COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

Good news! In Massachusetts, everyone age 12 or older is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists and other health experts agree it’s important for people to get the vaccine so we can safely get back to our normal lives. 

 

Have questions? We can help. Here are answers to common questions about the vaccine.

How do I make an appointment to get the vaccine?

Early in 2021, many people reported that they had difficulty getting appointments. Fortunately, it’s much easier to get a vaccine now. Vaccine supply has increased, and so have the ways you can make an appointment and the number of vaccination sites you can choose from. Some sites now offer walk-in vaccines so you don’t need to make an appointment ahead of time.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Visit Vaxfinder (VaxFinder.mass.gov) to register for a vaccine at a mass vaccination or regional collaborative location. You can choose how you want to be notified to schedule an appointment.
  • Vaxfinder (VaxFinder.mass.gov) will also show you appointments at pharmacies, health care providers and other community locations.
Where can I get the vaccine?

Eventually, the plan is to have the vaccine administered in doctors’ offices, select retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers. The state’s interactive map has up-to-date info on where you can get vaccinated now. You can also check with your local health department for details about where you can get vaccinated in your area.

You can try looking for COVID-19 vaccination signs at grocery stores and pharmacies in your neighborhood. Many small, local sites now offer walk-in vaccines so you don’t need an appointment ahead of time. 

Some communities have mobile and pop-up vaccination sites in parking lots, parks and other convenient locations to make it even easier for people to get a vaccine.

We don’t have the ability to guarantee a vaccine appointment, but if you have difficulty finding an appointment or transportation to your appointment, we may be able to provide tips to help. Call Member Services at 855-257-1985 (TTY: 711).

What do I need to know about getting my children vaccinated?

If you’re under age 18 or making an appointment for someone under age 18, you will need to choose a site that uses the Pfizer vaccine. It is the only vaccine currently approved for those ages 12 through 17.

Those under age 18 will need consent signed by a parent or guardian to get the vaccine. You can download a consent form at mass.gov. Or you can call the vaccination site and ask if they have forms available.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine will help keep you from getting COVID-19. The vaccine helps your body develop immunity to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines are 100% effective in preventing COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. We encourage our members to get vaccinated when they are eligible.
You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine. However, after you receive any vaccine, you may have mild side effects. This is normal and a sign that the body is building immunity to help fight infection. If you do have side effects after getting the COVID-19 vaccination, they will be similar to the symptoms that many other common vaccines often cause. This may include soreness in your arm, fever, chills, tiredness and headache.

Call your provider if you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine. This could be a sign of rare but serious blood clots that occurred in a small number of people who received the J&J vaccine.

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

People who get the COVID-19 vaccine are less likely to get sick from the virus. They also are much less likely to get seriously ill if they do get sick. That helps people who haven’t been able to get the shot yet, or who aren’t given the shot, such as infants and children. It also protects people at high risk for serious and life-threatening illness. That includes immune-compromised people and seniors.

By getting a vaccine, you can help us reach herd immunity. According to the CDC, herd immunity occurs when enough people in a community have been vaccinated or have gotten the disease that it protects the community from the disease. When we reach herd immunity, it will be harder for COVID-19 to spread from person to person.

How much does the vaccine cost?

The COVID-19 vaccine is being provided free of charge to the public. There are no costs for Tufts Health Plan members as well as those who have private insurance, MassHealth or One Care plans with other insurers, or no insurance. All health care provider sites that receive COVID-19 vaccines must agree not to charge patients any out-of-pocket fees or deny anyone vaccination services.

Will I have to pay out of pocket for any vaccine costs?

There are no out-of-pocket costs for Tufts Health Plan members for either the COVID-19 vaccine or for the cost of administering it.

Will I be covered if I get the vaccine from an out-of-network provider?

The COVID-19 vaccine is covered by all insurance plans and the federal government and will be provided free of charge to the public. All health care provider sites that receive COVID-19 vaccines must agree not to charge patients any out-of-pocket fees or deny anyone vaccination services.

If you’re a Tufts Health Plan member, that means there is no cost whether you go to in-network or out-of-network providers.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

There is no way for the COVID-19 vaccine to give you COVID-19. 

I have heard different vaccine names. Which one is best for me? Can I choose which one I receive?

The FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and J&J COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorization. These vaccines had high success rates during clinical trials.

All vaccines that receive FDA approval will be covered. These vaccines will have dosage recommendations and will contribute to herd immunity. The provider who gives you the vaccine can tell you if you how many doses you need. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, and it is important to get both doses to get the full protective benefit of the vaccines. The J&J vaccine requires only one dose.

As of May 2021, people were unable to choose which vaccine they received. It is unclear whether people will be able to choose which vaccine they receive in the future.

The CDC urges people to get whichever vaccine is available first. The J&J vaccine now has a warning for women younger than 50 years of age that there is a rare risk of blood clots with the J&J vaccine. This risk has not been reported with the other COVID-19 vaccines.

Do I still need to wear a mask and social distance after getting vaccinated?

As we learn more from ongoing studies, the CDC updates its guidance. You can read the latest advice from the CDC here:

Please keep in mind as well that the vaccine does not have enough time to protect you immediately on the day of your vaccination. It takes a few weeks to start working in your body, and you should still be cautious during that time.

Should I worry that development of COVID-19 vaccines was rushed?

The FDA and CDC have safety checks in place to make sure that vaccines it approves are safe and effective. The pause in using the J&J vaccine and the later lifting of the pause shows how those safety checks work. Any reports of health issues following COVID-19 vaccination are taken very seriously. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

There’s a lot of confusing information about the COVID-19 vaccines. How do I know what’s true?

You should refer to trusted sources for health and safety information. The CDC, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and your city or town health department all provide reliable information about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines on their websites.

How is Massachusetts addressing racial equity while distributing COVID-19 vaccines?

Federal and state researchers have identified many racial inequities that jeopardize the health of minority groups. Some of these issues are even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are some of the inequities that hamper access to health care, including access to vaccinations:

  • Location and density of neighborhoods
  • Household size
  • Job type
  • Reliance on public transportation
  • Economic stability

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has pledged to set aside 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccine supply specifically for minority communities. The administration is also targeting the 20 hardest hit cities in the commonwealth with additional resources and funding.

Can I get help with transportation to my vaccine appointment?

All MassHealth members and people eligible for MassHealth Health Safety Net (including MassHealth Limited) can get free transportation to and from their COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Tufts Health Plan will work with you to secure transportation, or if you prefer to secure your own transportation, you can call MassHealth Customer Service at 800-841-2900 to request transportation services.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you may have some side effects. This is a normal sign that your body is building protection. Temporary soreness in your arm, fever, chills, tiredness and headache are all normal. For more info, the CDC provides details on what to expect after getting the vaccine.

Call your provider if you develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine. These symptoms could be signs of the rare but serious blood clots that occurred in a small number of people who received the J&J vaccine.

Are certain symptoms I’m having after the vaccine a sign of COVID itself instead of vaccine side effects?

As noted above, the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. However, the vaccine takes a few weeks to work, and a few people nationwide have gotten COVID-19 around the same time they got a vaccination. COVID-19 symptoms that the vaccine does not have as side effects include cough, runny nose, and loss of taste and smell. Please refer to the CDC guidance here on what symptoms are more likely to be from a COVID-19 illness.

Remember, you should call your provider if you experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting the J&J vaccine. These may be signs of the rare but serious blood clots that occurred in a small number of people who received the J&J vaccine.

How often will I need to get the vaccine?

We don’t know yet. Because the virus is so new and could mutate, researchers need time to monitor its response to determine how long the vaccine protects you from the virus.

Can the vaccine be administered in my long-term care (LTC) facility instead of at the pharmacy?

During phase 1, the federal government contracted with Walgreens and CVS to go to each facility and provide vaccines to long term care staff and residents.

Will members have the choice of getting the vaccine(s) from either a medical provider or pharmacist (when available)?

Yes. Once you are eligible, you will be able to choose where you get the vaccine by visiting the state’s interactive map.

When will members be able to get the vaccine? What is the order of priority?

In Massachusetts, everyone 12 and older is now eligible to get the vaccine.

What personal information do I need to give when I get a vaccine?

To make an appointment for a vaccine, you need to fill out and sign an attestation form. This form confirms that you are in one of the groups eligible for the vaccine. You may be asked to show an insurance card if you have health insurance. You may also be asked for identification (ID), such as:

  • An ID card from your employer
  • A license or government-issued ID
  • A recent paystub from your job

You can get a vaccine even if you do not have health insurance, citizenship status, a driver’s license or a Social Security number.

Does getting a vaccine affect my immigration status?

No. The federal government will not consider whether people got COVID-19 treatment (including a vaccine) when they seek an extension of stay or change of immigration status. This is true even if Medicaid or other federal funds are used to pay for the vaccine. Everyone is encouraged to get a vaccine when they are eligible, regardless of their immigration status.

How will any information I provide be used?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is keeping an electric record of those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This information is kept private like a patient’s medical record. You may be asked to provide your race, ethnicity or preferred language. This information is used by providers to understand who is getting the vaccine and to identify inequities in vaccine distribution plans.

What can I do after I’ve been fully vaccinated for COVID-19?

The CDC provides guidelines for what you can and cannot do after you are you are fully vaccinated. You can read the CDC’s advice here:

Will I receive anything to serve as proof of my vaccination?

At your vaccine appointment, you will receive a COVID-19 vaccination record card. The card will show your name, date of birth, which COVID-19 vaccine you received, where you received it and the date of your vaccination appointment. If you need to return for a second dose of the vaccine, the card will serve as a reminder. Make sure you bring the card to your second appointment.
 
Please do not post pictures of your vaccination record card on social media or share proof of your immunization publicly. This is considered sensitive information that may put you at risk for vaccine scammers and identify theft.

We encourage you to hold on to your vaccine card and keep it with your personal records. The CDC offers tools to help you keep your vaccine records up to date.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use authorization are currently available and recommended by the CDC for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The New England Journal of Medicine looked at data from more than 35,000 pregnant individuals who got the mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines. It found no obvious safety concerns.

The vaccines may also protect your newborn infant from COVID-19 if you are infected during pregnancy. Two recent Israeli studies (Perl et al. & Shlomai et al) found that COVID-19 antibodies pass robustly from mothers to their infants in breast milk for six weeks after vaccination.  No infants breastfed by their COVID-19-positive mothers had signs of infection.

If you are pregnant and receive a COVID-19 vaccine, consider using v-safe, a tool from the CDC and FDA. The tool uses text messaging and surveys to check-in with you after you get your vaccine.  

If you have questions about getting the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your health care provider.