COVID-19 Vaccine Updates


Get answers to your questions about COVID-19 vaccines.

Last updated 1/15/21

Learn the latest information about COVID-19 Vaccines

Currently, there are two approved COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11, 2020 and the Moderna vaccine was approved for emergency use on Dec. 18, 2020. The development and distribution of additional safe and effective vaccines is also underway. PeaceHealth is preparing to provide approved COVID-19 vaccines safely, to eligible individuals in our communities in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon.  

As this work continues, PeaceHealth will keep this page updated with the most current information on the availability, effectiveness, timing and use of these vaccines.

Frequently asked questions

Vaccines currently prevent millions of deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles and influenza. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defenses—the immune system—to recognize and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. If the body is exposed to those disease-causing germs later, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness. Vaccines are also critical to the prevention and control of infectious-disease outbreaks.

Vaccine overview

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but all of them use the virus (or parts or material from it) to provoke an immune response. Once the body’s immune system has “previewed” the virus from the vaccine, it is able to recognize and respond if it encounters the virus again.

Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are immune to a disease that the disease cannot spread easily among them. One of the aims in achieving herd immunity is to keep vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated (due to specific health conditions, etc.) safe and protected from the disease. To safely achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, a substantial fraction of the population would need to be vaccinated. While we don’t yet know what percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, estimates from medical experts suggest that it may take at least 70% immunity to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Vaccine availability

Currently, there are two approved COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11, 2020 and the Moderna vaccine was approved for emergency use on Dec. 18, 2020. In November, both Pfizer and Moderna announced that their vaccines were more than 90% effective in Phase 3 clinical trials. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for distribution and both use the same mRNA approach.

PeaceHealth received the Pfizer vaccine first. Shortly after, we also received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and began distribution of both in December 2020.

Company Type Phase Dosage*
Pfizer mRNA Authorized for emergency use
(phase 3 clinic trials included 43,000 subject)
2 Doses,
No sooner than 17 days apart; up to 21 days apart; and if after 21 days, the closest day possible.
Moderna mRNA Authorized for emergency use,
(phase 3 clinic trials included 30,000 subjects)
2 Doses,
No sooner than 24 days apart; up to 28 days apart; and if after 28 days, the closest day possible.
*The second dose timeline may be adjusted should the FDA update their guidelines.

If other vaccines are also authorized/approved and released later, PeaceHealth may receive them as well. Learn more about the vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials here.

PeaceHealth received the Pfizer vaccine first. Shortly after, we also received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and began distribution of both in December 2020. Both will go first to high-risk healthcare workers. At first there will be a limited supply. Vaccines will be prioritized according to guidelines from state public health agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As more vaccine is produced and other vaccines are approved, other groups will receive the vaccine.

Vaccine distribution

PeaceHealth is following prioritization guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state departments of health to ensure a fair and equitable vaccine distribution process across all our communities. This guidance includes initial prioritization of healthcare workers with the potential for direct exposure through patient care, as well as healthcare workers who may have indirect exposure in our facilities and those serving in various support roles. The CDC and our local health partners have made this a priority in order to keep this essential workforce caring for patients and ensure healthcare systems can effectively manage COVID-19 surges. In addition, PeaceHealth is working closely with local health partners to ensure other 1-A priority groups in our communities are vaccinated. As more vaccine is distributed, it will be offered to additional groups of people as outlined by the CDC and our state departments of health.

More information is available at:

PeaceHealth is currently not taking names of individuals interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine. We will communicate more details as vaccines become available.

PeaceHealth is committed to working with all our community partners, including public health agencies, to ensure the successful and equitable distribution of a safe and effective vaccine that will end this pandemic. We will offer vaccines in accordance with state and federal guidelines and contingent on availability, which is expected to be limited even now that vaccines are approved for distribution.

Vaccination details

No, the vaccine will be free of charge. There may be an administration fee for vaccine administration, which will be billed to the patient's insurance.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two shots. Other vaccines may only require one shot.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines both require two shots to be effective. The Pfizer shots must be administered no sooner than 17 days apart; and if after 21 days, the closest day possible. The Moderna shots must be administered no sooner than 24 days apart; and if after 28 days, the closest day possible. The second dose timelines may be adjusted should the FDA update their guidelines.

Side effects that have been reported with the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines include:

  • Injection site reactions: pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, swelling and redness
  • General side effects: fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever

There have been a small number of severe allergic reactions in early Pfizer vaccinations in the U.K and the U.S. As a safety precaution, all caregivers are observed for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine, and for 30 minutes if they have a history of anaphylactic reaction to vaccines.

These may not be all the possible side effects. We will continue to update you as the FDA and these companies release more information about safety, efficacy and side effects.

Yes. After receiving the vaccine, you should still protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, watching your distance and washing your hands. These behaviors will remain essential until the pandemic has ended.

While the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates, including the authorized for emergency use Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, have proven protective against the virus, there’s no data that shows how long that protection can last. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts or the frequency of vaccination required until we have a vaccine and more data on how well it works.

Yes. Both Pfizer doses are required for immunity, must be from Pfizer, and must be administered no sooner than 17 days apart; and if after 21 days, the closes day possible. The second dose timeline may be adjusted should the FDA update their guidelines.

Yes. Both Moderna doses are required for immunity, must be from Moderna, and must be administered no sooner than 24 days apart; and if after 28 days, the closest day possible. The second dose timeline may be adjusted should the FDA update their guidelines.

No. Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection.

If your body develops an immune response — the goal of vaccination — there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.

Yes. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines morally acceptable. Additionally, the Catholic Health Association and their ethicists, in collaboration with other Catholic bioethicists, encourages Catholic health organizations to distribute the vaccines and has found nothing morally prohibitive with their development and use.

Vaccine safety and efficacy

Any vaccine must have completed three phases of clinical trials before final information about the trials can be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review. Based on this review, if the FDA deems a vaccine to be safe and effective it may be approved for distribution. If a COVID-19 vaccine is also recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) it can then move forward with distribution. Also, a five-state task force (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado) has appointed a joint review committee that will offer an independent opinion about each COVID-19 vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Finally, PeaceHealth’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force includes a wide range of clinicians and specialists and will also review the safety and efficacy of any vaccine approved for use.

The COVID-19 vaccine testing timeline is not being rushed. Instead, the production and shipping timelines are being condensed, and vaccine manufacturing occurred in parallel with clinical trials. mRNA vaccines have been used safely and effectively in clinical trials since 2013.

The COVID-19 vaccine candidates from Pfizer and Moderna both use mRNA technology. Unlike typical vaccines that use a weakened live virus, mRNA vaccines instead use messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA is a code that tells your cells to make a fragment of the protein of the target virus. Those protein fragments are a preview of the virus, enabling your immune system to prepare antibodies that will neutralize the real virus. Moderna has used it in vaccines for Zika, flu, rabies and others since 2013. Experts anticipate low long-term safety risks from mRNA vaccines. Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine use cell lines for any stage of the design, development or production. mRNA never enters the center of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept, making it impossible for it to interact or alter your DNA in any way. Learn more about mRNA vaccines and the different types of vaccines here.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain a tiny piece of genetic material (mRNA) encased in salt, sugar and fats. The vaccine does not contain a nano- or microchip or any other sort of tracking device. You can find the list of ingredients on the FDA fact sheets for the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine.

No. None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. Learn more here.

Changes in viruses are normal and expected. According to experts, COVID-19 vaccines should most likely protect against multiple strains of the virus. However, just as flu viruses change often and doctors recommend that you get a flu shot each year, long-term, COVID-19 vaccines may also need to be revised to allow for growing diversity in the virus.

There have been a small number of severe allergic reactions in early Pfizer vaccinations in the U.K and the U.S. These cases are being reviewed. If you have a history of allergies that are severe enough to require you to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen), you may wish to talk to your primary care provider before taking the vaccine.

The FDA recommends that you should not get the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines if you either had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of one of these vaccines or had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in one of these vaccines. You can find the list of ingredients on the FDA fact sheets for the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine.

As a safety precaution, all PeaceHealth vaccine recipients are observed for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine, and for 30 minutes if they have a history of anaphylactic reaction to vaccines. In the event of an adverse reaction, during all vaccine clinics a medical personnel is on-hand who can administer the EpiPen, if needed. Rapid response is also immediately available in case of emergency.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and are considering receiving the vaccine, it is recommended that you speak with your primary care and/or OB/GYN provider. Currently, PeaceHealth is offering the vaccine along with additional COVID-19 information for pregnant or breastfeeding/lactating healthcare workers to consider; individuals who choose to receive the vaccine also need to complete an attestation acknowledging they understand the risks, benefits and alternatives of taking the vaccine.

There is no evidence that authorized COVID-19 vaccines impact fertility. However, some research studies suggest that getting COVID-19 itself — the virus, not the vaccine — can affect sperm quality, which could potentially contribute to infertility concerns in certain people. Therefore, the virus itself may pose a greater risk to fertility than the vaccine. If you have concerns or questions about any side effects of the vaccine, consult with your primary care provider.

If you are immunocompromised or have an autoimmune disease and are considering receiving the vaccine, talk to your primary care provider first. No current Phase 3 clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine has enrolled immunocompromised patients or those with autoimmune diseases. That means the efficacy and safety of a vaccine has not been established in these patient populations.

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may still benefit from getting a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last and more studies are needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current evidence suggests that COVID-19 re-infection is rare in the 90 days after initial infection. If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past 90 days, we ask that you wait to be vaccinated until the end of this period.

Get more information on COVID-19

We're committed to keeping you safe and informed. Find COVID-19 testing information, symptom checkers, and visitor restrictions for your community in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon.