What You Need to Know:

Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

What You Need to Know:

Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Dear AHF Employees,

Hi, I’m Dr. Wohlfeiler, the Chief Medical Officer for AIDS Healthcare Foundation in the United States. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is underway across the nation. Every AHF healthcare center and pharmacy registered early on to be vaccine administration sites. Some of our healthcare centers have already received vaccines and administered them to patients and staff who meet the local eligibility requirements.

Right now, we’re vaccinating people 65 and over, frontline healthcare workers and, where state laws allow, people with HIV. We expect to see more eligibility tiers open up as the supply chain rapidly expands.

Please watch this message from AHF's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Wohlfeiler.
You can download an English or  Spanish transcription of this video here.

We expect supply to ramp up because a new COVID vaccine is now available. The new vaccine is from Johnson & Johnson and unlike the other vaccines, it only needs one dose and doesn’t require refrigeration. So, to summarize, there are now 3 vaccines available in the U.S. - the 2-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the new single-dose J&J vaccine.

Providers like AHF can’t choose which of the approved vaccines they receive. While the effectiveness of each vaccine is different, it’s our view as well as the view of the CDC that staff and patients should take whichever vaccine they can access earliest. Each of the vaccines will provide protection against the virus. And the more of us who have immunity, the safer we will be. So, please do your part and get vaccinated.

If you have not been able to get the COVID vaccine by the time AHF starts our vaccination program, be assured that AHF will make the shot available to you as soon as possible.

I encourage you to check this website frequently for updates about where and when you can receive your COVID vaccine.  Also, please refer to the FAQs section for more information.

With best regards,
Wolfy

Michael Wohlfeiler, JD, MD
Chief Medical Officer

Information on the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing. This page updated 3/15/2021.
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I heard the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less effective. Should I take it if it’s the only one available or wait for one or the other vaccines?
Every day you delay is a day you’re unprotected. Supplies are limited and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the vaccine you may want in the near future. AHF strongly recommends you get whichever vaccine is first available to you. They all offer excellent protection against severe symptoms of the disease, which could otherwise land you in a hospital.
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I’m hearing about bad side effects from the second shot of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. How bad it is? I’m scared of taking it.

Most side effects are mild – like arm soreness or tiredness. Some people have symptoms that feel like the flu – chills, headaches, but these only generally last a day and can be treated with Tylenol or acetaminophen and rest. If you have these symptoms – you do not have COVID! Rather, they are a sign that your body is doing its job in developing antibodies to protect you.

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When is AHF getting vaccine? – I heard some healthcare center already have it.
A few of our healthcare centers have received limited doses. The supply chain is still very thin, and like other providers, we are waiting to receive more. When we receive any vaccine, we administer it according to state and local eligibility guidelines and will notify clients when they qualify.
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Will the vaccine protect me against mutations of the virus?
Viruses mutate constantly – COVID is no exception. We do not have all the data yet, but it appears that the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines do provide at least partial protection from some of the more widely circulating variants. Drug manufacturers are working hard on creating booster shots that will specifically target new mutations. It is very likely that, in the future, we will all receive COVID boosters each year, much like we do for the flu.
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I work at AHF but don’t interact with patients or clients. I understand some of our staff are getting vaccinated.  Can I get vaccinated too along with them?

AHF is following state and local guidelines.  When a site near you has the vaccine, we vaccinate our staff according to the tiers or phases set by government.  That will mean that some of our staff may have to wait longer than other staff.  If you don’t fall into a priority category (like healthcare workers, or people over a certain age or with certain medical conditions) may have to wait until your region opens up vaccines to the general public.  But we will make the vaccine available as soon as possible within these guidelines.

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I work at an AHF affiliate.  Will AHF provide me with the vaccine?

Yes.  You are part of the AHF family.  We will make the vaccine available to you according to state and local guidelines.  See the previous question. 

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How do we know the vaccination is safe?

Safety is our top priority at AHF. We're confident that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have ensured the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures all vaccines are as safe as possible.

After a vaccine is approved for use, there are many vaccine safety monitoring systems in place to watch for side effects that may not have been seen during clinical trials. If an unexpected symptom arises, experts quickly study it to decide whether it is a real safety concern.

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Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?
No, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. Some people think that the flu vaccine gives them the flu. That's not true. The flu vaccine can give you a mild fever or muscle aches, but it DOES NOT give you influenza. While you may experience a sore arm, mild fever, and muscle aches after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, you will NOT get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
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I’m worried about the side effects. What are they?

Side effects include sore arm, mild fever, tiredness, headache and muscle aches. If you have any serious side effect, let your provider know right away.  In rare cases, a few people have had a serious allergic reaction.  If you have allergies, talk to your provider before getting the vaccine.  At AHF, we have equipment and medicines on site to counteract an allergic reaction.

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I’ve already had COVID. Do I still need the vaccine?
Yes, you still should get the vaccine. We are still learning about COVID-19. At this time, there is not enough information to say if having had COVID-19, by itself, makes you immune; this is called natural immunity. More studies are needed to better understand how long natural immunity lasts with COVID-19. In the meantime, the vaccine should protect you.
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I hear that I need to have two shots - Do I really need two?

Yes, you need two doses of the vaccine. If you choose not to get a second dose, you will reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. The first dose of the vaccine may provide some protection, but the recommendation is to receive two doses to be protected as intended.
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If I can get the vaccine faster from my own healthcare provider or at a pharmacy, should I?

Please get the vaccine as soon as possible, from any trusted healthcare provider – whether AHF or otherwise.  The sooner you get the vaccine, the sooner you’ll be protected.

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How long will the shot last?  Will I need to get it again?

Scientists just don’t know yet.   We will share more information on the length of immunity as it becomes available.
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If I have HIV, am I going to get more side effects from the vaccine?  Does the vaccine work in people with HIV?

Even though the vaccine trials did not include large numbers of subjects with HIV, most medical experts believe that side effects in people with HIV will not be significantly different from the side effects that they saw in HIV-negative persons.  In addition, we believe that the vaccine will be effective and result in high levels of protection against COVID-19 in HIV-positive persons, especially if they are stable on antiretroviral therapy.  If your T-cell count is less than 200, if your HIV is not under control or if you have other questions or concerns, you should speak with your medical provider prior to receiving the vaccine.

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Why do I need the vaccine if I wear a mask and socially distance?

We need to do as much as we can to stop the pandemic. Vaccines boost your immune system, so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Like masks and social distancing, other steps help lower your chance of being exposed or spreading the virus. Even more than masks and social distancing, vaccines help lower your chance of catching or spreading the virus.

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Do I still need to wear a mask at work after I get the vaccine?

Yes, you still need to mask and follow safety protocols.  Even though the vaccine should protect you from getting sick with COVID-19, it is  not 100% effective.  Also, we just don’t know yet whether, even after getting the vaccine, you could still transmit the virus.  Finally, the shot takes a few weeks to be fully effective, because your body needs to develop antibodies.  If you get the virus in that time, you could be infectious.

In short, for the safety of your fellow workers and patients, you will need to keep wearing your mask at work and when you are around people who you don’t live with.

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When can I get the shot?

The first, limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine has been distributed to facilities that can store it at super-cold temperatures. Each state has its own plan for who gets the vaccine first but generally health care workers and  residents at long-term care facilities will receive it first.  Later, essential workers, people with medical conditions and the elderly will get the vaccine.  After that, the vaccine will be given to the general public.  All adults should be able to be vaccinated in 2021.  We are communicating with local health departments to make sure our staff can access the vaccine as soon as possible.
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