Feb. 23, 2021 Update
Since Dec. 22, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has been vaccinating members of our community with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners. To date, BCHHS has administered 25,502 total vaccinations. ( as of Feb. 23, numbers above reflect current)
BCHHS is currently vaccinating individuals in Groups 1 and 2 – healthcare workers and adults 65 and older, respectively. Through BCHHS and private vaccine administration, approximately 12 percent of Buncombe County’s general population has received at least a first dose of the vaccine.
Beginning this week, the baseline allocation will be 2,340 doses. While this may seem like an increase, it is the same number of vials as the previous three weeks but is now based on the expectation of six doses per Pfizer vaccine bottle.
In addition, this week BCHHS will receive 300 additional doses from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for improving the equitable distribution of vaccine to marginalized populations. This week, BCHHS will partner with Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church and Western Carolina University to hold a vaccine event to better meet the needs of our historically marginalized populations and provide opportunities for vaccine access that otherwise may be limited for those who qualify in the active phases of adults 65 and older, health care workers and school personnel. Vaccines are available by appointment only.
If eligible for one of the vaccine groups, individuals can call 828-250-5000 or visit buncombeready.org to get on the waitlist. Buncombe County staff is currently calling individuals between numbers 10,000 and 12,000. Approximately 40,000 individuals remain on the wait list, and they are contacted in the order which they signed up. If individuals need to remove their name from the waitlist, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 828-419-0095 or 828-250-5000.
NC DHHS has county-level vaccination data available on a dashboard available here: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations
Vaccines for School Employees
Last week, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners directed BCHHS staff to begin providing vaccines to school employees by diverting one tray of vaccines – approximately 1,000 doses – from each week’s baseline allocation. Vaccinations for public, private and charter school personnel will occur at the A-B Tech site by appointment.
By close of business Wednesday, school administrators will provide BCHHS lists of school staff who have expressed interest in receiving the vaccine. BCHHS schedulers will use those lists to schedule about 1,000 appointments each week for school staff. It will take several weeks to complete the lists. If a school employee misses the deadline to be placed on that list by their school administrator, they will then be directed to the Buncombe County wait list for Group 3 when it opens on March 10 to frontline essential workers.
MAHEC has received vaccine doses and is partnering with the Buncombe Partnership for Children to identify childcare facility staff eligible for vaccine.
Feb. 17, 2021 Update
COVID Vaccine Sites Closed Thursday, Feb. 18
Due to the possibility of significant ice accumulation across Buncombe County, the Buncombe County vaccination sites at A-B Tech and AC Reynolds will be closed on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Those individuals with appointments on Thursday, Feb. 18 will be rescheduled for the same time on Tuesday, Feb. 23 and will alsor receive individual instructions. The closure does not impact any individual’s position on the waitlist.
Feb. 10, 2021 Update
As of Feb. 10, Buncombe County Health & Human Services
has administered 17,081 vaccines. We have received 2,250 vaccines this week, and there are 2,380 first-dose appointments scheduled. We are currently calling numbers 6,500 through 8,500 for appointments. A total of 49,430 individuals have signed up for the waitlist since it launched.
Feb. 9, 2021 Update
Since December 22, BCHHS has been vaccinating members of our community with help and support from Buncombe County Emergency Services and other partners. To date, BCHHS has administered 16,400 total vaccinations. About 80 percent of these are first doses and the remaining portion represents second doses. BCHHS is currently vaccinating individuals in phase 1 and 2 – healthcare workers and adults 65 and older, respectively. Note: the dashboard updates on Wednesdays.
Currently, BCHHS is receiving 1,950 first doses of vaccine each week and is scheduling about 2,000 appointments each week. While there has been an increase in Buncombe County’s weekly allocation from the state, vaccine supply remains very low.
If eligible for one of the vaccine groups, individuals can call 828-250-5000 or visit buncombeready.org to get on the waitlist. Buncombe County staff is currently calling individuals between numbers 6,000 and 8,000. Approximately 40,000 individuals remain on the wait list, and they are contacted in the order which they signed up. If individuals need to remove their name from the waitlist, please email email@example.com or call us at (828) 250-5000.
Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.
Feb. 3, 2021 Update
Buncombe County Health & Human Services has launched a new dashboard that will be updated on a weekly basis, every Wednesday by 2 p.m. So far BC Public Health has administered 12,403 vaccines. We are currently receiving 1,950 vaccines weekly, and there are 2,035 first-dose appointments scheduled this week. Our schedulers are currently calling people on the waitlist between numbers 4,000 and 6,000.
Feb. 2, 2021 Update
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders updated the Board of Commissioners on current COVID-19 metrics. The testing positivity rate fell by 1.4 percentage points to 6.1 percent. While new cases per 100,000 remains high at 255, the number of COVID-19 deaths continues to decrease and is just under an average of two per 100000 per week. Currently, 11.4 percent of inpatient hospital beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients, and 19 percent of ICU beds are held by COVID-19 patients.
As of Feb. 2, 11, 625 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Buncombe County. Currently, Buncombe County Health and Human Services is vaccinating individuals in the state’s first two phases of prioritization: health care workers and adults 65 and older.
There is no indication as to when the state will open up the next phase to frontline essential workers. The state identifies frontline essential workers as those who work in critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety and transportation. Click to access North Carolina’s “Deeper Dive – Group 3.”
During the week of Feb. 1, 2,240 first-dose vaccine appointments were scheduled for those individuals in the active phases. For the weeks of Feb. 8 and Feb. 15, 2,040 first-dose vaccine appointments are being scheduled each week. More than 34,000 individuals remain on the wait list.
New vaccine dashboard to launch
On Wednesdays moving forward, the website www.buncombeready.org will feature graphics that show the total number of vaccines received, the number of vaccines administered, the number of first dose appointments scheduled, and the waitlist numbers that are actively being scheduled.
There is a standby list made up of people who are next in line on the waitlist for any vaccine left at the end of the day. Those on the standby list must be eligible for the vaccine by being in the current phase and be able to be at the vaccine site within 20 minutes. Should there be any additional vaccine at the end of the day, it will be administered to those qualified individuals. There is no need to come to the sites to inquire about extra vaccine.
Please continue to practice the 3Ws to stop transmission of COVID-19. It will take the vaccine and these important preventative measures to get our families back to a sense of normalcy. For more information about COVID-19, vaccine waitlists and COVID testing, go to www.buncombeready.org.
Feb. 1, 2021 Update
Vaccination Group Deep Dive
Click on each phase for more detailed information about each vaccination group and to determine which group you are in.
Find My Group
Additionally, please visit findmygroup.nc.gov to identify which vaccination group you are in. If you choose, you can enter contact information to be notified when you become eligible.
Jan. 31, 2021 Update
Sunday evening COVID-19 vaccine update: While there is the possibility of inclement weather on Monday, Feb. 1, all Buncombe County HHS vaccine sites are on schedule to be open. As with any inclement weather, those individuals with vaccine appointments should exercise an abundance of caution. Any vaccine appointment scheduled for Monday, Feb. 1, will be honored, so individuals with appointments for first or second doses can adjust their travel plans to the sites accordingly and come at the time on Monday that is safest for them.
Jan. 26, 2021 Update
Positivity Rate Decreases, Vaccine Supply Updates, Outreach to BIPOC Communities
At its Jan. 26 meeting, Public Health Director Stacie Saunders provided the Board of Commissioners with an update on current COVID-19 positivity rates, vaccine supplies and County outreach efforts to communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
The Buncombe County positivity rate dropped to 7.5 percent, a decrease of 1.3 percentage points. At local hospitals, 11.4 percent of inpatient beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients, and 29 percent of ICU beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients.
As of yesterday, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has administered approximately 7,500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, approximately 7,000 are first doses and 500 are second doses. Currently, about 2,000 first doses are available, and will be used for the 1,912 appointments scheduled through Jan. 29. On Jan. 27, BCHHS will receive 975 doses, and in accordance with new state guidelines, all 975 doses will be administered by Feb 1. The new Department of Health and Human Services guidance outlines that shipments received on Tuesday or Wednesday must be used by the following Monday. The state will begin announcing vaccine allotments three weeks in advance.
To help address equity gaps in the state’s vaccine phases, BCHHS is adding additional and targeted outreach to BIPOC communities. Along with language access like American Sign Language and Spanish-language interpretation for COVID updates, the County is working with Mountain Mobility to provide free transportation to vaccine locations. Those in need of a ride can call 828-250-6750.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 5:30 p.m., the County will host a “Let’s Talk Vaccines” town hall in partnership with the YWCA. The town hall will be broadcast live in English on the Buncombe County Facebook page and in Spanish on the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Facebook page.
Jan. 21, 2021 Update
BCHHS Opens Wait List for Adults 65 and Older and All Health Care Workers
Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has launched a COVID-19 wait list for individuals in the first two phases of the state’s vaccination priority list: adults 65 and older and all health care workers. Individuals can sign up for the wait list by calling (828) 250-5000 or by going to www.buncombeready.org. As vaccines are received from the state, representatives from the Ready Team will contact individuals on the wait list via phone to schedule their appointments. This is a different process from scheduling appointments to date, and BCHHS will no longer open up appointments for direct scheduling by the public.
Vaccine supplies remain much lower than demand, so wait list opportunities are only available at this time to those active groups identified by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). As new phases become active, those wait lists will be opened up. View the phases here: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/vaccines/NCDHHS-Vaccine-Infographic.pdf. While Buncombe County has bolstered its web and phone infrastructure, we anticipate that phone and web traffic to be heavy, and we ask the community to continue to be patient.
Vaccine supplies are distributed weekly from the state and are currently very limited. More appointments will be added as vaccines become available. As we move through the wait list, our staff will make two attempts to reach individuals using the contact information on the wait list registration. If individuals cannot be reached after first attempt, they will remain in their position on the list and a second attempt will be made as appointments remain available or in the event appointments fill, when additional appointments are available. The second attempt may not occur on the same day if appointments fill completely. For planning purposes, individuals will receive a call from the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095. If an individual misses their call, they can call (828) 250-5000 with their wait list number provided in the voicemail, and if an appointment is available, it will be scheduled. After two unsuccessful attempts, individuals lose their position on the waitlist and will be moved to the end of the waitlist for available appointments. Please know demand is incredibly high, and staff is working to contact those who sign up as quickly as possible.
Please be sure contact information is accurate before submitting. Individuals should not sign up for the waitlist more than once.
Second dose information
Individuals who received their vaccines prior to Jan. 20 will be contacted individually by a Ready Team member with next steps including date, time and location of next dose. Those who receive their vaccines on or after Jan. 20 will receive a card with next steps at the time of their first vaccination. Persons in need of a second dose do not need to go online or call to schedule that appointment.
COVID-19 testing is still widely available and can be accessed at www.buncombeready.org.
For Immediate Release
Jan. 19, 2021
BCHHS to Provide Wait List Option for Scheduling COVID-19 Vaccines
Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) will launch a COVID-19 wait list for individuals in the first two phases of the state’s vaccination priority list: adults 65 and older and all health care workers this week. When the wait list opens, individuals can sign up for the wait list by calling 828-250-5000 or by going to www.buncombeready.org.
As vaccines are received from the state, representatives from the Ready Team will contact individuals on the wait list to schedule their appointments. This is a different process from scheduling appointments to date, and BCHHS will no longer open up appointments for direct scheduling by the public.
Buncombe County will announce the launch of the wait list through its newsletter, on social media, through text alerts and via the media. To sign up for the newsletter, visit www.buncombeready.org and select “COVID-19 newsletter sign-up.” To sign up for text messaging, text “BCAlert” to 888-777.
The goal of BCHHS is to provide COVID-19 vaccines quickly to as many people as possible in accordance with the vaccination groups identified by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states must make vaccine available in phases. View the phases here: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/vaccines/NCDHHS-Vaccine-Infographic.pdf. Once the wait list launches, we anticipate that phone and web traffic will be heavy, and we ask the community to continue to be patient.
For individuals who need their second dose of the COVID vaccine, drive through clinics will be held at local high schools. Those individuals who received their vaccines prior to Jan. 20, will be contacted individually by a Ready Team member with next steps including date, time, and location of next dose. Those who receive their vaccines on or after Jan. 20, will receive a card with next steps at the time of their first vaccination. Persons in need of a second dose do not need to go online or call to schedule that appointment.
Vaccine supplies are distributed weekly from the state and are currently very limited. More appointments will be added as vaccines become available. As we move through the wait list, our staff will make two attempts to reach you using the contact information on the wait list registration so please be sure it is accurate before you submit it.
For planning purposes, individuals will receive a call from the Ready Team at (828) 419-0095. If individuals cannot be reached after first attempt they will remain in their position on the list and a second attempt will be made as appointments remain available. After two unsuccessful attempts, individuals lose their position on the waitlist and will be moved to the end of the wait list for available appointments. Please know demand is incredibly high, and staff is working to contact those who sign up as quickly as possible. Be sure to answer the call. Please do not sign up for the wait list more than once.
Current COVID Statistics:
- The current percent positivity rate for Buncombe County is 8.8.
- This current positivity rate reflects a decrease from last week’s rate of 11.7.
- 13.1% of inpatient hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients.
- The Board of Commissioners will revisit restaurant capacity limits after next week’s briefing.
Testing is still widely available and can be accessed at www.buncombeready.org
For Immediate Release
Jan. 18, 2021
Later this week, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) will be offering more opportunities for the COVID-19 vaccine, including scheduling opportunities for adults 65 and older and healthcare workers. Before we go live, Buncombe County continues to increase critical staffing and infrastructure to help support the rollout of available vaccine in Buncombe County. We ask the community to continue to be patient while we work through these steps.
BCHHS began administering vaccine to those in the previous Phase 1a on Dec. 22. Since then, BCHHS has administered 3,000 vaccines with more than 2,800 appointments scheduled for this week.
Those individuals needing the second dose of the vaccine will receive a direct communication from BCHHS with next steps using the contact information provided at the first vaccination. They do not need to call or go through the online portal to schedule that appointment.
Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states must make vaccine available in phases. View the phases here: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/vaccines/NCDHHS-Vaccine-Infographic.pdf
NCDHHS determines the vaccine allocation to counties. Current vaccine supply remains low.
At this time, there are no vacant appointments. Community members can receive information about vaccination phases and how to schedule appointments by signing up for the COVID-19 email newsletter at buncombeready.org. Community members can also receive alerts to their phones by texting “BCAlert” to 888-777.
For Immediate Release
Jan. 14, 2021
State Re-Calibrates Vaccine Phasing, Vaccines for Health Care Workers and Adults 65 and Older In Buncombe Begins Feb. 1
Today the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that vaccine providers may vaccinate all health care workers and anyone 65 years and older.
Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) had begun administering vaccine to those 75 years and older per the previous NCDHHS plan and is committed to providing vaccinations to those 75 years and older until Feb 1, 2021. BCHHS will continue to provide appointments to those over the age of 75 and will begin to provide appointments for individuals 65 and older starting Feb. 1, 2021.
Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states must make vaccine available in phases. View the phases at https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/vaccines/NCDHHS-Vaccine-Infographic.pdf.
NCDHHS determines the vaccine allocation to counties. Current vaccine supply remains low. BCHHS will alert our community of available appointments as more vaccine doses are received.
Currently, all appointments for available vaccines have been scheduled. Community members can receive information about vaccination phases, available appointments, and how to schedule appointments by signing up for the COVID-19 email newsletter at buncombeready.org. Community members can also receive alerts to their phones by texting “BCAlert” to 888-777.
Another update will be provided on Jan. 15, 2021.
Jan. 13, 2021 Update
At this time Buncombe County Health and Human Services has not received additional vaccine supply, so no new appointments added today. Another update will be provided on Jan. 14, 2021
Jan. 12, 2021 Update:
Buncombe County Public Health officials provided an update and answered questions during a Special Meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
Jan. 11, 2021 Update
More than 1,400 Vaccines Administered, 1,200 Scheduled by BCHHS
Since receiving the first COVID-19 vaccines on Jan. 6, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) staff have administered more than 1,433 vaccines and scheduled approximately 1,200 appointments this week. While all appointments are currently booked, more appointments will be made available when vaccine allotments are confirmed. To ensure that everyone who scheduled a vaccine is able to receive one, walk-ups are not allowed at this time.
“During this time of significant spread, there is hope amongst us,” said Buncombe County Health Director Stacie Saunders. “Vaccine rollout of this magnitude is unprecedented and not without its bumps in the road. Our biggest hurdle now is limited vaccine supply. We ask for the community’s patience and understanding as we continue to vaccinate our community with such small amounts of vaccine. While we will not have ample supplies for some time, we remain committed to fighting COVID-19.”
Currently, the only authorized COVID-19 vaccinators in Buncombe County are BCHHS and Mission/HCA. In the coming weeks and months, local clinics and physician practices are anticipated to receive authorization from the state to administer the vaccine to their patients, as well.
Community members can receive information about vaccination phases, available appointments, and how to schedule appointments by signing up for the COVID-19 email newsletter at buncombeready.org. Community members can also receive alerts to their phones by going to local.nixle.com/buncombe-county-government/.
BCHHS officials will provide a COVID community update to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners at its Jan. 12 special called meeting, which will be streamed live on Buncombe County Government Facebook (English), Buncombe County Health and Human Services Facebook (Spanish) and BCTV.
Know Before You Go:
- If you have a confirmed reservation, then you are guaranteed to receive the vaccine.
- To ensure that everyone who scheduled a vaccine is able to receive one, walk-ups are not permitted at this time.
- If you scheduled online, but didn’t receive an email confirmation, call 250-5000. (Confirmation emails may also be in the recipient’s “junk mail” folder.)
- No ID or specific documents are needed when someone arrives to get a vaccine.
- The person will have to complete a short registration form with their name and contact information, as well as a few other questions to ensure they meet the current phase’s criteria.
- The ability to get a vaccine is not impacted by citizenship status.
- Language services are available on site.
- From check-in to vaccine administration, the takes about 10 minutes. Following the vaccine, patients are monitored for 15 minutes prior to being released.
- Once a patient receives a first dose of the vaccine, they should receive a reminder for their second dose via the State’s COVID Vaccine Management System to then schedule their second dose.
- Patients who receive the vaccine still need to continue wearing a mask, waiting six feet, and washing hands frequently.
To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine phases, see this NCDHHS infographic.
COVID-19 testing is still widely available. Visit the testing page at buncombeready.org for more information.
For more information, go to www.buncombeready.org.
Jan. 8, 2021 Update
About the Vaccine
Tested, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us defeat the virus, get back in control of our lives, and back to the people and places we love. Buncombe County Public Health and our community partners are following North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and have developed a local vaccination plan to serve our entire community.
Buncombe County's Current Vaccination Phase: 1B
Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine, quantity of 700 doses, on December 21. Within 24 hours of receiving the shipment, BCHHS began vaccinating individuals in the Phase 1A group. Buncombe County HHS has received two subsequent weekly shipments of vaccine of 975 doses each on December 30 and January 5. BC HHS continues to vaccinate Phase 1a population in the week of January 4. As of time of release, over 1,200 individuals in total have been vaccinated by Buncombe County HHS and Emergency Services.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) will open Phase 1B in small groups due to the limited vaccine supply. Phase 1B Group 1 will begin with persons 75 years and older in order to best manage vaccine dose availability. BCHHS will begin vaccinating this population the week of January 11, 2021.
Important Details for Week of January 11, 2021:
- People who fall into Phase 1B (those 75 and over) can call BCHHS starting Thursday, January 7, 2021 to schedule their COVID-19 immunization.
- Appointments can be made by calling (828) 250-5000, Monday-Friday, between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. As long as vaccine supply is available, appointments will be available for this population.
- Vaccine supply is extremely limited during the first phases of the vaccination effort. For this reason, you must have an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccination in Buncombe County at this time.
- When making your appointment, you will receive information on where and when to arrive for your vaccine. In order to maintain a steady flow of appointments and a safe environment, please arrive at your scheduled time.
- Remember, two COVID-19 shots are necessary to build up immunity and we have a plan to help everyone get both doses. The second shot will come 3-4 weeks after the first. It is important to get two doses of the same vaccine.
- The vaccine is free to everyone, even if you don’t have health insurance. While there is a small administrative fee covered by insurance, cost will not be a barrier to your COVID-19 immunization.
- Your ability to get a vaccine is not impacted by your citizenship status and there is not an ID requirement. You (or a legal guardian) will need to sign a consent form to get the vaccine when you arrive. Language services will be available on site.
- Please plan for safe transportation to the immunization site. Drivers and riders should wear masks and social distance to the extent possible. Please wear a mask to the immunization site.
How to help:
As we move through the phases of the vaccination process, we ask our community to be patient. We are only able to schedule appointments based on the amount of vaccine that is shipped to our county. Please continue to practice the 3Ws and limit your exposure to others as much as possible. It will take all of us practicing the 3Ws with the vaccine, to crush COVID.
Phased Vaccination Groups:
To see all the groups for Phases 1b and Phase 2 please review this Infographic of Vaccine Phases. As we move through new phases of vaccine distribution, BCHHS will provide information by phone, website, and via media partners. We will also coordinate closely with our community partners and networks to ensure that frontline workers have a clear path to immunizations in the later subgroups of 1B.2 and 1B.3.
The vaccination effort continues to be a fluid situation and will require patience and diligence from our community as this process depends on the vaccine supplies received each week. Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, emphasizes the bigger picture of the pandemic response and says, “It is important for everyone in Buncombe County to continue following the public health guidance as we move through the subsequent phases of the vaccination plan. Full implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine plan is expected to take months, so we encourage residents to continue to follow all protective measures like wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distance from others and avoiding gatherings. We are working as hard as we can given vaccine supply limitations to get vaccine into our community.”
Click here for updated FAQ's about face coverings.
For more information:
BCHHS will provide information on the Buncombe Ready website, social media, and through our call center in the coming days, weeks, and months. We will continue to work closely with partner organizations, community messengers, and local media outlets to provide information throughout the phased vaccination process.
Click here to see the outline of the state's current phased approach.
General Information about the COVID-19 Vaccine:
If I had COVID-19, do I need to get the vaccine?
Yes. While we know that it is very good at preventing illness in the person who gets vaccinated, we do not yet know if it prevents asymptomatic infection or transmission of infection to others. Due to the severe health risks associated with coronavirus and the fact that re-infection is possible, people should get a vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. The immunity someone gains from having an infection varies from person to person and some early evidence suggests it may not last very long.
Can I get a vaccine if I have COVID-19 or had it recently?
If you tested positive for COVID-19, you should wait to get your COVID-19 vaccine until you have recovered from your illness (if you had symptoms) and have met criteria to be released from isolation. People who have had COVID-19 in the prior 90 days may choose to delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if desired, because current evidence suggests reinfection is uncommon during this time. If you tested positive for COVID-19 and were treated with monoclonal antibodies or covalescent plasma, you must wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
I heard that there is a list for leftover doses at the end of the day. How can I get on that standby list?
The standby list is made up of those individuals who are in the active phase who have already registered to be on the wait list (65 and older and healthcare workers currently). Our team will reach out to those next in line to see if they have flexibility to come in on short notice.
Once I get vaccinated, can I stop wearing my mask and stop following the other public health recommendations?
Even after getting vaccinated, it is still important to wear your mask and continue to follow public health guidance to protect yourself and others (e.g., the 3Ws, avoiding crowds, quarantining after exposure, etc.) Protection from the vaccine is not immediate; the first vaccines that will be available are each 2-dose series and it will take 1-2 weeks following the 2nd dose to be considered fully vaccinated.
If I still have to follow the 3Ws and all the other public health recommendations, why bother getting vaccinated?
Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The two vaccines, that are likely to be available initially, have been found to be highly protective against COVID-19 illness, including severe illness. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.
If I'm high-risk due to chronic health issues, should I get the vax?
Yes, we strongly recommend it. Some underlying and chronic health conditions increase your risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Clinical trials found that the vaccines were as safe and protective against COVID-19 illness in persons with underlying medical conditions compared to persons without these chronic health conditions. If you have concerns, talk to your healthcare provider.
Are there potential side effects?
Side effects following COVID 19 vaccination can include injection site pain, redness and swelling; fever; feeling very tired; headache; chills; muscle aches and joint pain. Most are mild to moderate in severity, occur within the first 3 days of vaccination, and resolve within 1-2 days of onset. These side effects were more commonly reported after the second dose than after the first dose and were generally more frequent and severe in persons aged 18-55 years than in those aged >55 years.
Are there any allergy/anaphylaxis concerns?
Anyone with a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of the COVID-19 vaccine or after a previous dose of the same vaccine should not receive it. The ingredients of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine are: mRNA, 4 lipids (including polyethylene glycol or PEG), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate, and sucrose. The vaccine contains no preservatives. Those who have had severe anaphylactic reactions to prior vaccines or injectable medications can still get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but ideally should first talk to their provider about their prior reaction. The discussion should also review the risks of having a severe allergic reaction to this vaccine versus the benefits of vaccination. These individuals should be monitored for 30 minutes following COVID vaccination (compared to 15 minutes for all others receiving the vaccine). Anyone with a history of anaphylaxis or other allergic reaction due to other things that aren’t injectable medications or vaccines (like shellfish, food, latex, pollen, animal dander or stings, etc.) does NOT need to take any special precaution and should get vaccinated. They will only have to be observed for 15 minutes post-vaccination.
What should pregnant/breastfeeding persons do about getting the vaccine?
There are no data yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy. However, the initial vaccines available are mRNA vaccines, which are not thought to be a risk to the developing fetus. Getting COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the risk of severe illness (ICU admission, mechanical ventilation and death) and may lead to an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth. There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating persons or the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or milk production, but mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. If a lactating person is part of a group who is in a priority group for a COVID-19 vaccine, they may choose to be vaccinated. A discussion with their healthcare provider can help them make an informed decision.
In closing, the decision to get a COVID vaccine is a personal choice and we encourage people who have questions to talk with their primary care provider or seek information from scientific sources like the CDC. Remember that if you don’t get immunized against COVID-19, you will remain at risk of illness and severe disease. The fairly minor side effects of the vaccine are nothing in comparison to the potential harm from COVID-19 illness. We encourage our community to step up when it is their time for the COVID-19 immunization.
Visit the NCDHHS website for more FAQ's in English and Spanish.