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Frequently Asked Questions

Updated January 21, 2021

Vaccine

When and where can I be vaccinated?
Because Utah currently has a limited supply of COVID vaccine, the Utah Department of Health is prioritizing who will receive the vaccine when.

  • Healthcare Workers can be vaccinated now.
    • Hospital healthcare workers are being vaccinated by their employers.
    • Long-term care facility healthcare workers are being vaccinated via their employers by national pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens, along with Community Nursing Services.
    • All other healthcare workers who live or work in Salt Lake County are being vaccinated by Salt Lake County Health Department; proof of current, active employment as a healthcare worker is required. Click here to schedule your appointment.

  • EMS Workers and First Responders can be vaccinated now. EMS workers and first responders who live or work in Salt Lake County are being vaccinated by Salt Lake County Health Department through their employers. Talk to your agency for information about when and where you can be vaccinated.

  • School Staff in Salt Lake County are eligible to be vaccinated by Community Nursing Services (CNS) now through their school or district. Click here for information from CNS about when each district is scheduled.

  • Utahns 70 and Older
    Under the State of Utah’s latest vaccine distribution plan (revised January 8), Utahns 70 and older will be vaccine-eligible on January 18. Sign up to be notified when COVID vaccine appointments are available.

  • Utahns 65 and Older
    We currently anticipate that COVID vaccine will be available to Utahns 65 and older in March 2021. You do not need to “sign up” or “get on the list” to be vaccinated; in March or April, we expect the vaccine to be available to Utah seniors at a variety of community locations, including your local pharmacy, your doctor’s office, and our Salt Lake County Health Department public health centers.

  • All Utahns
    We expect vaccine to be available to all Utahns by summer 2021.
Who should be vaccinated?

All adults should consider being vaccinated to prevent COVID infection. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for anyone 16 years or older; the Moderna vaccine is approved for anyone 18 years or older. People with significant allergies and pregnant or nursing mothers should consult with their medical provider before getting vaccinated.

I’ve already had COVID; can I be vaccinated?

Medically, yes, as long as you have recovered and your isolation period has ended.

Utah Governor Cox has asked that people who have had COVID within 90 days wait to be vaccinated until vaccine doses are more widely available.

How much does the vaccine cost?

There is no cost to you to be vaccinated. If you have health insurance, vaccine providers (including Salt Lake County Health Department) may bill your insurance a vaccine administration fee. If you do not have insurance, you will not be charged.

Is the vaccine safe?

In the United States, there are many steps in place to make sure vaccines are safe and effective. These steps include clinical trials and reviews by many independent scientists, medical professionals, and public health experts. The COVID vaccine has undergone these rigorous steps, just like all vaccines; no steps were skipped or rushed.

Is the vaccine safe for people from multicultural communities?

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for all races and ethnic backgrounds. Scientists have tested the vaccine using best practices across all racial/ethnic demographics to ensure it will have the most productive result for all communities. We recognize there can be a lack of trust in vaccinations—both historically and now, particularly among people of color—but as COVID-19 continues to impact diverse and multicultural communities at disproportionate rates, protecting our communities of color is essential, and the most effective protection available is to be vaccinated.

Can I choose which brand of vaccine I get?

At this time, no. You will receive the brand available at the location you visit, and which brand is available at each location can change regularly so you cannot expect a specific brand at a particular location.

How did they come up with the vaccine so fast?

Lessons learned from previous vaccines that were meant to treat similar diseases caused by coronaviruses (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)) helped expedite the vaccine for COVID. For example, research on a coronavirus vaccine for SARS began in 2004!

Will the vaccine hurt? What are the side effects?

The vaccine is delivered as an injection in the arm, like other typical vaccines. On the arm where you got the injection you may experience some pain and swelling. Some people may experience a mild fever and fatigue, aches, chills, or headache for a day or two. These side effects are more common after the second dose and in younger people. These reactions are a sign that your immune system is revving up and doing what it’s supposed to do. In most cases, mild discomfort from fever or pain is normal. Contact your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours
  • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days
Can the vaccine give me COVID?

No.

The vaccine does not contain any live virus and cannot give you COVID.

How does the vaccine work? Will it affect my DNA or genes?

No.

The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use a technique known as mRNA, or messenger RNA. Think of this technique as the vaccine giving the cells in your body a message with detailed instructions for how to create antibodies against COVID — in this way, the body learns how to protect itself if or when the real virus shows up. The mRNA vaccines don't use the live virus that causes COVID, nor does the mRNA get into the cell's nucleus, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is stored. In short, these vaccines protect you from COVID and they do not alter or affect your genes in any way.

If I have allergies, should I be concerned?

People with severe allergies who have experienced anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic response that often involves swelling, hives, lowered blood pressure and in severe cases, shock) in the past, should talk to their doctor or vaccine provider about how to safely get the vaccine and what precautions to take.

Can I get the vaccine if I'm undocumented?

Yes.

We will not ask about legal status for any reason. Additionally, any information shared with public health is private and protected information and will NOT be shared with anyone, including other agencies of any kind.

Will receiving the vaccine count as "public charge?"

No, receiving vaccination will NOT count against you under the public charge rule.

How long will it take to work?

For both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine, you will be considered fully protected 14 days after your second dose.

Do I need two doses?

Yes. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be fully effective.

For the Pfizer vaccine, you should get the second dose 21 days OR LATER after your first dose.

For the Moderna vaccine, you should get the second dose 28 days OR LATER after your first dose.

When should I get the second dose?

If you receive the Pfizer vaccine, you should receive the second dose 21 days or later after your first dose. If you receive the Moderna vaccine, the second dose is 28 days or later after the first dose.

You do not need to receive the second dose precisely on the 21st or 28th day; it can be anytime after that point.

What happens after I get vaccinated?

It is important to continue following COVID precautions even after you've been vaccinated; it can take time after vaccination for the body to build its immune response. We will also need a large portion of our population vaccinated before we can begin phasing out face coverings, social distancing, and other infection prevention precautions—and that will take several months.

How long will the vaccine last? Will I need another one next year?

We don't know yet. It’s possible that coronavirus vaccinations will become an annual event, just like the flu shot. Or it may be that the benefits of the vaccine last longer than a year. We have to wait to see how durable the protection from the vaccines is.

Can employers require vaccination?

Employers have the right to compel their workers to be vaccinated. Many hospital systems, for example, require annual flu shots. But employees can seek exemptions based on medical reasons or religious beliefs. In such cases, employers are supposed to provide a “reasonable accommodation” — without a coronavirus vaccine, for example, a worker might be allowed to work if they wear a mask, or to work from home.