Community Medical Centers’ first priority for the COVID-19 vaccine is to provide it to our staff and providers to ensure they’re well and able to care for the population of the Central Valley. The following are some of the procedures we’re observing and some information we want to share about the vaccine.
 

Is Community providing vaccines for the general public?  

Not at this time. We're following state guidelines and as soon as we know more about the next tier of vaccinations — when they will expand beyond our workforce — we will make that information public on our website. Information can currently be accessed on the Fresno Department of Public Health COVID-19 vaccine site.

Who is getting the vaccine?

Who should NOT get the vaccine?
Consistent with experiences in the UK, the FDA recommendation is NOT to administer the vaccine to individuals with known history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. If you have a history of severe allergic reaction in the past (e.g., anaphylaxis), please consult your primary physician before considering the vaccine.
 
If I’ve had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?
Yes, it’s recommended that you do get vaccinated. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again; this is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. The general suggestion is waiting to receive your first vaccination for 90 days after you recover from COVID-19; your chances of being reinfected with COVID-19 during that window is extremely low due to natural immunity.
 
If I’m pregnant, should I get the vaccine?
There is insufficient information at this time about the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine on those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant, although after vaccinating 10,000 pregnant women in the U.S. there have been no “red flag” or adverse advents. The American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) suggests that individuals who meet criteria for receiving the vaccination based on their other risk factors should consider receiving the vaccine. Recent studies show 32% of pregnant women who get COVID-19 will end up in the ICU, compared to 6% of non-pregnant women. About 1% of all vaccinated people will get a high fever (over 102 degrees F) as a side effect. A persistent high fever during the first trimester of pregnancy might increase the risk of congenital defects or miscarriage. Per the FDA recommendations, you may want to consult your obstetrician before receiving the vaccine to determine whether it is the right choice for you.
 
Will I have to take a COVID-19 test before I get the vaccine?
At this time, Community is not requiring a COVID-19 test for anyone getting a vaccine. However, anyone who is symptomatic at the time of their appointment will be unable to get the vaccine and should be tested at that point. People with symptoms should NOT come to a scheduled appointment for vaccination; this will prevent exposing others at the clinic, including staff, to COVID-19. 
 

About Community’s vaccine plan

Is Community providing the COVID-19 vaccine for its employees and physicians?
Regular vaccination clinics began on Monday, Dec. 21. All staff are now eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment.
 
We are following CDC recommendations to direct the limited supply of vaccine initially available to the highest risk population, determined to be healthcare workers with direct patient contact.
 

Side effects/post vaccination

Does a patient’s vaccination status change their testing or masking requirements?
No, patients still need to be tested for COVID-19 and should follow the same mask protection requirements regardless of vaccination status. The vaccine reduces one’s chances of getting COVID-19, but it does not eliminate it. We are also still learning about the efficacy of the vaccine against the newly emerging COVID-19 variants. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it is not known if vaccinated people can be carriers of the virus and could pass it on to others. As we learn more, we will continue to update our guidelines.
 

What are the side effects?
All vaccines carry a risk of side effects.

If I have side effects, can I take medication?
You can take Tylenol or Advil for discomfort at the injection site, just as you would for a flu vaccination, if not contraindicated by your primary care doctor.
 
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA (or messenger RNA) vaccines. mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. It does not include a live COVID-19 virus and cannot give you the disease. 
 
Once I get the vaccine, will I need to continue wearing a mask or social distance from others?
Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others. The PPE precautions that are recommended will not change. 
 
What is the optimal timing to receive my second dose?
The CDC currently recommends receiving the second dose of the vaccine 17-21 days after the first dose. While there is no status ‘upper limit’ on this window, the CDC strongly recommends staying as close to this window as possible for maximum immunity. 
 
What happens if I don’t get the second dose?
If you do not get the second dose, you will not be considered immune.
 

About the vaccines

There are two vaccines. How are they different?
There are two ‘versions’ of the vaccine: one from Pfizer-BioNTech, one from Moderna.
 
The Pfizer vaccine requires much more rigorous storage (-80°C), and has a shorter shelf life when thawed, and a very short shelf life when prepared for administration. This vaccine requires a second dose 21 days after the first dose. 

The Moderna vaccine requires refrigeration much more in line with other vaccine storage, and has a significantly longer shelf life once thawed, and about the same short life when prepared for administration. This vaccine requires a second dose 28 days after the first dose. 

Which vaccine will CMC be receiving? Pfizer or Moderna?
We are currently administering the Pfizer vaccine to our employees, providers and vendors. You will receive detailed information about the vaccine you’re receiving at your appointment.
 
Is the vaccine one shot?
Both vaccines require two doses to be fully effective — Pfizer after 21 days. We will need to ensure that we are able to provide the first dose, document the date, and schedule AND administer the second dose in a timely fashion. There is no confirmed information about a window on the timing on either of these vaccines — for instance, whether it can it be a day early, or 2-3 days late.
 
How effective is the vaccine?
Pfizer and BioNTech were the first to announce their vaccine’s effectiveness, which stands at 95%. Meanwhile, the US company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health have announced their vaccine to be 94% effective based on the final results of a trial involving 30,000 people in the US.

How does the vaccine work? Does it contain live COVID-19 virus?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA (or messenger RNA) vaccines. mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. It does not include a live COVID-19 virus and cannot give you the disease. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future. 
 
Is the vaccine made with live tissue?
No. There have been false claims that vaccines contain embryonic cells. This is not true.
 
What are the safety checks for the vaccines?
In Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials, vaccines are tested in small numbers of volunteers to check they are safe and to determine the right dose.
 
In Phase 3 trials, they are tested in thousands of people to see how effective they are. The group who received the vaccine and a control group who have received a placebo are closely monitored for any adverse reactions — side effects. Safety monitoring continues after a vaccine has been approved for use.