COVID-19 Vaccines Frequently Asked Questions

We know that many people are eager to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and we are committed to vaccinating everyone as quickly as possible based on supply and scheduling capacity. Due to the large number of individuals aged 16 years and older and the limited amount of available vaccine, it may still be some time before we are able to schedule everyone for a vaccination.

Listed below are answers to common questions individuals may have about the vaccine, the vaccination process and related topics.

COVID-19 Vaccine Availability

When can I get the vaccine?

Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services announced that starting Monday, April 5, everyone 16 and older is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are 16 years and older you can schedule your first COVID-19 vaccine appointment using this online form. 

Online will be the fastest and most up-to-date way to schedule, but if you are having difficulties please call (608) 720-5295. Please note, there may be long wait times. We recommend accessing the online scheduling form from a computer instead of a mobile device in order to ensure the best usability experience. 

If there are no appointments currently available, please check back on the website as we will add appointments regularly as more vaccine doses become available. Like many health care providers, we are currently experiencing low vaccine supply. As our supply grows, so will our number of available appointments. 

If you would like to be considered for a same-day appointment if someone cancels, please fill out this same-day call form.  

Individuals 16 years and older can access vaccine through a variety of options, including community-based clinics, health care providers, Local and Tribal Health Departments, and pharmacies. Visit the Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine options page or call the toll free vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 to learn more. 

Why is Wisconsin not offering the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public? Why are vaccines already being offered widely in different states?

As you may have seen on national news reports, vaccine supply is limited due to manufacturing limitations. The federal government allocates vaccine to the state of Wisconsin and then the state allocates it to individual vaccination sites such as UW Health. The supply of vaccine we have received from the state so far is just a small fraction of what we need to reach the patients we care for in our community. We know how frustrating and disappointing this news is. Like you, we are eager to get everyone vaccinated.

Individuals who meet the current eligibility requirements can access vaccine through a variety of options, including community-based clinics, health care providers, Local and Tribal Health Departments, and pharmacies. Visit the Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine options page or call the toll free vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 to learn more. 

Can I get on a waiting list for the vaccine? How can I stay up to date on when I can get the vaccine?

If you would like to be considered for a same-day appointment if someone cancels, please fill out this same-day call form. While this does not guarantee an appointment or replace the scheduling process, we may contact you for same day appointments if they become available. 

Individuals 16 years and older can access vaccine through a variety of options, including community-based clinics, health care providers, Local and Tribal Health Departments, and pharmacies. Visit the Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine options page or call the toll free vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 to learn more. 

How will I be notified about the vaccine if I am a UW Health patient?

If you are 16 years and older, you do not need to wait for a notification, you can schedule your first COVID-19 vaccine appointment using this online form. 

Can I get updates by calling my healthcare provider?

We understand people are eager to learn more about vaccines, but we kindly ask that you do not call your healthcare provider or clinic for information about COVID-19 vaccines at this time. This helps reserve our staffed phone lines for patients calling who are experiencing active symptoms or have urgent healthcare needs.

I have tried to schedule my vaccine appointment but there are no appointments available. What should I do?

If there are no appointments currently available, please check back on this website as we will add appointments regularly as more vaccine doses become available. Like many health care providers, we are currently experiencing low vaccine supply. As our supply grows, so will our number of available appointments. 

Will there be enough vaccines for everyone?

Yes, there will eventually be enough for everyone, but currently there is limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines.  The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as quantities are available.

When will children be able to get vaccinated?

Children, under the age of 16 years, will not be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine immediately. Clinical trial testing on children is underway but it is unclear when children under the age of 16 will be able to get vaccinated. We will communicate with patients and the community when we have updates about the availability of vaccines for children

Will the vaccine protect against any new strains of the virus? How is the vaccine adjusted for changes in the virus? Are existing vaccines less effective on the new strains?

Viral mutations are common and there will be ongoing study needed to monitor the effectiveness of the current vaccines against new strains. The current vaccines appear to be effective against the newly identified strains. Future actions or changes will be determined based on ongoing monitoring and research.

What can I do to stay healthy until the vaccine is available?

It is critical that everyone takes steps to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Local hospitals are already strained caring for significant numbers of COVID-19 patients. To help prevent the spread and reduce the pressure on hospitals:

  • Do not gather in the presence of those outside your immediate household. If you must, wear a mask and stay at least six feet apart.
  • Wear a mask when in public, even in outdoor locations.
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing thoroughly and rinsing completely.
  • If you have symptoms, stay home.
Where can I learn more about the vaccine and how it will be distributed?

Getting Vaccinated

Does UW Health and my Primary Care Provider advise that I get the COVID-19 vaccination?

UW Health providers and experts agree that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects the people around you, particularly people at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be needed?

Depending on the vaccine type you receive you will need one or two doses. If you get the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine you will need two doses and you should receive the second dose no earlier than 21 days. The Moderna vaccine also requires two doses, and you should receive the second dose no earlier than 28 days after your first doseThe Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is a one dose vaccine. 

How will I know when and how to schedule my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if I received Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna?

You should receive the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtechCOVID-19 vaccine no earlier than 21 days and Moderna no earlier than 28 days after your first dose. On the day the first dose is given, UW Health patients will receive a scheduling invitation to schedule the second dose. At that time, schedule your second dose.

If you are a UW Health patient, the best thing you can do is make sure you have an active MyChart account. UW Health patients will be notified via MyChart when and how to schedule. If you are not already signed up, you can learn how at uwhealth.org/mychart

Can I get my second dose with UW Health if I got my first COVID-19 vaccine dose elsewhere?

You should receive both doses from the same health care provider. You should receive the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine no earlier than 21 days and Moderna no earlier than 28 days after your first dose. Thereforedo not schedule a vaccine appointment if you have any travel or household moves planned. If you have received your first dose elsewhere and are not able to receive the second dose from the same organization, check with public health to verify which organizations have the vaccine you received. Organizations may be able to accommodate you, but supply is extremely limited. We are unable to guarantee you a second dose if you received your first dose at another organization. 

Are the COVID-19 Vaccines free? How much will they cost?

Patients will not be charged for the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the patient’s insurance company will be charged a vaccine administration fee. Insurance companies are required to pay 100% without any cost-share/copay to the patient. For patients without insurance, there is no charge.

Can I choose which brand of the vaccine I receive?

At this time, UW Health is unable to request specific vaccines so you will not have a choice of which vaccine you receiveIf you receive a vaccine that requires two doses, once you get the first dose, you will have to receive the same brand for the second dose.   

Is one brand of the vaccine better than the others?

The FDA has found all three vaccines to be highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. Experts say, the best vaccine for you to get, is whichever one you can get. 

I may be allergic to an ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccine, should I still schedule my vaccine when I am eligible?

The SARS-CoV-2 vaccine includes the ingredients Polyethylene glycol, Polysorbate, and Polyoxyl 35 castor oil. If you are allergic to one of these ingredients, you should contact your healthcare provider prior to scheduling a vaccination.

If I have had an allergic reaction to other types of vaccines or injectable medication, should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you have had an immediate allergic reaction - even if it was not severe - to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, ask your healthcare provider if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your provider will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I get allergic reactions to food, bee stings, and/or latex?

If you have a history of severe allergic reaction to food, bee stings (or other insects) or latex in which you carry an Epi Pen to treat, you can receive your vaccine at one of our clinic sites. When scheduling, choose a clinic location and not the John Wall drive through site so that we can monitor you closely.

If you have a history of an allergic reaction to food, bee stings (or other insects) or latex that is not anaphylaxis, and therefore do not use an Epi Pen to treat your reaction, there is no restriction to receiving your vaccine. We do recommend you receive your vaccine at one of our clinic sites.

If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated? How long after receiving a positive COVID-19 diagnosis should I wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccination?

There is not enough information to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, and some people have been infected more than once, especially if their initial infection was mild. Therefore, we do advise vaccination even if you have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19.

We recommend that you wait 90 days after you fully recover before getting vaccinated. If you choose to get vaccinated before the 90-day period, we highly recommend you wait at least 30 days because you already are protected by natural antibodies and it will decrease the risk of side effects to the vaccine.

Can I still receive my vaccine if I have a known close contact COVID-19 exposure?

It is recommended you wait the 14-day quarantine period before receiving your vaccine to determine that you do not become ill from COVID-19.  This will make it easier to distinguish any side effects you may have after receiving your vaccine from a COVID-19 infection (which would require you to be tested). Note, close contact is when someone is within 6 feet an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, starting from 2 days before illness onset until the time the patient is done with isolation, and where both persons were unmasked or the individual exposed was not wearing a barrier mask. 

I have read that taking acetaminophen/ibuprofen after I receive my vaccination should be avoided as it depresses the immune response to the vaccine. Is this accurate and should I avoid these medications after vaccination?

There is no known risk to taking acetaminophen or anti-inflammatories in conjunction with a vaccine. In general, it is recommended to avoid pre-medicating with acetaminophen/ibuprofen prior to being vaccinated, however post-administration medicine is reasonable if necessary.

What if I recently received an immunization, such as the Shingrix shingles vaccine, or have an immunization scheduled soon?

Starting two weeks before your first COVID vaccine and two weeks after your second COVID vaccine, you should not receive any other immunizations with the exception of an unexpected need for an immunization such as tetanus (after injury) or rabies (from exposure). Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

I have a history of fainting with injections, what should I do when I schedule my vaccine?

Please schedule your vaccine at one of our clinic locations and not at the John Wall drive through site so that we can monitor you more closely.

I received the monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of COVID-19 treatment. How long should I wait to receive the vaccination?

You should schedule your COVID-19 vaccine at least 90 days after your treatment is complete.

If I participated in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial, should I also receive the vaccine since there is a chance that I received a placebo?

When the vaccine is available to you, you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if you wish to do so. Trial participants should notify their study contacts if they choose to receive the vaccine.

What if I have a fever or other symptoms of an infection on the day of my COVID-19 vaccination appointment?

Cancel your COVID-19 vaccination and wait until you are healthy to receive the vaccine. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider.

Can getting the COVID-19 vaccine lead to Bell’s palsy?

Cases of Bell’s palsy were reported in participants in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. However, the number of incidents is no greater than the amount of people who experience Bell's palsy in the general population. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC agree there is no reason to be alarmed by the handful of cases. Also, persons who have previously had Bell’s Palsy may receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Post-Vaccination and Side Effects

What are the most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?

Mild or moderate side effects include tiredness, nausea, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and headache. Adverse events are more common after the second dose. These side effects are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do – building up protection to the disease.

What are the risks from the COVID-19 vaccines?

The risk of any vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small but possible. A vaccine, like any medicine, could cause a severe problem, such as a severe allergic reaction. The COVID-19 vaccines are new, and some effects may not yet be known.

What should I do if I have a severe reaction from the COVID-19 vaccine?

We routinely give vaccines in controlled settings and always have medications and equipment available for managing allergic reactions at each vaccination site. We may call 9-1-1 in the case of a severe reaction.

Allergic response usually occurs within 4 hours of receiving an injection and may include breathing difficulty, swelling of your tongue/lips, itching, hives and redness. If you experience any of these symptoms or you were treated with an injection of Epinephrine, contact your healthcare provider.

If I test positive for COVID-19 after receiving my first vaccine, when can I receive my second vaccine? (Moderna/Pfizer)

If you test positive for COVID-19 after your first dose of the vaccine and before your second dose and you still have COVID-19 symptoms, you will need to reschedule your second dose when you are completely recoveredWe recommend that you wait 90 days after you fully recovered before getting the second dose. If you choose to get vaccinated before the 90-day period, we highly recommend you wait at least 30 days because you already are protected by natural antibodies and it will decrease the risk of side effects to the vaccine. You will not need to restart the series.  

Once vaccinated, is it possible for someone to still be a carrier?

This is unclear, although the likelihood of carrying the disease to others is significantly reduced if a person is not actively infected.

How long after receiving the vaccine will I develop immunity and how long is the COVID-19 vaccine effective? Can I expect any amount of protection between receiving the first dose and the second dose?

After a vaccination, the body doesn’t build an immune response instantly – it takes weeks. With COVID-19 vaccines, studies show that all three vaccines (Pfizer-BioNtech,  Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) only achieve full immunity four to six weeks after starting. It is strongly recommended that you complete both doses if you receive Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna.  

We will not know how long immunity lasts until those that receive the vaccine are followed over longer periods of time. This will also help determine if further booster doses will be needed. Studies to further explore this and the length of immunity are ongoing.   

Will those who are vaccinated test positive for COVID following vaccination? Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccines?

You will not test positive for COVID but may test positive for the antibodies. The vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19.

What is herd immunity? What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to have herd immunity to COVID-19?

Herd immunity (or community immunity) is a term to describe when enough individuals have protection – either from previous infection or vaccination – that there are so few at risk people in a community that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can continue to spread widely and infect others. As a result, everyone within the community is protected, even if some people do not have any protection themselves. The percentage of people who need to have protection to reach herd immunity varies by disease. At this time, experts do not know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity for COVID-19, but current estimates are that at least 75% of people within a community will need to have immunity to begin controlling the pandemic.

What are the long-term effects of the vaccine?

A great deal remains unknown about the long-term effects of the vaccine, including how long it provides immunity. Patients in vaccine studies will continue to be monitored by the FDA and the CDC for 24 months to allow researchers to learn more about these impacts. If a safety issue is detected, immediate action will take place to determine if the issue is related to the COVID-19 vaccine and determine the best course of action.

My mother got vaccinated, is it now safe for me to visit?

There are many things to consider before making a decision and it is best to be cautious. Elderly people with weakened immune systems may not respond as well to COVID-19 vaccines. Also, even if your Mom has been vaccinated, she could still become mildly infected. If you do decide to visit, be sure that it has been two weeks since the second dose of Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna, or her single dose of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). And continue to take safety precautions by wearing a mask, washing hands and staying at least 6 feet away.

Should I still wear a mask and practice social distancing if I have received two doses of the vaccine? Can I start planning non-essential travel?

While experts learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines protect those that receive it and our community, it is important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, frequent hand washing and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following the CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading SARs-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change infection control recommendations. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities will also affect this decision.

What is the CDC v-safe vaccination checker and how can I participate?

V-safe is a CDC smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Once you get a COVID-19 vaccine, you can enroll in v-safe using your smartphone. Information to register can be found on the vaccination record card you receive during your vaccination or on the CDC v-safe information sheet.

Patients with Specific Health Concerns

Can those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant get the vaccine?

Vaccines currently under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) have not been tested in pregnant or lactating women. Therefore, there are no safety data specific to use in pregnancy. For women of childbearing age, routine testing for pregnancy prior to vaccination is not recommended by the CDC.

Regardless of your decision to receive or decline vaccination, you should still take other preventative measures such as handwashing, physical distancing and wearing a mask. Click here for additional information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

If I have allergies not related to vaccines, should I get vaccinated?

CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications - such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies - get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.

If you have had a serious reaction to other vaccines or injections, you should talk to your provider about the risks of taking the COVID-19 vaccine and if it is right for you.

Should I receive the COVID-19 vaccine if I have a history of allergic rhinitis (chronic runny nose) or asthma?

These conditions do not have any restrictions to scheduling a vaccine.

I am scheduled for surgery. Is it safe for me to get the vaccine prior to my surgery?

Ask your surgeon because it may depend on the type of surgery and the timing.

Is it safe for a cancer patient undergoing treatment to get the vaccine?

The situation for every person who has (or has had) cancer is different, so it is best to discuss the risks and benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine with your cancer doctor.

Click here for more COVID-19 vaccine information for cancer patients and survivors.

For information relevant to UW Carbone Cancer patient, please see our Precautions for Cancer Patients page.

I am immunosuppressed. Will I be a higher priority for the vaccine?

Your medical condition may factor into your priority level within your age group.

I am immunocompromised or on a medicine that affects my immune system, can I get vaccinated?

You may schedule your appointment to be vaccinated. If you are receiving active chemotherapy or radiation, please talk to your oncologist about the timing of your vaccine. If you are uncertain about how the vaccine will affect you, please call your healthcare provider to discuss.

Is it okay for me to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have a bleeding disorder or am on a blood thinning medication?

You may schedule your vaccine. You may experience increased bleeding, swelling or bruising at the site of injection.

Should people with multiple sclerosis (MS) get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, evidence suggests that all people with MS, including those on any class of disease-modifying treatment, can and should be vaccinated against COVID-19. Patients on the medication Ocrevus should consult with their physician for more information.

Is it safe for transplant recipients to get vaccinated for COVID-19?

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are as safe as other vaccines that transplant recipients receive. We recommend COVID-19 vaccination for transplant patients. The risks associated with getting the vaccine are minimal and are outweighed by the risk of severe illness should you not receive the vaccine and become infected with COVID-19. We do not recommend receiving a live-virus vaccine, however both current available vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) do not contain live virus. Click here for more COVID-19 information and precautions for Transplant Patients.