COVID-19 Vaccine Patient Information
Sentara Healthcare is working with local and state health departments to move forward with offering the COVID-19 vaccine to our patients.
We are developing plans to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible patients following state priority guidelines. Patients eligible for the vaccine will be contacted directly through their Sentara MyChart account. We ask that you do not call to ask about the timing of your vaccination.
Our vaccine allocation is managed by the state and distribution is under the direction of public health. Thank you for your patience.
Read our Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine:
How will I know when it’s my turn to receive the vaccine?
We will notify patients directly as soon as they are able to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can I choose which vaccine I will receive?
No. Sentara Healthcare will continue to receive vaccines allocations from the state. Patients will not be able to choose which vaccine they receive.
Where should I go to get the vaccine?
You will very likely be able to receive your vaccination close to home! We are creating regional clinics in specific geographic regions to help reach as many of our patients as possible close to where they live and work. When you schedule your appointment, you will be able to choose the location and time most convenient for you.
If I already had COVID-19, should I still be vaccinated?
Yes. There is not currently enough information available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again, so you should still get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have already recovered. You cannot receive the vaccine if you have an active COVID-19 infection.
If you had COVID-19 in the past three months, you have some immunity already and you can wait to be vaccinated, since vaccine supplies are limited.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
Yes. While these vaccines are being developed quickly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rigorous standards and procedures to ensure the safety of any vaccine. Clinical trials must show COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective before use. People of different ages, races, ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions, participated in these trials.
What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
- Some people may experience mild symptoms including muscle pain at the injection site, fever, headache, or fatigue. These symptoms usually go away on their own within a few days and signal that your immune system is working.
- There is a remote chance the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. If you have experienced a severe allergic reaction or anaphylactic reaction to a medication, food, or bee stings, in the past, OR, if you require an Epi pen to manage such allergy, based on the data available, you may have a higher risk for adverse outcomes. You should not get the vaccine until you consult with your healthcare provider.
- The FDA and CDC continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
How is the vaccine administered?
- The vaccine is injected into your arm, just like a flu shot. Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, an initial dose and then a repeat vaccination 3 or 4 weeks later.
- You will be scheduled for your second dose at the time of receiving your first dose.
Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, when will I be immune?
A person does not achieve immunity from the COVID-19 virus until 6-8 weeks AFTER their first dose. You will need TWO doses, spaced between 3-4 weeks apart, in order to achieve 95% immunity.
Can I stop wearing a mask once vaccinated?
No! Everyone will need to continue to wear a mask and social distance regardless of if they receive the vaccine. Why? The COVID-19 virus and vaccine are still so new; we do not know yet if a person can spread the virus after getting vaccinated.
Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding? Does the vaccine cause infertility?
- A now-blocked Facebook post that went viral claimed the coronavirus vaccine could cause infertility. It suggested (incorrectly) that the vaccine teaches the body to attack a protein involved in placental development. In reality, the protein the vaccine spurs the body to make and attack bears little resemblance to the one in the placenta.
- Both American College of Gynecology and Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine recommend the mRNA vaccine in pregnancy, after a discussion between the doctor and the patient. Researchers believe there is minimal risk to the fetus or the infant from breastmilk. The Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters milk bank accepts breast milk from mothers who have been vaccinated.
Can I contract COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. This vaccine is not made from live or attenuated virus. Instead, the vaccine teaches the immune system to find and destroy the virus "spike protein" which is how the virus attaches to human cells and infects the host. The mRNA is rapidly destroyed by the cell leaving no permanent trace.
Is the vaccine effective against the new COVID-19 variant?
The vaccines were shown to be effective against multiple strains of COVID-19 that appeared earlier in the pandemic. Researchers are confident the vaccines are effective against the new variant.
There is a lot of talk about Black, Brown and other diverse communities not wanting the vaccine. Why?
There are historically-rooted and valid reasons for many in these communities to be skeptical of healthcare and government. Given the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on Black, Brown and other people of color, however, it is especially critical that those in these communities receive the vaccine when it's available to them. Black, Brown, and other people of color are at higher risk for COVID-19 exposure, are more likely to be hospitalized and/or experience severe illness, and more likely to die from COVID-19. They also experience unintended consequences of COVID-19 prevention strategies at higher rates like loss of income (which often means lack of access to healthcare), housing instability and food insecurity. The vaccines have the potential to save millions of lives, especially in diverse communities.
Was the vaccine rushed through development and approvals?
These vaccines are made using messenger RNA (mRNA). It may sound new, but researchers have been studying mRNA for more than a decade and, in a turn of luck, their research reached maturity around the same time as we begin seeing COVID-19 in the U.S. The speed with which these were produced are due to process improvements and financial backing for development, not because corners were cut or researchers skipped steps. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, which means (in short):
- The vaccines are cleared to be used in a public health emergency following or during large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials.
- The FDA reviews adequate manufacturing information to ensure quality and consistency and determines that the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine.
The FDA received all safety data accumulated from phase 1 and 2 studies conducted with the vaccine and expects that phase 3 data will include a follow-up after at least half of vaccine recipients in phase 3 clinical trials have completed the full vaccination regimen.
What is mRNA?
Previous vaccines relied on isolating virus samples, rendering them inert, delivering the virus into the bloodstream, and training the body to respond. This is a time-consuming process.
mRNA encodes a portion of the spike protein that COVID-19 uses to attach itself to our cells with a blueprint on how to fight COVID-19. In short, mRNA can instruct human cells on how to respond to the coronavirus without injecting a virus specimen. There is zero chance that you can contract COVID-19 for the vaccine.
What is in the vaccines?
There are multiple ingredients, but none of them are harmful. Some misinformation claims there is metal (microchips) or external DNA in these vaccine, but that is not true of either vaccine. The ingredients are not a secret. Anyone can read the full ingredient list on the FDA fact sheets, and you will be asked to review that fact sheet before you receive your dose.