COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

Last updated: January 22, 2021

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has developed a prioritized set of guidelines based on phases and tiers for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. MemorialCare is following these guidelines which start with frontline healthcare workers to ensure safe care to those who need it. By the end of this weekend, we will have vaccinated more than 10,700 of our employees and physicians who fall into that category. We are moving quickly.

For our MemorialCare Medical Group patients 65 years and older: 

You are in the next group to be vaccinated. Once we receive additional supply of vaccine from Los Angeles and Orange counties -- which is expected in the next two weeks -- we will be able to start offering the COVID-19 vaccine to our MCMG patients who are 65 years and older. We will notify you then using the contact information we have on file, including myChart, text message, email, phone outreach, or regular postal service, so that you can schedule your appointment. Until then, there is no need to contact us to schedule a vaccine appointment. 

For our other MemorialCare Medical Group patients: 

MemorialCare wants to provide vaccination to as many of our patients as possible and as soon as possible and we are taking all necessary steps toward that goal. As stated above, we are following the CDPH's vaccination guidelines. When we receive the vaccine supply and the county health department's approval to move ahead through the phases and tiers, we will notify you if you fall into a priority group using the contact information we have on file, including myChart, text message, email, phone outreach, or regular postal service.
 
Because we cannot say exactly when this will occur, we are not scheduling vaccination appointments at this time. Thank you for your patience and we encourage you to visit this page for our most up-to-date information.

Download chart of California’s Phases and Tiers here.

Sign up for myChart

Once you are notified that it is time to schedule your appointment, the fastest and easiest way to schedule will be through myChart. You can self-sign up online for an account here. Once in the portal, make sure your contact information is up-to-date. Those with existing myChart accounts who need to reset their password can find help here.

For our Greater Newport Physicians patients: 

There is an FAQ vaccine webpage on the the GNP website. We recommend you visit it often for updates.

Track the progress of the vaccines at MemorialCare.

Please see the most common questions and answers related to COVID-19 vaccines.

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Does MemorialCare currently have the vaccine?

During the week of December 14, we received our first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at all of our MemorialCare hospitals, and in the week after, the hospitals received a second shipment. And as of January 4th, we have received our first shipment of the Moderna vaccine at our Long Beach and Orange County facilities. To date, MemorialCare has vaccinated more than 10,000 of our healthcare workers who are most at risk. 

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How much vaccine will MemorialCare receive?

We have submitted the required application to receive the vaccines and have been approved​ for distribution. Based on the information we provided, the State and County will determine the amount of vaccine available to us in this first phase. MemorialCare is committed to acquiring as many doses as needed to vaccinate our healthcare workers and our patients over time.

After federal agencies approved the Pfizer vaccine for distribution, California received 327,600 doses. From this number, 126,750 went to the public health departments within Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Each county’s public health department then determined final vaccine allocation to the hospitals.

During the week of December 14, our four MemorialCare hospitals each received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. And the week after, the hospitals received a second shipment.

And as of January 4, we received a full shipment (2,500 doses) of the Moderna vaccine which also received FDA emergency use authorization in late December.

While the above outlines the initial vaccine supplies we received, we have been in communication with state and local health departments since to try to secure further supply.   

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Will I be able to get vaccinated immediately?

The initial supply will be quite limited, and the California Department of Public Health has established vaccination guidelines for prioritization (Phase 1a) that call for the first doses to go to high-risk healthcare workers who care for COVID-19 patients. You will, therefore, not be able to get vaccinated right away.

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Once vaccines are more widely available, where will MemorialCare offer them?

Once we start to receive more ample supplies of the vaccine, we will be able to provide vaccination to the broader community. This will likely take a few months. We anticipate providing the vaccine similar to the way we provide flu shots - in our numerous office locations and possibly drive-through locations. The county health department and pharmacies will likely also offer vaccination once supplies are readily available.

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Can I schedule an appointment for my vaccination now?

We are currently not taking appointments for vaccination. As supplies come in and groups become eligible, we will be notifying them. At that time, scheduling will be available by scheduling directly through our patient portal, myChart, which is the easiest option, or by calling our Navigation Center at (877) MYMEMCARE (696-3622). At the time of vaccination, we’ll schedule your second dose.

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Who is going to provide my vaccination once I’m able to receive it?

Depending on where you go for your vaccination, it may be your physician, or it may be a nurse. The county health department and pharmacies will likely also offer vaccination once supplies are readily available.

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What is the government’s process for vaccine distribution?

Once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approve a vaccine for distribution, it goes through a multi-step allocation and distribution process, beginning with the government allocating vaccine doses to the states. The states then allocate to counties. The counties, through their public health departments, allocate to the hospitals and clinics that will be administering the vaccine. The vaccine manufacturer or distributor will be responsible for directly shipping the dosages to the hospitals and clinics.

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Who will be vaccinated first?

The initial supply of vaccine will be limited. Therefore, the California Department of Public Health has developed recommended guidelines for statewide COVID-19 vaccine allocation and distribution. In the first phase, called Phase 1a, individuals eligible to receive the vaccine are:

  • Healthcare workers at risk of exposure
  • Long-term care facility residents
  • Emergency medical services such as paramedics and EMTs
  • Dialysis center employees

And because the available vaccines will not meet the full needs of this population, any further prioritization will be based on type of facility, location and health status of the individual.

After Phase 1a is Completed
While the above outlines the estimated 24 million Americans in Phase 1a who are the first to be vaccinated, the following provides guidelines for the next two groups in line, Phase 1b (49 million Americans) and Phase 1c (129 million Americans). As before, MemorialCare will continue to follow all vaccine allocation prioritization guidelines outlined by the CDC and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Phase 1b:  
•    People 75 and older*
•    Frontline essential workers, including police officers, firefighters, teachers, grocery store staff and postal workers 

 Phase 1c (begins when Phase 1b is complete): 
•    People ages 65-74*
•    People ages 16-64 with high-risk conditions
•    Other essential workers (to include food service employees, transportation and logistics workers, construction workers, finance employees, information technology and communications, energy workers, the media, the legal profession, public safety engineers, and water and wastewater employees)

* UPDATE January 13, 2021:
Following CDC recommendations, the state of California announced moving to the top of Phase 1b people who are 65 years or older. If you’ve received care from us before, your records will help us identify and reach out to you if you fall into the “over 65” category so that you’ll know it is time to schedule your vaccination appointment. 
 

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I’ve been hearing of California’s super vaccine PODs. Can I get vaccinated there?

The state and county have set up vaccine super pod (point-of-dispensing) stations, like the one you may have heard about at Disneyland. Much of the state’s limited vaccine supply is being directed to these large sites. Orange County residents have the option to sign up for vaccination at one of the county organized sites by going to Othena.com. For Long Beach residents, visit VAXLB to schedule an appointment or, for questions, email covid19vaccine@longbeach.gov or call 562.570.INFO.

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When can the general public expect to be vaccinated?

The speed with which the public can be vaccinated depends on vaccine approval timelines, production and available supply.

Once we receive ample supply, and once the California Department of Public Health’s recommended guidelines for prioritizing vaccine recipients have been satisfied, we expect to start vaccinating the general public. Even then, factors such as age, health issues and location may play a role in determining who gets prioritized.

It’s estimated that it may take about six months or more to immunize all who want to be immunized across the country.

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Which vaccines are available?

Currently, there are two vaccines approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA):

The Pfizer and German partner BioNTech Vaccine was the first to receive EUA from the FDA on December 11, 2020.

  • 95% efficacy
  • Requires two doses, 21 days apart
  • Recommended for ages 16 and above
  • Must be stored in special low temperature refrigeration, -80 degrees to -60 degrees Celsius, making it more likely to be used at hospitals

The Moderna (in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Vaccine received EUA from the FDA on December 18, 2020. 

  • 94.5% efficacy
  • Requires two doses, 28 days apart
  • Recommended for ages 18 and above
  • Requires standard refrigeration, -25 degrees to -15 degrees Celsius, making it possible to be used in smaller health clinics or local pharmacies  

Both vaccines are administered similar to a flu shot and are given in the muscle of the upper arm.

In general, after a person receives the first dose of a vaccine, they will start to develop some immunity within 2-4 weeks, but this is not full or sufficient immunity to protect against disease. The vaccines require the second ‘booster’ dose to reach full 94.5% or 95% immunity which can take an additional week after receiving the second dose. As for how long the immunity lasts, this is still not fully known. At this point, we cannot say whether repeat vaccination, for instance on an annual basis, will be necessary.

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Is the vaccine safe?

Each of the two vaccines have undergone multiple phases of clinical trials. In late-stage trials, they have been tested and monitored on tens of thousands of human volunteers.

Additionally, the FDA, which has the power to quickly approve medical products during times of public health emergencies, has stated that although the COVID-19 vaccines are being fast-tracked, their testing process has closely mirrored the standard rigorous testing and approval process that any non-emergency vaccine would require before it is approved.

MemorialCare's medical experts have studied the findings of these clinical trials and the scientific data and agree with the CDC and FDA recommendations that the vaccines are safe, effective and will lead to a significant reduction in the spread of the virus.

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Are there any possible side effects or concerns?

It is possible you may experience side effects after vaccination. This is normal. Recipients have complained of pain at the injection site, fatigue, chills, fever, muscle aches and headaches.

WARNING:
People who have a history of anaphylaxis to another vaccine or injectable medication should be carefully monitored for 30 minutes if they choose to get the vaccine. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic overreaction of the body’s immune system, which can be life-threatening. Those concerned or who have been told by their healthcare provider to carry an EpiPen should speak with their physician before receiving the vaccine.

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Should I get vaccinated if I already had COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that people who have had COVID-19 still be vaccinated. The risk of reinfection is very low in the first 90 days, so some people may choose to wait that long, but that is not necessary. People with current COVID-19 symptoms should wait, however, until their acute illness has resolved before being vaccinated.

Because this is a new virus, we are still learning about short and long-term immunity. Medical professionals are not certain how long a person can remain immune after having been infected. Therefore, those vaccinated will either gain immunity or potentially extend or strengthen existing immunity.

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Are there any other groups of people who should or should not take the vaccine?

Currently, the two vaccines are not recommended for all ages. While the Pfizer vaccine is not recommended for those below the age of 16, the Moderna vaccine is not recommended for those below 18.

Although pregnant and breastfeeding women did not take part in any vaccine clinical trials, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has issued a statement that pregnant and nursing women should not be excluded from receiving a vaccine. 

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Once I am vaccinated, will I still need to follow precautionary measures?

Because it will take time to vaccinate and immunize everyone and there is a small chance that a vaccinated person can still get and spread the infection without getting sick themselves, it is strongly​ advised that even after being vaccinated, you continue to social distance, mask, and wash your hands frequently.

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What data is being collected regarding vaccinations?

All hospitals and healthcare providers who administer the COVID-19 vaccination doses are required to report this information to the California Immunization Registry (CAIR) within 24 hours. In order to be able to do this, they must be registered with CAIR and have an immunization information system ID number.  Vaccine providers must also report to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) any moderate and/or severe adverse events following a vaccination.

Sign Up for a myChart Account

Be prepared. If you do not already have a myChart account, create one today. Although you will be unable to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine appointment until we notify you it is time, using myChart to schedule will be the fastest and easiest way. If you already have a myChart account, please make sure your contact information is current.

MemorialCare Vaccine Timeline

Track the progress of the vaccines at MemorialCare.

Vaccine Q&A: 12/16/20

MemorialCare’s Chief Medical Officer answers your COVID-19 vaccine questions.