Nova Pathfinder’s priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to make sure each member gets the right care at the right time – including the COVID-19 vaccine. Now that the U.S. has recommended COVID-19 vaccines, we are working to help our members get immunized as quickly as possible.
Vaccine guidelines and requirements may vary by county and by state. You can find more information and Nova Pathfinder resources below. Your Nova Pathfinder team is here for you and will continue to support you as the situation evolves. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and everyone around you – including those who are at risk for severe illness or death.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. President and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says “When your turn to get vaccinated comes up, get vaccinated. It’s not only good for you and your family and your community, but it will also have a very important impact on the dynamics of the outbreak in our country.”
While the introduction of the vaccine is an important and big step in the pandemic, you may naturally have questions about what this all means for you. We’re here to help you make sense of these questions, with doctor’s advice from Nova Pathfinder’s Teledoc Service.
1. How do we know if the vaccine is safe and effective?
Millions of Americans have already received COVID-19 vaccines that have been recommended by the federal government. The vaccines that are currently available have been reviewed and approved for safety and efficacy by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In her video on the vaccine development process, Dr. Reznick noted that the longest stage of the process is the exploratory phase, aka where researchers explore different ingredient options to make sure they are as effective as possible. Fortunately, in the case of COVID-19, scientists didn’t have to start from scratch.
“There have been decades of research regarding mRNA vaccines that were able to be quickly applied to the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Reznick.
Scientists have been able to use research into other diseases in the coronaviruses family, such as SARS and MERS, which gave them a head start on the process for the COVID-19 vaccine. With the help of an emergency use authorization from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), researchers were able to safely move vaccines to the FDA approval phase in record time. The two vaccines that are recommended and available in the U.S. right now are both mRNA vaccines, a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies, which produces antibodies that protect us from getting infected.
2. Will I experience any side effects with the vaccine?
You may have some side effects following COVID-19 vaccination, if any at all – so far, they have been minor for most people. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Plus, side effects are a normal sign that your body is building protection (which is exactly what’s supposed to happen).
“Side effects are an indication that a person’s immune system is being turned on, and that the vaccine is working,” says Dr. Reznick.
That said, if you are undergoing any sort of treatment or have a history of allergic reactions — severe or non-severe — to vaccines, we recommend first speaking with your provider.
One common side effect is pain or swelling in the arm where you received the shot. To help reduce any discomfort, the CDC recommends applying a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area. In addition to this, make sure to use or exercise your arm as normal to help alleviate pain. Other side effects may occur throughout the rest of your body such as fever, chills, tiredness, and/or headaches. If you experience these symptoms, try drinking plenty of fluids and dressing lightly to help reduce discomfort from fever.
Pregnant people may experience similar side effects, but the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all agree that receiving the vaccine during pregnancy is safe. If you are expecting and have any questions about the vaccine, we recommend consulting your obstetrician.
3. When can I get the vaccine?
Because the U.S. supply of COVID-19 vaccine is limited at first, the CDC recommends that local governments make the vaccine available to the public in phases, starting with groups that are most at-risk: health care professionals and residents of long-term care facilities (phase 1a).
Phased eligibility “is a way to distribute the vaccines in a fair and ethical way,” says Dr. Reznick.
The federal vaccination phases are based on CDC recommendations. You can find detailed explanations of each on their website, and here’s a high-level overview of the federal phases:
Phase 1a: healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities – approximately 24 million people.* Healthcare workers are on the frontlines of the pandemic doing the important, but high-risk, work of caring directly for COVID-19 patients. Phase 1a also includes residents of long-term care facilities, which is where the outbreak first began. Many of these individuals are also in older age groups, which puts them at higher risk for severe illness and death if they contract COVID-19.
Phase 1b: people aged 75+ and frontline essential workers – roughly 49 million people. As noted, people aged 75 years and older are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID-19. This is partially because as we get older, we’re more likely to develop medical conditions, such as heart failure or diabetes, that put people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
And similar to the healthcare workers in Phase 1a, frontline workers are just that – the people out on the frontlines interacting with people outside of their household on a regular basis. While the definition of essential workers may vary by state, the federal government definition of this group includes many of the people we interact with and rely on everyday – workers in groceries stores, public transit, the postal service, firefighters, police officers, postal workers, teachers, and more.
Phase 1c: the largest group so far, capturing 129 million individuals. Phase 1c expands the eligible population to include people aged 65-74 years and those aged 16-64 years with underlying medical conditions, and other essential workers.
As of now, Phase 2 includes all other persons over 16 not already recommended for vaccination in Phases 1a, 1b, 1c. Ongoing studies will provide further guidance for vaccinating individuals who are 16 years of age or younger.
4. How do I get vaccinated?
When you are eligible for the vaccine, you will likely need to pre-register, which may require taking an eligibility screener or survey, as well as schedule an appointment at a facility where the vaccine is available.
Soon, if not already, your local pharmacy might be offering the vaccine. Not sure where to start? You can find a pharmacy location near you, such as CVS Pharmacy, by online or via the CDC website. CVS Pharmacy, a trusted Nova Pathfinder partner, is administering vaccines by appointment only, and based on local guidelines and community needs in the state where the pharmacy is located. You can find out when you may be eligible and schedule appointments through handy tools on the CVS website.
You should take every precaution to stay safe and avoid exposure to COVID-19 during your visit. Follow CDC guidelines for reducing your risk, including but not limited to wearing a mask, covering your nose and mouth, and stay at least 6 feet away from others while inside and in lines.
5. What happens after I take the vaccine?
Following vaccination, you should stay on site for at least 15 minutes so that health care professionals can monitor you for any allergic or adverse reactions. If you’ve had a severe and/or immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy in the past, you should stay on site for at least 30 minutes of monitoring post-vaccination.
You should also receive a vaccination card that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it and where, and as well a fact sheet. You can also use v-safe, the CDC’s free, smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you do experience any side effects, the CDC recommends talking to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Call your doctor if any side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days. If you’re a Nova Pathfinder member, remember that you have 24/7 access to Teledoc, where you can connect with a Teledoc provider for medical guidance all for no extra cost to you.
Depending on the specific vaccine you get, two doses may be required, with a second shot three to four weeks after your first needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer against this serious disease.
Data has not yet shown whether getting the vaccine protects you from spreading COVID-19, and we all continue to play an important part in controlling the outbreak. Even after you are fully vaccinated, it is important that we all continue to take steps, like wearing a mask and social distancing, to help reduce the risk exposure to ourselves or others. As you may have seen in the news, there are a number of new variants of the virus. While health leaders believe the currently available vaccines should provide protection against these variations, it is not yet confirmed, so it is best to continue to wear a mask and take other recommended safety measures.
As with the entire pandemic so far, all things COVID-19 vaccines are constantly evolving. Nova Pathfinder is here to help you stay safe and find affordable care when you need it, before and after you’ve been vaccinated.
As always, your Care Advocate Team is available to help — message them through the website or call (833) 444-NOVA (6682) – and we will continue to update you. You can find more of these FAQs and the latest updates in the CDC’s COVID-19 Resource Center, and news on COVID-19 vaccines and related regulations on the CDC’s website.
COVID-19 Vaccine Resources