COVID-19 Vaccine Progress & Availability

Safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 help reduce damages from the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccines:

  • help fewer people be infected.
  • lower the number of people who have to be cared for in the hospital.
  • reduce the long-term effects of COVID-19.
  • lower the number of deaths from COVID-19.

Currently, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are the only COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States.

University of Utah Health looks to medical and public health experts for updates on the status of COVID-19 vaccines. These experts include the following:

  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
  • Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Vaccine and Related Biologics Advisory Committee (VRBPAC)

Our specialists in infectious disease, epidemiology, and occupational health follow guidance from these groups and work closely with the Utah Department of Health. They keep updated on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. They also review CDC recommendations for how the vaccines will be given out to healthcare workers and the public.


Vaccinations Not Available for Patients At This Time

U of U Health is not able to provide COVID-19 vaccine to our patients at this time. Our teams will be ready to vaccinate safely and efficiently if we are asked by the state of Utah to assist. We will update this page as more information becomes available.

Visit the state's COVID-19 vaccine website to learn when you can schedule your vaccination through your local health department.

Who Gets the Vaccine First?

First Phase: The first vaccine doses at U of U Health went to health care workers. Within this group, those who care for patients in the highest risk areas for COVID-19 were prioritized first for vaccination. By protecting health care workers, it allows them to stay healthy and safely treat patients with COVID-19 or other health issues. 

Some examples of health care workers in high-risk areas include:

  • Physicians, nurses, and therapists who work directly with patients with COVID-19.
  • Housekeepers who keep our hospitals and clinics clean.
  • Workers at the COVID-19 testing sites. 

Next Phases: The next rounds of vaccine supplies will be given out following guidance from national and state health agencies. In Utah, state health departments recommend vaccinating first responders, long-term care facility staff and residents, people with high-risk medical conditions (such as cancer and heart failure), older adults (age 65+), K-12 teachers, and school staff during these phases. Currently, vaccines are mainly being distributed at local health departments and pharmacies. See Utah's COVID-19 Distribution webpage for more information.

When vaccine become available in large supply, it will be distributed to the remainder of the population. At that time, it is anticipated that vaccines will be given out through health departments, hospital facilities, clinics, some pharmacies, community health centers, public health centers, and some health care provider’s offices. 

Older Adults & COVID-19 Vaccine Safety

The current CDC recommendations are to vaccinate all adults (regardless of other risks) age 65 and older. The most recent data from clinical trials shows that the vaccine was very effective (better than 90 percent) in protecting people 65 years and older. The rate of harmful reactions in older adults has also been low — likely lower than the flu vaccine. At this time, there is not a lot of information on adults who are 90 years of age and older. If you have questions about the vaccine, consult with your doctor.

Vaccine Effectiveness & Side Effects

Clinical trials show that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are both highly effective —around 95 percent — in preventing people from becoming ill from COVID-19. Learn more about the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Learn More about mRNA Vaccines & How They Can Protect You

Side Effects

Side effects are a sign that your immune system is building up protection against disease. Side effects for both vaccines include:

  • mild pain, swelling, or redness at the injection site where you get the vaccine;
  • fever, usually mild and short-lived;
  • chills;
  • feeling tired;
  • headache;
  • muscle and joint aches;
  • vomiting;
  • diarrhea (seen in Pfizer/BioNTech clinical trials);
  • nausea (seen in Moderna clinical trials); and
  • swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection site (seen in Moderna clinical trials). 

More people felt side effects after the second dose than the first dose. Some people who received the vaccine reported worse fevers and aches than others. Side effects were usually short-lived and able to be managed with fever-reducing medications, such as Tylenol.

No harmful side effects have been reported in clinical trials, however, it is possible that harmful side effects that are extremely rare could occur. More information will become available once we know more.

Allergic Reactions to Vaccines

Severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis to vaccines are extremely uncommon. If a severe allergic reaction does occur, it typically happens within a few minutes to one hour after receiving the vaccine. However, some people have experienced non-severe allergic reactions (i.e., hives, swelling, and wheezing) within four hours after getting vaccinated.

You should not get the COVID-19 vaccine if:

  • you have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of the vaccine.
  • you have had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccine.
  • you are allergic to polyethylene-glycol (ingredient in both vaccines) or polysorbate (not an ingredient in either vaccine but is closely related to PEG). 

For a list of vaccine ingredients, see the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech fact sheets.

People with a history of immediate allergic reactions — even if it was not severe — to other vaccines or injectable therapies should consult with their doctor before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC recommendations.

I Had COVID-19. Should I Get the Vaccine?

We don’t know if or for how long after infection you will be protected from getting COVID-19 again. Current evidence suggests that it is uncommon to be reinfected with COVID-19 within the 90 days after your initial infection.

It is recommended that you get the vaccine even if you have been infected. However, it is recommended that you do not get the vaccine if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days, according to state guidelines. This will help conserve limited vaccine supplies.

Vaccination Considerations for Pregnant Women

At this time, we don’t have enough information about how the vaccine may affect pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding. Pregnant women were not allowed to enter the recent COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. However, a few women did become pregnant during the trials and no issues have been reported. The mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 are not thought to cross the placenta or into breast milk. The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommends that the vaccine be offered to pregnant and breastfeeding women who would otherwise qualify. Pregnant women should ask their provider about weighing the risks and benefits. 

Can My Child or Teen Get the Vaccine?

The vaccines have not been widely tested on children and teens. Vaccine manufacturers only recently started including children as young as 12 in their trials. At this time, we don’t know how the vaccine affects people in these age groups. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has only been authorized for use in people 16 years of age and older, however, the Moderna vaccine has only been authorized for people age 18 and older.

Vaccine Cost

The COVID-19 vaccine will be given to everyone at no out-of-pocket cost. However, your insurance company will be billed a vaccine administration fee to cover vaccination operations costs. For those without insurance coverage, assistance programs will cover the administrative fee. Nobody will be denied a vaccine if they can’t afford to pay.

Social Distancing Guidelines after Vaccination

Even after vaccination, it will be important to continue:
  • wearing a mask,
  • staying six feet apart,
  • washing your hands, and
  • avoiding crowds.

Clinical trials showed the vaccines will protect you from getting ill from COVID-19. However, we do not yet know how well they protect you from becoming infected with the virus and spreading it to other people. It will be important to continue taking precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 until guidelines from the CDC indicate otherwise. 

We will update this webpage as more information becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have More Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine?

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