COVID-19 Vaccine Progress & Availability

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

  • 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.

Right now many manufacturers are conducting clinical trials to test COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are the only two 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

Due to limited supply, the state of Utah has not provided U of U Health with the COVID-19 vaccine for our patients at this time. Our teams will be ready to provide the vaccine safely and efficiently to our patients once we receive it.

In the meantime, the state is developing a distribution plan that allows people in Utah to schedule their vaccination through their local health departments.

Who Gets the Vaccine First?

First Phase: The first vaccine doses at U of U Health will be limited and will go to health care workers. Within this group, those who care for patients in the highest risk areas for COVID-19 will be 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 70+), K-12 teachers, and school staff during these phases.

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 in Phase 1b/c of the vaccine roll out. 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 concerns about the vaccine, consult with your doctor.

When Can I Get the Vaccine?

The state public health organizations who decides how the vaccines will be handed out anticipate that vaccines will be available for everyone who wants to get vaccinated later in 2021. We will keep you updated as we know more information.

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, you will not be eligible to get the vaccine if you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days, according to state guidelines. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, consult with your local health department for more information on when you will be eligible for vaccination.

Can I Get Vaccinated If I'm Pregnant?

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 when the vaccine is available.

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 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, the possibility of harmful side effects could still exist. More information will become available once we know more.

Allergic Reactions to Vaccines

Severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis to vaccines are extremely uncommon. However, if they do occur, it typically happens within a few minutes to one hour after receiving the vaccine.

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.

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.

Vaccine Cost

The vaccine will be available to everyone at no cost.

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
  • staying home while you are sick.

Clinical trials showed the vaccines will prevent you from getting ill from COVID-19. However, we do not yet know whether they protect you from becoming infected with the virus and transmitting 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.

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