Vaccinations

As vaccines for the novel coronavirus become more readily available in Northeast Ohio, Case Western Reserve University will provide additional information.

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about the vaccines that are now available.

About the Vaccines

As of now, two expert federal panels each have independently evaluated and approved distribution of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna within the United States.

Both vaccines require two doses (Pfizer, 21 days after the first; Moderna, 28 days after the first), and both report high effectiveness (Pfizer, 95%; Moderna, 94%).

None of the nearly 74,000 participants in clinical trials for the two vaccines had severe reactions determined to be related to the vaccine.

Of the hundreds of thousands of doses administered in the U.S. in December, about a half dozen people receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine suffered severe allergic reactions. Only one such reaction to Moderna has been reported; it was in a physician who has a severe shellfish allergy. He had recovered fully by the following day, and continues to advocate for vaccination. 

Keep in mind, however, that nearly four of every 100 people in the U.S. who contract COVID-19 will be hospitalized, and about one of every 200 who are infected will die. Choosing not be vaccinated carries its own risks—and not only to you.

The most common side effects from both vaccines include feeling fatigue or mild soreness in your upper arm. Some also experience a headache, fever and/or chills, but all usually go away within a few hours or by the next morning.

People who have already had a COVID-19 vaccine should not get another one. People who are prone to severe allergies, pregnant, breastfeeding or immunocompromised may want to speak with your health provider before receiving either vaccine.

Two—one from Johnson & Johnson, and the other from the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca—are expected to receive federal authorization for distribution in the U.S. by April. 

Because of the scarcity of doses, people will not have a choice of vaccines in the near future. The goal is to get as many people immunized as possible with a vaccine proven to be effective—regardless of who developed it. You can choose to delay receiving a vaccine when you are eligible, but doing so means you will not know when another opportunity may arise.

Yes. We all need to continue to follow preventative protocols until health experts determine that the number of vaccinated individuals and COVID-19 cases indicate it is safe to begin to loosen those measures. Keep in mind, however, that process will be extremely gradual, versus all at once.

This fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides an easy-to-understand summary about the vaccines.

This CDC webpage offers information about what to expect on the day you go to get your first vaccination.

Distribution of Vaccines (Ohio)

Because vaccine supplies are low relative to need, officials are distributing doses in phases. Ohio’s first batches are going to hospitals and public health agencies, with people involved in care of COVID-19 patients among the first recipients.

That said, local pharmacies are already part of distribution efforts. In early December Governor Mike DeWine announced that CVS and Walgreen’s pharmacies in the state would assist with vaccinations for people in congregate settings—another group in Ohio’s first phase of eligible recipients. 

In November, federal officials shared that they had established national vaccine partnerships with several national retail chains that are or include pharmacies. In addition to CVS and Walgreens, the list includes Costco, Rite Aid, and Walmart (including Sam’s Club locations). 

We will update the campus community when information about vaccine availability at those locations becomes available.

Gov. DeWine announced Dec. 23 that Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination will plan includes people 65 and older and those working in K-12 schools.

Possibly, depending on where you live. Some public health agencies—such as Summit County’s—have opened registration opportunities, while others are still determining how they will proceed. You can check with the public health departments where you live to find out if officials there plan to offer sign-ups.

Keep in mind, however, that all entities must follow the state’s guidance regarding eligibility.

It’s hard to know right now. We already have seen unanticipated delays in the initial roll-outs of vaccines that have reduced the number of first doses nationwide to less than 20% of projections. Meanwhile, we do not know when the state will announce the next rounds of eligible groups—or who will be included in them.

Distribution of Vaccines (CWRU)

Earlier this year we applied as a university to become a distribution site for vaccinations. Only Ohio hospitals and public health entities are receiving doses now, but we are hopeful that when greater supplies become available we will be approved to receive and administer vaccinations. 

Meanwhile, we are working with local health officials and our partner hospitals to secure opportunities for eligible students, faculty and staff to receive vaccinations.

While individual hospitals and clinics have different supplies and processes, they and other health entities all share a responsibility to distribute as many vaccines as possible before their effectiveness expires. (For example, the Moderna vaccine must be administered within 12 hours of being removed from refrigerated storage.) In other words, it’s better to administer a dose to someone not in one of the eligible groups than have it go to waste altogether.

In some instances, the circumstances may mirror those described in the previous question; we would all prefer to see an effective dose given than an expired one put in the garbage. In others, universities own their hospitals or health centers and previously stipulate university recipients as part of the hospitals’ participation in the initial vaccination distribution process.

You first may want to check with your supervisor or look at your organization’s website to determine its schedule for distribution of doses. You also can check with your county and/or city health departments to find out if and when vaccines will become available. 

Case Western Reserve will continue to update the campus community regarding its own ability to administer vaccines or facilitate opportunities for faculty, staff and students to get them.

University leaders are working with schools whose students must engage in clinical care as part of their program to determine who among them have access to vaccines—and assist those who do not.

One of the lessons of this pandemic is that nearly every person’s situation is different. Some in their 20s are so severely immunocompromised as to be at greater risk than a person three times their age. University leaders have worked closely with supervisors to identify ways to support the university’s mission of education and research in light of individual staff concerns about health. People with specific concerns should contact Human Resources at AskHR@case.edu.

The university strongly encourages members of the campus community who have the opportunity to be vaccinated to do so. In addition, some of Case Western Reserve’s partner institutions may issue vaccine requirements that affect our community members. We will continue to monitor developments regarding vaccine supplies and policies and update the community as needed.

Yes. Because researchers do not know whether immunized individuals can still transmit COVID-19, everyone coming to campus (even if for a short time) must be tested. Please note that testing of those who have been vaccinated will not result in a false positive.