The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on all of our lives and those of our loved ones. While there remains many unknowns surrounding the new Omicron variant, the highly contagious Delta variant that caused the summer surge in infections still remains the main threat and accounts for the majority of cases in the United States.
We all want to get back to a time when we can feel safe and protected so that we can return to doing the things we enjoy. The only way for that to happen is for the spread of this virus to be stopped. That point will occur when we achieve something called “herd immunity” meaning enough people are immune that the virus is unlikely to be spread from one person to another because those people have immunity already. This typically occurs when 60-70% of the population has been vaccinated, but because of the increased infectivity of the COVID-19 variants, this number is estimated to be 80%. This is why as a health system, we are doing everything we can to protect our patients, staff and community.
We know that some of you still have questions about COVID-19, the variants and the vaccine, so we’ve put together the answers to frequently asked questions. We want you to feel informed and make the right choice for you, your family and our community.
About the Vaccines:
Please see the most common questions and answers related to COVID-19 vaccines.
Currently, there are three vaccines that have either been fully approved by the FDA or have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Each is administered similar to a flu shot and given in the muscle of the upper arm:
The Pfizer and German partner BioNTech Vaccine was the first to receive EUA from the FDA on December 11, 2020, and the first to be fully approved on August 23, 2021 for individuals 16 years of age or older.
- Requires two doses, 21 days apart
- Recommended for ages 5 and above (On November 5, 2021, the FDA expanded this vaccine's EUA from age 12 and above to now include pediatrics 5-11 years of age.)
- Uses Messenger RNA (or mRNA) technology
The Moderna (in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Vaccine received EUA from the FDA on December 18, 2020.
- Requires two doses, 28 days apart
- Recommended for ages 18 and above
- Uses Messenger RNA (or mRNA) technology
The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine (developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson) received EUA from the FDA on February 27, 2021.
- Single-dose vaccine
- Recommended for ages 18 and above
- Uses genetically engineered common cold virus at its base
- Fetal cells aided in the development of this vaccine but are not present in the final product. Fetal cells were from laboratory-grown cell lines derived from a single 1985 aborted fetus cell.
On April 13, 2021, the CDC and FDA temporarily paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to reports of rare blood clots. On April 23rd, 2021, the CDC lifted the pause and recommended resuming the use of the J&J vaccine, although MemorialCare chose not to offer Johnson & Johnson vaccine at any of our vaccination sites.
On December 16, 2021, the CDC endorsed recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the prevention of COVID-19, expressing a clinical preference for individuals to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine over Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. ACIP’s unanimous recommendation followed a robust discussion of the latest evidence on vaccine effectiveness, vaccine safety and rare adverse events, and consideration of the U.S. vaccine supply. The U.S. supply of mRNA vaccines is abundant – with nearly 100 million doses in the field for immediate use. This updated CDC recommendation follows similar recommendations from other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom. Given the current state of the pandemic both here and around the world, the ACIP reaffirmed that receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to receive an mRNA vaccine will continue to have access to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Additional updated information can be accessed from the CDC’s J&J vaccine update webpage.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. More than 485 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through December 13, 2021. More than 204 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with one of the available vaccines and are now protected against COVID-19. Additionally, more than 60.8 million people have received a booster dose. That data clearly shows that these vaccines are both safe and highly effective. The vaccines were developed to do exactly what they do – help prevent you from developing severe illness or dying from COVID.
How effective? COVID-19 vaccination reduces the risk of COVID-19 and its potentially severe complications. All COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States helped protect adults and children 5 years and older against COVID-19, including severe illness, in clinical trial settings. So far, studies that have looked at how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions (vaccine effectiveness studies) have shown that these vaccines are working well.
Most vaccine effectiveness data now available are related to mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) because these vaccines have been available longer. CDC and other experts continue to study the effectiveness of both mRNA vaccines and the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine in real-world conditions.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. COVID-19 vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. The vaccines met the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization (EUA). The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in US history. This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe.
Although it’s hard to believe that these vaccines were able to be developed, tested and produced without cutting corners, it’s true. In fact, vaccinated participants in those trials continue to be followed to watch for the development of any late complications; none have been reported with the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).
Yes. The vaccines have proven to be very effective in reducing the risk of symptomatic infection with the Delta variant. While there is some “breakthrough” in vaccinated people, the majority of those individuals are either asymptomatic, though could be shedding the infection, or have mild-moderate symptoms that feel like a cold or flu.
The COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized in the United States are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant. But they are not 100% effective, and some fully vaccinated people will become infected (called a breakthrough infection) and experience illness. For all people, the vaccine provides the best protection against serious illness and death. Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to spread the virus for a shorter time: For prior variants, lower amounts of viral genetic material were found in samples taken from fully vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections than from unvaccinated people with COVID-19.
Per the CDC, current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters. Given the information we shared in our last FAQ about the drop-off in vaccine coverage after 6 months with both Pfizer and Moderna, and after 2 months with J&J, getting your booster is now even more important. Preliminary data on the Pfizer vaccine shows that a 3rd dose or booster creates 25 times the antibody protection compared to 2 doses.
COMMON SIDE EFFECTS:
Most people who get vaccinated will have mild side effects that may last at most a couple of days. Some may feel one or more of the following common side effects after vaccination, while many don’t notice anything at all beyond a sore arm near the site of the shot.
On the arm where you got the shot--
And throughout the rest of your body--
- Muscle pain
If you receive a 2-dose vaccine such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the side effects after your second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after your first shot. These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days.
So far, reactions reported after getting a booster shot were similar to those after the two-dose or single-dose primary series. Fever, headache, fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and overall, most side effects were mild to moderate. However, as with the two-dose or single-dose primary series, serious side effects are rare, but may occur.
If, on the other hand, you had a severe or immediate allergic reaction after getting the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you should not get a second dose of either of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Talk with your doctor about getting a vaccine that is not mRNA-based, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
How to treat common side effects:
If you do experience any of the common side effects after vaccination, the best course of action is to talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or antihistamines, for any pain or discomfort you may be feeling. You can take these medications to relieve post-vaccination side effects if you have no other medical reasons that prevent you from taking these medications normally.
It is not recommended you take these medicines before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent side effects.
- To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot you may find it helpful to apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area. It is also recommended that you use or exercise your arm.
- To reduce discomfort from fever, it is recommended that you drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.
RARE SIDE EFFECTS:
While most people will only experience the common side effects, there are some side effects that are rare but more serious that one should be aware of.
- Allergic Reaction - All Vaccines
People who have a history of anaphylaxis to another vaccine or injectable medication should be carefully monitored for 30 minutes if they choose to get the vaccine. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic overreaction of the body’s immune system, which can be life-threatening. Those concerned or who have been told by their healthcare provider to carry an EpiPen should speak with their physician before receiving the vaccine.
Additionally, one may have an allergic reaction if they are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine. For a list of ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines, see the FAQ question: “Are there any groups of people who should or should not receive a COVID-19 vaccine?”
- Rare Blood Clot - Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccination is rare. TTS is a serious, but rare, adverse event that causes blood clots with low platelets.
As of December 8, 2021, more than 16.9 million doses of the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine have been given in the United States. CDC and FDA identified 57 confirmed reports of people who got the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and later developed TTS. VAERS reports have identified nine deaths that have been caused by or were directly attributed to TTS following J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccination. Women ages 18-49 years, especially, should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event.
There are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen. On December 16, 2021, the CDC endorsed recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the prevention of COVID-19, expressing a clinical preference for individuals to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine over Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. Given the current state of the pandemic both here and around the world, the ACIP reaffirmed that receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to receive an mRNA vaccine will continue to have access to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome - Johnson & Johnson Vaccine:
In July 2021, the FDA revised the vaccine recipient and vaccination provider fact sheets for the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine to include information pertaining to an observed increased risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) following vaccination. GBS in people who have received the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is rare.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent nerve damage.
The CDC and FDA are monitoring reports of GBS after J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccination. After more than 16.9 million J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine doses administered, there have been around 278 preliminary reports of GBS identified in VAERS as of December 8, 2021. These cases have largely been reported about 2 weeks after vaccination and mostly in men, many ages 50 years and older. CDC will continue to monitor for and evaluate reports of GBS occurring after COVID-19 vaccination and will share more information as it becomes available.
Each year in the United States, an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS. Most people fully recover from the disorder. GBS has also been observed at an increased rate associated with certain vaccines, including certain seasonal influenza vaccines and a vaccine to prevent shingles. Although the available evidence suggests an association between the Janssen vaccine and increased risk of GBS, it is insufficient to establish a causal relationship. No similar signal has been identified with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.
- Myocarditis and Pericarditis - mRNA Vaccines
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. Most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis who received care responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly. As of December 8, 2021, VAERS has received 1,908 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis among people ages 12-29 years who received COVID-19 vaccines. Most cases have been reported after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), particularly in male adolescents and young adults. Through follow-up, including medical record reviews, CDC and FDA have confirmed 1,106 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis. The symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, or an abnormal heartbeat (fast, fluttering, or pounding). It is recommended that one seek medical care if you have any of these symptoms within a week after the COVID-19 vaccination.
CDC continues to recommend that everyone ages 5 years and older get vaccinated for COVID-19. The known risks of COVID-19 illness and its related, possibly severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death, far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.
If you have already gotten the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or if your child has already gotten the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, it’s important to get the second dose unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get it. Visit the CDC website for more information.
Confirmed cases have occurred:
- Mostly in male adolescents and young adults age 16 years or older
- More often after getting the second dose than after the first dose of one of the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna)
- Typically within several days after COVID-19 vaccination
Currently, the vaccines are not recommended for all ages. While the Pfizer vaccine is not recommended for those below the age of 5, both the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not recommended for those below age 18.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women:
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are pregnant. In addition, everyone who is ages 18 and older, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future, should get a booster shot. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19, and a healthy mom is important for a healthy baby. If you are pregnant, you might want to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about COVID-19 vaccination. While such a conversation might be helpful, it is not required before vaccination. You can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, including a booster shot, without any additional documentation from your healthcare provider. Visit the CDC website for more information.
Fetal cells and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine:
The Catholic Church has issued an ethics statement regarding the involvement of a cell line derived from a 1985 aborted fetus in the original development of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (noting that there is no fetal tissue or product in the vaccine itself). While some U.S. Catholic leaders have issued opinions opposed to use of the vaccine, a statement from the Vatican recognizes the greater good for use of the J&J vaccine to prevent disease and death and considers it morally acceptable.
Additionally, the local Diocese of Orange has addressed the issue of the vaccines in the following video:
Click here for English
Click here for Spanish subtitles
Those with allergies to any of the vaccine ingredients:
The following three vaccines do not contain eggs, preservatives or latex. The ingredients for each vaccine are listed below, but for more information on each vaccine along with individual vaccine fact sheets, please visit the CDC's vaccine webpage.
- Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine ingredients:
mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.
- Moderna COVID-19 vaccine ingredients:
Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.
- Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine ingredients:
Recombinant, replication-incompetent adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, citric acid monohydrate, trisodium citrate dihydrate, ethanol, 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD), polysorbate-80, sodium chloride.
If you have any concerns about your health, whether related to vaccination or otherwise, please contact your primary care physician immediately. Of course, if you feel you are having a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.
For more information on this vaccine, visit the CDC’s J&J vaccine update webpage.
No. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a completely different method of causing immunity to the COVID-19 virus than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Neither the blood clotting problem nor the Guillain-Barré Syndrome side effects have been reported in the tens of millions of people receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
On July 28, 2021, the state of California's Department of Public Health updated their masking guidelines, superseding all prior covering guidance. The updated mask guidelines reflect the recent significant rise in COVID-19 cases as a result of the prevalence of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Masks are required for all individuals in the following indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status:
- On public transit (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation)
- Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare
- Emergency shelters and cooling centers
Masks are required for all individuals, in the following indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status (and surgical masks are recommended):
- Healthcare settings
- State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
- Homeless shelters
- Long Term Care Settings & Adult and Senior Care Facilities
Additionally, masks are required* for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public).
On December 13, 2021, the state of California's Department of Public Health updated their masking guidelines to require masks to be worn in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks (December 15, 2021 through January 15, 2022). On January 5, 2022, this order was updated and extended through to at least February 15th.
Exemptions to masks requirements:
The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:
- Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
- Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
- Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
- Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
For more information, see this CDPH's webpage.
The COVID-19 vaccine, like other vaccinations, stimulates your immune system. This can cause a temporary enlargement of lymph nodes near where the person was vaccinated. Those lymph nodes can sometimes be seen by the radiologist reading your mammogram and make it appear to be abnormal even when you are OK and there is no indication of cancer. Since enlarged lymph nodes can result in a “false positive” on your mammogram, you could get a request to return for further testing — a call-back — which can be unsettling.
Therefore, mammograms should be scheduled before your first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination or four to six weeks after the last dose. That way, there is time for your lymph nodes to return to their normal size. As with any testing recommended by your healthcare provider, women age 40 and above should not delay recommended mammographic screening.
No, for multiple reasons. The first is that these vaccines stay locally in the muscle in which they are injected. They do not enter the bloodstream and circulate so they cannot cause you to shed anything. In addition, none of the vaccines contain any of the actual components of the virus, let alone a whole virus itself. The spike protein your body makes in response to the vaccine is primarily made locally in the muscle where the vaccine is administered and may possibly be seen in low levels in the blood, but it should not be shed in significant quantity in respiratory or other secretions.
On the other hand, someone who has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 WILL shed virus and are contagious. People with COVID-19 shed large amounts of virus from respiratory secretions, which is how COVID-19 spreads.
Shedding can’t happen without a live-virus vaccine. The mRNA vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna – are not live-virus vaccines and do not replicate. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is considered a live vaccine because it contains adenovirus (but NOT the coronavirus.) Still, the adenovirus in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can’t replicate (multiply or reproduce), so there’s no way they can shed.
November 19, 2021:
- The FDA and CDC authorized an additional single booster dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for all individuals 18 years of age and older after completion of primary vaccination with any FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
December 9, 2021 - Update:
- The CDC approved recommendations to encourage everyone 16 and older to receive a booster shot. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for adolescents aged 16 and 17. This mRNA booster can be given 6 months or more after the second shot of the original series.
- The FDA and CDC also recommend booster shots for those who are 18 years and older who were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination two or more months ago.
On January 4, 2022 - Update:
- Both the FDA and the CDC have authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech Booster for 12- to 15-year-olds.
- Additionally, children ages 5-11 with compromised immune systems can get a third dose as soon as 28 days after their second shot. This additional primary dose should allow for “maximum protection” in certain immunocompromised children.
- And for anyone eligible for the extra dose, the FDA and CDC now recommend that one get the Pfizer-BioNTech booster five months after their second shot, instead of the six months previously set. Moderna booster is still recommended six months after the second shot.
MemorialCare offers the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and will be making clinic spots for booster doses available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We are happy to help recipients of any of the three vaccines who are eligible for booster vaccination get scheduled with us for either Pfizer or Moderna boosters, or you can find available slots on https://mymemorialcarecovid.memorialcare.org/MyChart/covid19#/ in many locations across the area for any of the three vaccines.
You can refer to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html for more information on who should or may receive a booster dose of the vaccines.
Yes. According to the current guidance from the CDC on administration of COVID-19 vaccines, you may be administered the COVID-19 vaccine with other vaccines, including flu vaccines. If given at the same time, COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccines should be administered in different arms if possible, to minimize a local reaction.
While COVID-19 vaccines are working well, some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get sick, because no vaccines are 100% effective. These are called vaccine breakthrough cases. However, data suggest that vaccination may make symptoms less severe in people who are vaccinated but still get COVID-19. mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to provide protection against severe illness and hospitalization among people of all ages eligible to receive them. This includes people 65 years and older who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
According to the CDC, “Infections among the unvaccinated continue to drive the pandemic, hospitalizations, and deaths — tragically, at a time when there are vaccines that can provide incredible protection. Unvaccinated people are about six times more likely to test positive than vaccinated people, nine times more likely to be hospitalized, and 14 times more likely to die from COVID-related complications.
Vaccine Boosters and Third Doses
MemorialCare is offering booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines based on the following CDC guidelines:
- Available to all adults 12 years and older, at least five months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series.
- Available to all adults 18 years and older, at least five months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series.
While MemorialCare does not offer the Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine, if you have been vaccinated with the J&J vaccine and are seeking a booster shot, you are eligible to receive one of the two mRNA vaccines* at least two months after receiving your J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccination.
* Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines) are preferred in most situations. Visit the CDC website for the exceptions.
The timing between your primary doses and also your booster dose depends on your age, immune status and which vaccine you initially received. Please see the CDC website for the most up to date guidance.
Eligible MemorialCare Medical Group patients may schedule an appointment for a booster dose at any of our vaccine clinics by calling the MemorialCare Navigation Center at 877-MYMEMCARE (696-3622) or through the MyChart platform.
As of October 22, 2021, the FDA and CDC recommend booster shots for those who were vaccinated with the J&J COVID-19 vaccination two or more months before. In addition, the FDA recently approved the option of receiving a different vaccine type than what a person originally received. This approval means that people who received the J&J vaccine can receive a Moderna or Pfizer booster two months after their J&J dose.
Those interested in receiving a booster dose of J&J vaccine 2 months or more after having received an initial dose should schedule their appointment at a site where it is available through the https://mymemorialcarecovid.memorialcare.org/ website. MemorialCare has chosen not to offer the J&J vaccine because of the rare but potentially dangerous occurrence of blood clots after J&J vaccination, especially in women of childbearing age.
There are now booster recommendations for all three available COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Individuals can stay with the vaccine they originally received, or if they prefer to get a different booster, the CDC recommendations allow for a mix and match dosing of booster shots. Data from a recent small study sponsored by the NIH indicates that, for patients who received the J&J vaccine for their primary vaccination, significantly higher levels of protective antibody were produced in people who received a subsequent Moderna or Pfizer vaccination compared to a second J&J vaccination.
No. Your completed original series meets the specifications of the current Public Health Orders (PHO) in California. We will continue to monitor the PHO status and advise if any requirements change.
People who have a weakened immune system because they’re receiving chemotherapy, taking other medications that suppress the immune system or have a genetic cause of immunocompromise (your doctor can tell you if any of these are the case) are recommended to receive a 3-dose primary series of one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna). That third dose is not considered a booster but will help increase your immune response closer to the level seen in people without immunocompromise. After that, a person in this category would also be eligible to receive a booster dose. The timing between your primary doses and also your booster dose depends on your age and which vaccine you initially received. Please see the CDC website for the most up to date guidance.
People who are immunocompromised are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Everyone, including immunocompromised people, should receive a COVID-19 vaccine primary series if they are 5 years and older as soon as possible. People who are immunocompromised should receive one additional dose of vaccine beyond what is recommended for non-immunocompromised individuals.
This additional dose is not considered a “booster,” but makes the primary series for immunocompromised patients one dose greater than non-immunocompromised people (in other words, immunocompromised people will have a 3-dose primary series of an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna while the primary series for non-immunocompromised patients is considered 2 doses). The booster dose is then recommended five months after the primary series (in the case of someone with immunocompromise, that would be after that third dose). The timing between your primary doses and also your booster dose depends on your age and which vaccine you initially received. Please see the CDC website for the most up to date guidance.
Eligible MemorialCare Medical Group patients may schedule an appointment for an additional primary shot at any of our vaccine clinics by calling the MemorialCare Navigation Center at 877-MYMEMCARE (696-3622) or through the MyChart platform.
Immunocompromised individuals will not need to provide written proof of their medical conditions, but they will be required to complete a self-attestation form before receiving the third dose.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on all of our lives and those of our loved ones. And now, the highly contagious Delta variant has quickly become the predominant cause of COVID-19. We all want to get back to a time when we can feel safe and protected so that we can return to doing the things we enjoy. The only way for that to happen is for the spread of this virus to be stopped. That point will occur when we achieve something called “herd immunity,” meaning enough people are immune that the virus is unlikely to be spread from one person to another because those people have immunity already. This typically occurs when 60-70% of the population has been vaccinated, but because of the increased infectivity of the COVID-19 Delta variant most common in the U.S., this number is estimated to be 80%. This is why as a health system, we are doing everything we can to protect our patients, staff and community.
We understand if you have concerns about getting vaccinated, especially since there is a lot of misinformation circulating about these new vaccines. We encourage you to learn for yourself what medical experts have told us about these vaccines and, ultimately, make the right choice for you, your family and our community.
Trypanophobia or fear of needles is fairly common. The needles used for these vaccines are typically some of the thinnest that are used so many people have commented that they didn’t even feel the injection. If you’re worried, please let the person administering the vaccine at the clinic know so that they can help you through this.
One helpful tip is to practice slow, deep breathing and focus your attention there. Breathing exercises have been used in eastern medicine for thousands of years. Slow, deep breaths can decrease the release of stress hormones and slow heart rate. When you are stressed, your body revs up, but when you take slow, deep breaths, it is like you are engaging the brake.
Medical experts recommend that people who have had COVID-19 still get vaccinated. It isn’t clear yet how long immunity lasts after an actual infection and some people that are infected with COVID-19 don’t make a lot of something called neutralizing antibodies. These are antibodies that directly block the ability of the virus to enter your cells. The vaccines help you to develop a high level of those neutralizing antibodies and stimulate your body to remember this for later so that you should have immunity for even longer. There are cases where a person has had COVID-19 and recovered and later gets re-infected. Getting vaccinated will help prevent that.
If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, when should you get the vaccine? The risk of re-infection after having had COVID-19 is very low in the first 90 days, so you may choose to wait that long, although waiting is not necessary. Of course, people with current COVID-19 symptoms should wait until their acute illness has resolved before being vaccinated, which is about 10 days after the start of symptoms or a positive test.
Being young and healthy does not guarantee that you will be asymptomatic or experience a very minor case of the virus. COVID-19 has proven to be unpredictable, and although the majority of those who get it do recover within a few weeks, and those that have more severe cases do tend to be older or already have compromised immune systems, there are also cases where someone young and healthy has become very ill or even died. Younger people are one of the most commonly infected age groups and, on top of the risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19, they can also be a source of spread to others.
In addition, some people who have had COVID-19, even if their case was mild, have developed a syndrome known as “long COVID-19.” These people recover from their initial infection, but then continue to experience symptoms long after their initial recovery. In some of these individuals we have also seen long-term damage done to organs such as the heart, lungs and brain.
Time is of the essence. Waiting too long to be vaccinated allows the coronavirus to continue spreading throughout the community, and new variants are emerging. Getting COVID-19 can be very dangerous to you and can spread the disease to others. The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected from the virus and can safely resume activities you love. Vaccines can only save lives if people are getting vaccinated.
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) does NOT mean experimental. In order to achieve EUA, the medication needs to pass the same data for safety and efficacy that it would for full approval. The Director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Dr. Peter Marks, said “...all three Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the United States have been thoroughly evaluated and have met, and continue to meet, the F.D.A.’s rigorous standards. If we truly want our lives to return to normal, the fastest way to do so is simple —get vaccinated right now.”
Full FDA approval for the vaccines may still be months away. To begin, full approval for the vaccines cannot be submitted until at least 6 months of follow-up on all participants in the study, even those that crossed over from placebo to vaccine. Currently, both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for full FDA approval and Johnson & Johnson is expected to soon, but the process is a lengthy one and requires the FDA to review much more data that has been compiled over a longer time period. Full approval also requires months of data on the different vaccine manufacturing facilities all over the world.
No. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic, including at the site of vaccination which is usually your arm. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that can produce an electromagnetic field at the site of your injection. All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals.
No. COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Both mRNA and viral vector COVID-19 vaccines deliver instructions (genetic material) to our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.
No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response to vaccination, which is the goal, you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.
No. It’s actually the opposite. When a person is infected with the actual virus, the virus makes lots of copies of itself, including the recipe to make more viruses. The more copies it makes, the greater the chance that it makes an error. Most of the time, those errors either don’t change how the virus works or make it weaker, but sometimes, by our bad luck, that change can make the new copies of the virus more infectious or stronger. We call those variants. People that are vaccinated can block and clear the virus faster so it doesn’t have as much time to make copies and errors, reducing the chance of variants.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, like other RNA viruses, is more likely to mutate. The concerning variants out there now (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta) all came about in countries where the people weren’t vaccinated yet. The Delta variant, for example, was first identified in India in October 2020 –2 months before the first vaccines became available.
The “99.98%” survival figure is not correct. To date, with all the widespread testing that has been done in the U.S., out of 50,479,372 cases, there have been 800,939 deaths –meaning 98.41% survive, with a 1.59% case-fatality rate. That may not sound like much, but it means nearly 1 in 50 people who get COVID-19 die from it.
Yes, the chances of dying are much higher in older people. But even for younger people in whom the risk of death is much lower, it’s not zero. Many of those being hospitalized with the Delta variant are in the younger age group – and the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated. We’re also finding that at least 10% of people with COVID-19 – even mild forms – have symptoms that last more than 3 months, including fatigue, poor concentration, cough, headaches, muscle pain, and/or persistent loss of taste and smell.
Lastly, getting vaccinated is not only about protecting you; it’s about protecting the vulnerable and higher risk people with whom you come in contact.
No. This false claim was first promoted by NaturalNews.com, a network of health misinformation sites that repeatedly published false content. The March 2021 NaturalNews.com article was based on a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) study published in August 2018 in the journal Nature. Although that study did find that changes in mRNA can inactivate tumor-suppressing proteins, the research was not connected to mRNA vaccines like those used against COVID-19.
- In fact, the cancer center August 2018 press release made it clear that the research did not involve mRNA vaccines.
- According to a March 2021 article on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s website, “It’s important to know that none of the COVID-19 vaccines interact with or alter your DNA in any way. They cannot cause cancer.”
Right now, there’s no scientific evidence that suggests COVID-19 vaccines are making periods irregular nor was this identified in any of the clinical trials of the vaccines. There’s also no biological mechanism, based on how the vaccines work, that would explain these occurrences. While abnormal periods can happen after a person receives the COVID-19 vaccine, it is most likely due to chance and does not necessarily mean the vaccine caused the abnormal period.
There is also no evidence that the vaccines cause infertility. This rumor was based on the idea that the spike protein encoded by the mRNA vaccines overlaps with syncytin-1, a protein found in the human placenta
- This is not true! Syncytin-1 is made up of 538 amino acids and the spike protein encoded by the vaccine only overlaps at 4. Given that there are only 20 amino acids in protein synthesis, this is like saying that 2 phone numbers are the same because they both contain the number “7.” There has also not been any evidence of decreased fertility in vaccinated women to date.
- In addition, if the above were true, the same risk would arise from having an actual COVID infection
How to Get the Vaccine:
When you are scheduling your vaccine appointment, in most cases you will find that clinics provide information on which vaccine brand they are administering. Simply choose a clinic with your preferred vaccine brand.
Remember that depending on your age, you may not have a choice of vaccine. For example, if you are age 5-17, you may only receive the Pfizer vaccine. But if you are age 18 and above, you are eligible for all three vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. When scheduling an appointment through the MemorialCare myChart open scheduling feature, you will be asked your age so that you can be directed to a clinic administering the correct vaccine.
Which vaccine should I get?
The best vaccine is the one you have access to first. Each vaccine is virtually 100% effective in saving your life from COVID – and they will allow us to get back to the things we love and miss.
We have set up vaccine clinics in select MCMG health centers in Long Beach and Orange County.
For our MemorialCare Medical Group patients:
When a patient becomes eligible for the vaccine, we send them a notification on how to schedule their appointment. They can then choose a location, date and time to be vaccinated at one of our vaccine clinics.
A MemorialCare Medical Group (MCMG) patient is defined as an individual who has been treated at one of our facilities within the last 24 months. We follow the California Department of Public Health's vaccine eligibility guidelines which currently state anyone 5 years of age and above are eligible for the vaccine. MCMG patients who fit the criteria should have already received a communication from us through myChart, text message, telephone call or email to let them know how to schedule a vaccine appointment at one of our vaccine clinics. For patients who have not received a communication from us but are still interested in receiving the vaccine, please call our MemorialCare Navigation Center at 877-MYMEMCARE (696-3622).
For patients and for non-patients:
Anyone can schedule an appointment at select MemorialCare vaccine clinic locations through myChart.
Vaccine clinics outside of MemorialCare:
There are also a number of non-MemorialCare locations where one can get vaccinated. For more information, look for the question in this FAQ: "Are there additional sites outside of MemorialCare that are providing vaccinations?"
On November 3, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to include individuals 5 years of age and older. To learn more, see the FDA's Pfizer EUA Fact Sheet.
Will parents be required to bring proof of the minor's age (birth certificate, etc.)?
No, we are not requiring parents to bring birth certificates.
Does an individual under the age of 18 need to be accompanied by an adult to get the COVID Vaccine?
Individuals under the age of 18 need a parent, legal guardian, or agent to give consent for the COVID Vaccine.
- For patients under the age of 16. Individuals between the ages of 5 through 15 must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or authorized agent when presenting for the vaccine. For more information of an agent, see below.
- For patients between the ages of 16 through 17. We encourage either a parent, legal guardian and/or authorized agent to accompany their child to all appointments.
Individuals between the ages of 16 - 17 years of age do NOT have to have their parent, legal guardian or authorized third-party agent present. The parent or legal guardian must review the FDA's Pfizer EUA Fact Sheet. The parent or legal guardian may sign the Covid-19 Vaccine Consent Form in advance and have their child bring it to the COVID Vaccine appointment. Staff will call the parent and/or legal guardian to confirm consent over the phone at the time the teenager presents for the COVID vaccine.
Can a parent send an adult friend or family member (agent) to give consent for the Covid Vaccine?
- A parent or legal guardian may authorize an adult (18 and older) to consent to the medical care of their child. If the parent or legal guardian cannot accompany the minor, they can complete the Third-Party Consent Form to authorize a third-party agent (the agent) to accompany the minor and consent to the vaccination.
- This person is often referred to as an agent and should be someone that the parent trusts. The completed and signed Third-Party Consent Form must be brought to the vaccine appointment.
- The agent named in the Third-Party Consent Form can complete the Covid-19 Vaccine Consent Form on the parent’s behalf. Minors presenting with third-party agent MUST bring the signed Third-Party Consent Form each time they present for a vaccine dose.
Prior to the minor receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, what forms must be completed?
- For Parents or Legal Guardians:
Please sign the COVID Vaccine Consent Form on behalf of your minor child.
- When Authorizing Third-Party Agent:
If the parent or legal guardian cannot accompany the minor, they can complete the Third-Party Consent Form to authorize a third-party agent (the agent) to accompany the minor and consent to the vaccination. A third-party agent (example: aunt, grandma, neighbor) must be an adult of 18 years or older.
The completed and signed Third-Party Consent Form must be brought to the vaccine appointment. The agent named in the Third-Party Consent Form can complete the Covid-19 Vaccine Consent Form on the parent’s behalf. Minors presenting with third-party agent MUST bring the signed Third-Party Consent Form each time they present for a vaccine dose.
If a minor arrives for their Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine without an adult, is it possible for the parent or legal guardian to provide verbal consent?
- For patients under the age of 16.
For patients under the age of 16, the parent, legal guardian and/or authorized agent must accompany the minor to the vaccine clinic to provide consent in person and support the child.
If the parent or legal guardian is sending an agent to consent on their behalf, the parent or legal guardian must complete the Third-Party Consent Form which authorizes another adult (18 or over) to accompany the minor to the clinic and consent to the vaccine. The signed Third-Party Consent Form must be brought to the clinic at the time of the vaccination. While at the clinic, the agent will be able to sign the COVID Vaccination Consent Form on the parent and/or legal guardian’s behalf.
- For minors 16 and above.
We encourage either a parent, legal guardian and/or authorized third-party agent accompany their child to all appointments.
Individuals between the ages of 16 - 17 years of age do NOT have to have their parent, legal guardian or authorized third-party agent present. The parent or legal guardian must review the Pfizer EUA. The parent or legal guardian may sign the Covid-19 Vaccine Consent Form in advance and have their child bring it to the COVID Vaccine appointment. Staff will call the parent and/or legal guardian to confirm consent over the phone at the time the teenager presents for the COVID vaccine.
For those seeking vaccinations for children ages 5-11, MemorialCare is offering the vaccine at our clinics. You can visit myChart and find a location nearest you.
The approved dose for children ages 5-11 is a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine. It’s a third of the dosage given to adults and is more than 90% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, with similar side effects with those seen in a study of people ages 16-25.
The recommended interval between the first and second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are:
- Pfizer vaccine requires two doses given 3 weeks (21 days) apart.
- Moderna vaccine requires two doses given 1 month (28 days) apart.
If you receive either of these vaccines, you should get your second shot as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, your second dose may be given up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose, if necessary. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval.
If you have lost your vaccination card and don’t have a copy, contact your vaccination provider site where you received your vaccine to access your vaccination record. If you received your vaccine through MemorialCare, you can find your vaccine record in your MyChart account. Anyone who is vaccinated can also get a digital copy of their card through the State portal at www.myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov.
COVID-19/Variants and Guidelines:
The Delta is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is much more contagious than previous strains. Current data suggests it might cause more severe illness than prior strains in unvaccinated people.
While unvaccinated people remain the greatest concern, fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can still spread the virus to others. However, fully vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a shorter period.
Given what we know about the Delta variant, vaccine effectiveness, and current vaccine coverage, layered prevention strategies, such as wearing masks, are needed to reduce the transmission of this variant.
Per the CDC, more date is needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated (have had 2 doses of a 2-dose mRNA – Moderna or Pfizer – vaccine or one dose of J&J), cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants. The Omicron variant appears to spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and appears to be gaining ground on the Delta variant. The CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if that infected person is vaccinated or does not have symptoms.
- In South Africa they initially reported many patients with mild symptoms including fatigue, headache, myalgias, less loss of taste/smell (anosmia), less respiratory symptoms. However, they are seeing a rapid rise in cases and more data is needed on their current experience.
- In England where they are seeing a rapid rate of rise of Omicron or “s-gene dropout” samples, a pre-publication study by the Imperial College of London released this week found no evidence of Omicron having lower severity than Delta, judged by either the proportion of people testing positive who report symptoms, or by the proportion of cases seeking hospital care after infection.
- In the US, Omicron has already (as of December 11th, 2021) been identified through genomic surveillance in almost every state except for Montana, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and Indiana (likely to change).
Yes. The vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow the transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging. The CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated AND that everyone 16 years or older get a booster shot at least six months after completing their primary vaccination series with an mRNA vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer) or 2 months after receiving J&J. Note that MemorialCare recommends the mRNA vaccine (unless allergic to a component of the vaccine).
All hospitals and healthcare providers who administer the COVID-19 vaccination doses are required to report this information to the California Immunization Registry (CAIR) within 24 hours. In order to be able to do this, they must be registered with CAIR and have an immunization information system ID number. Vaccine providers must also report to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) any moderate and/or severe adverse events following a vaccination.
The vast majority of MemorialCare employees are fully vaccinated. MemorialCare complies with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Order, requiring all workers in hospitals and other health care settings either to show proof of having been fully vaccinated and boosted* against COVID-19, or to apply for and receive an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Health care workers who receive an approved exemption are required to be tested frequently and take additional safety measures to protect the community we serve.
* The CDPH mandates health care workers get the booster by February 1, 2022.
COVID-19 FAQs for Employers
We’ve put together some important information for employers on what they need to know about COVID-19 and their workforce.
Cal/OSHA recently published approved emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 infection prevention that apply to the majority of workers (employees) within the state of CA who are not categorized under the Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard.
For helpful information and resources for employers and workers please click here.
Yes, MemorialCare Occupational Medicine offers testing for your employees who are COVID-19 exposed, suspected, or have been tested and confirmed positive.
In consultation with a MemorialCare Occupational clinician, employers have the ability to add COVID-19 laboratory testing to an employee assessment. For more information about COVID-19 testing options, please call your local center.
Update to Recommendations Regarding Immune-Based Testing for Tuberculosis and Co-administration of the COVID-19 Vaccine
On August 31, 2021 the CDC updated their special considerations for COVID-19 vaccination and announced that the COVID-19 vaccine and both the IGRA and TST tests for tuberculosis can be co-administered. There does not need to be a 4-week separation between them. This recommendation should streamline the health screening process and COVID-19 vaccinations for Healthcare workers and patients.
Coadministration of COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines
Studies to assess the safety and immunogenicity of coadministration of COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines are underway or in development. As detailed in general best practices, extensive research on the simultaneous administration of the most widely used live and inactivated vaccines has demonstrated seroconversion rates and rates for adverse reactions similar to those observed when the vaccines are administered separately.
COVID-19 vaccines may be administered without regard to timing of other vaccines. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day. It is not known if the reactogenicity of COVID-19 vaccines is increased with coadministration, including with other vaccines known to be more reactogenic, such as adjuvanted vaccines. When deciding whether to administer an(other) vaccine(s) with a COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination providers should consider whether the patient is behind or at risk of becoming behind on recommended vaccines, their risk of vaccine-preventable disease (e.g., during an outbreak or occupational exposures), and the reactogenicity profile of the vaccines.
If multiple vaccines are administered at a single visit, administer each injection in a different injection site. For adolescents and adults, the deltoid muscle can be used for more than one intramuscular injection administered at different sites in the muscle.
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MemorialCare is currently offering COVID-19 testing to our patients experiencing symptoms such as fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and/or diarrhea. For these patients, we recommend staying home and seeking care through our 24/7 Virtual Urgent Care, where a qualified medical provider will be able to determine if a COVID-19 test is needed and help arrange an appointment.
If you are asymptomatic – or without symptoms - and are seeking a COVID-19 test, MemorialCare is currently unable to provide a COVID-19 test due to limited testing resources. However, many local county and city health departments have set up testing sites. Please visit COVID-19 Testing for detailed information on when to be tested, testing locations and access to home COVID-19 tests.