notification system (available at www.barnstablecountyhealth.org), so that they can be contacted at least 24 hours in advance of when clinic registration opens.  

Do I need to bring a doctor's note about my health issues/co-morbidities if I am under 65?

Currently doctor’s notes are not required. When you make an appointment online however, you will need to print the attestation form provided, complete the form listing your co-morbidities, and bring it with you to your vaccination appointment. Barnstable County vaccine clinics will also have attestation forms available for you to complete at the clinic.  

Can anyone who smokes no matter what your age get the vaccine during Phase 2?

Smoking is considered a comorbidity. If you have 2+ comorbidities, you are eligible in sub-phase 2 of phase 2. If this is your only comorbidity, then you are eligible in subphase 4 of Phase 2. 

How can couples register for the vaccine at the same time?

Currently the state-run registration system that the County uses for registration, PrepMod (maimmunizations.org), does not allow you to make an appointment for more than one person at a time. You will need to complete the process for each person.  

I am unable to walk or stand for very long. How do I find a drive-thru clinic?

Clinic details are listed on the state’s vaccine distribution map, as well as on our website. Most of our clinics are drive-through.   

Will anyone be delivering and administering vaccine to residents of senior subsidized housing?

This will most likely become a possibility when vaccine availability increases. The current amount of vaccine we are receiving from the state is being used for regional clinics to maximize equitable distribution amongst the towns. However, when more vaccine starts coming in, the towns will likely hold their own clinics and perform their own distribution. They all have plans to address their senior communities. The Visiting Nurses Association and Councils on Aging will likely be involved in this effort.  

My friends and family who live in other states, and who have less health issues than I do, have already been vaccinated and are already receiving their second dose in some cases. Why?

–Each state has its own vaccine distribution process, likely with its own challenges. 

–Some states might have received more vaccine based on varying factors. 

–The federal government is providing unpredictable allocations and shipments. 

–A number of states seem to be doing better with a preregistration system that matches supply with demand. Massachusetts’ chosen registration system, PrepMod, has several challenges that we’re working with the state to iron out. 

–Vaccinating 5.8 million adult residents in the midst of a pandemic is one of the most challenging assignments that Massachusetts officials have ever faced. 

If I have severe allergies to cats/certain foods, etc., is it safe for me to get the vaccine?

–You should not get the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines if you have a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any ingredient in the vaccine. A history of a severe allergic reaction due to any other cause is considered a precaution and should be discussed with your health care provider before receiving the vaccine. 

–Although there is a small chance that the COVID-19 vaccines could cause a severe allergic reaction, this would usually happen within a few minutes to one hour after getting the vaccine. If you have a history of allergic reactions, your vaccination provider may ask you to stay at the site where you received your vaccine for monitoring afterwards. 

–Barnstable County clinics will have EPI pens AND trained EMS staff at the ready to assist with any adverse reactions. Further, each vaccine recipient is being asked to stay for a 15 minute observation period following injection. 

Can I get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine?

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the US use the live virus that causes COVID-19. The goal of the vaccines is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms such as fever. These symptoms are a normal sign that the body is building immunity.

Messenger RNA vaccines–also called mRNA vaccines–are some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. These vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein–or even just a piece of a protein–that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. Learn more by visiting the links provided below.

Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get a vaccine when it’s available?

Little is known about natural immunity that may or may not be gained from having had the virus. Early evidence suggests that this natural immunity may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. Currently it is recommended that you get the vaccine, even if you’ve had COVID-19 previously.

I’ve heard there are severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. Is this true?

There are short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury. The early phase studies of the Pfizer vaccine show that it is safe. About 15% of people developed short-lived symptoms at the site of injection. Approximately 50% developed systemic reactions including headache, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or fever lasting for a day or two. Keep in mind that these side effects are indicators that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and are common when receiving any vaccine.

What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccines: Get the Facts

Should I be worried about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine because it was rapidly developed and tested?

The emergency situation warranted an emergency response. This does NOT mean that adequate safety or testing protocols were bypassed. The Pfizer vaccine, which is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed nationwide, was developed using a novel methodology that allows it to be free from materials of animal origin. It is synthesized by an efficient, cell-free process without preservatives. It has been studied in approximately 43,000 people.

To learn more about Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) and the process that allows vaccines to be distributed safely and effectively to the general public in a relatively short period of time, please watch this informational video from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can also read more about EUAs and other aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing process by visiting the links below.

What is the current status of COVID-19 research in pregnant or breastfeeding women?

No pregnancy related data have yet been released. Typically, in large trials, there are some inadvertent pregnancies that are followed for birth outcomes. Pregnancy and breastfeeding will probably not be contraindications to receiving COVID-19 vaccine; however, there is no safety data in pregnant woman, fetuses or infants at this time.

Will there be a vaccine available for children before the 2021 school year?

This will depend on the results of the trials of the vaccine in adolescents and children that are planned or underway now. But based on the current pace of research, it is potentially achievable that we will have a vaccine for at least some age groups of children and adolescents before the 2021-22 school year begins.

Will the vaccine be required for school entry?

When a vaccine is shown to be safe and effective in children, health authorities, including the CDC and the AAP, will make recommendations on when and how children should receive the vaccine. However, it is a state government decision which vaccines are required for school entry. Those decisions could vary by state.