A vaccine for COVID-19 is now available. What do you need to know about getting a COVID-19 vaccine? What can you expect after you get it?
The week of January 11, Texas will direct most COVID-19 vaccines received to large sites or hubs around the state to vaccinate more than 100,000 people.
If you are in Phase 1 and eligible to receive the vaccine, please check the COVID‑19 Vaccination Hub Providers page to find a vaccination hub near you and learn how to register.
Alternately, you can also check the websites of vaccine providers listed on the Texas COVID‑19 Vaccine Availability map to see if they have enough vaccine supply at this time.
Vaccine hubs aim to provide more vaccines quicker and easier. Texas vaccine supply is limited (but more arrives every week) and it will take time to vaccinate all.
Front-line healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities (called Phase 1A) plus people over 65 or with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID‑19 (called Phase 1B) are currently eligible to receive the COVID‑19 vaccine.
Phase 1B recipients include:
The COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to work well to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 illness. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you from getting ill from the virus. If you get the virus after you get the vaccine, it may help your symptoms be milder. The COVID-19 vaccine may also help protect people around you from getting the infection.
COVID-19 vaccines may also lead to more widespread changes. The more people who get the COVID-19 vaccine, the less likely the virus will be able to spread in the community. As more people get the vaccine, local and regional policies may be able to change about what types of businesses can be open and how people can gather together.
Schools may back in session in person faster. Workplaces may reopen. Events may be allowed, travel may resume for many people, and it may be easier to see family and friends.
Not everyone can get a COVID-19 vaccine right away. It will take a while for the vaccine to be available to everyone. The first doses are available to healthcare workers, care facilities with older adults, essential workers, and people with high-risk health conditions.
Keep in touch with your primary care doctor and your local pharmacy to see when it’s available in your area and if you’re eligible.
The most important thing to do is talk with your primary care doctor. The vaccine is approved for adults age 18 and older who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. Experts don’t yet know how effective and safe the vaccine is for children younger than 16 and in pregnant or breastfeeding women, but research is being done.
People who have had COVID-19 may still benefit from the vaccine. Researchers don’t yet exactly know how long natural immunity lasts after you have COVID-19. Your primary care doctor may advise you to get the vaccine if you had COVID-19 more than 90 days ago, if vaccine supplies are available, and if you’re at high risk.
Tell your primary care doctor if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to food or medicine. Talk with them about your risks if you carry an epinephrine autoinjector. This may affect your provider’s advice to you about the vaccine.
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are different from traditional vaccines. They’re not made with live, dead, or weak virus. Instead, they're made with messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA). This is a type of molecule that gives instructions for how to make different kinds of proteins. mRNA molecules are a natural part of our cells and how our bodies work.
The mRNA in the vaccines tells your cells how to make a harmless piece of a protein called a spike protein. This protein is found on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Your immune system sees this spike protein as a threat, and creates antibodies and other defenses against it.
This will help your body's immune system recognize and fight the real virus if it ever shows up. It’s kind of like recognizing someone by the hat they wear. Your body is then prepared to spot COVID-19 and fight it off before it grows in your body’s cells.
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have passed many tests in labs and in thousands of people, and meet strict standards from the FDA.
The vaccines were tested first in animals. They were then tested in a series of clinical trials that included thousands of people. All of the data from these tests was collected and submitted to the FDA and other scientific groups. These committees of scientists and public health experts carefully look at the data to see if a vaccine is safe and effective. If the vaccine meets the FDA’s strict standards of safety and quality, the agency tells the vaccine company they can make the vaccine for emergency use.
Researchers have been working with mRNA vaccines for many years. They are made more easily and safely in a lab than a vaccine that uses a virus. Because of this, they can also be made faster.
Vaccines have typically taken longer to be approved and come to market. But over many years of creating vaccines, research groups and public health agencies have been making the vaccine process work faster. For COVID-19, a special program called Operation Warp Speed (OWS) was created to help get COVID-19 vaccines ready even more quickly.
OWS is a partnership of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Defense, and many medical research and manufacturing groups. These organizations agreed to work together as closely as possible to communicate and move through a robust process to develop safe COVID-19 vaccines more quickly.
Talk with your health insurer, local pharmacy, employer, or healthcare provider to see how much of the cost of the vaccine is covered.
The vaccine is given as a shot in a muscle in your upper arm. You will need to have 2 doses, spaced 21 days or more apart. You’ll need both of these doses to get the best COVID-19 protection from the vaccine.
Follow instructions from the healthcare staff. Tell the staff if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to food or medicine, or carry an epinephrine autoinjector. Tell them if you feel any reaction after you have the shot.
The vaccine will have side effects for some people. A vaccine activates a person’s immune system. It causes the immune system to create antibodies to fight off a specific virus or bacteria. When your immune system goes into action, you may feel your immune system kick into gear as though it’s fighting an illness. This does not mean you are infected with an illness. It means that your immune system is working.
People in the COVID-19 vaccine trials commonly had soreness where the shot was given, tiredness, headaches, muscle and joint aches, chills, and fever for a day or two. Fewer people had redness and swelling at the injection site. These are all signs that your immune system is working on its defense. You can get these kinds of effects after many kinds of vaccines. But these symptoms should last a short time. In comparison, COVID-19 symptoms can be severe and last much longer, and cause complications, long-term illness, and death. The FDA approval process makes sure that the discomfort and risks of a vaccine outweigh the risks and complications of the illness it helps prevent.
When you get both doses of the vaccine:
You may have a lot of questions about the vaccine for yourself. Should you get it? If so, when? What are the risks and benefits to you? The best way to answer these questions is to talk with your primary care doctor. They can let you know when and what kind of vaccine is available, and what you should consider.