Get the latest information on scheduling appointments, COVID-19 vaccines, COVID-19 testing, visitation restrictions, and safety measures we have in place.

COVID-19 Vaccine General Information

On December 15, UConn Health was one of four health care systems in Connecticut to kick-off the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program and received one of the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines. We are administering them to eligible individuals based on our weekly vaccine supply, and appointments are subject to any unexpected fluctuations in our vaccine supply.

DPH has been rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines in phases. Currently, the following individuals are eligible to receive the vaccine in Connecticut:

Phase 1a

(Effective December 15, 2020 to present)

Those eligible include:

  • All persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials; and
  • Resident of long-term care facilities.

Please note that Phase 1a does not include employees of health care organizations working away from patient care settings or from home; or clinicians practicing exclusively telehealth.

Phase 1b

(In Connecticut opening January 12, 2021 to present for 75+; and February 11, 2021 to present for 65+)

Those eligible include:

  • Individuals 75 years of age and older.
  • Individuals 65 years of age and older.

Other Phases

Effective March 1 those eligible include:

  • Individuals aged 55+.
  • K-12 educators, school support staff, and licensed childcare professionals.

Tentatively effective March 22:

  • Individuals aged 45+.

Tentatively effective April 12:

  • Individuals aged 35+.

Tentatively effective May 3:

  • Individuals in younger age groups.

Note: As of March 1 proof of eligibility is required at time of vaccination. This may include employment ID badge, payroll stub, business card, employer letter, other documentation, or proof of date of birth/age.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are some frequently asked questions about the COVID vaccines.

General Questions

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Getting vaccinated protects you and others from COVID-19 which is critically important because for some people it can cause severe illness or death. According to the CDC some of the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine are:

  • It will help keep you from getting COVID-19, and it will help keep you from getting seriously ill if exposed to the virus.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an immune response without having to experience sickness. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.
  • COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic.
  • The combination of getting vaccinated and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

When getting the COVID vaccine what should I expect?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Each intramuscular vaccine injection contains approximately 0.3-0.5 mL of fluid. Two doses are required for both vaccines for them to be maximally-effective and to provide maximum protection. The 2nd dose of the Pfizer vaccine is given 21 days after the 1st dose; for the Moderna vaccine, the 2nd dose is given 28 days after the 1st dose. At UConn Health you must remain masked during the vaccination process, and you will be observed by a health care professional post-vaccination for at least 10-15 minutes.

What if I have questions about the vaccine, or issues post-vaccination?

You can reach out to our COVID Vaccine Call Center at 860-679-8888 with any questions or concerns prior to vaccination or post-vaccination.

If you have what you think is a reaction to the vaccine, reach out to your primary care physician for assessment. If an emergency, dial 9-1-1 if you experience severe symptoms, shortness of breath, or severe allergic reaction.

What if I need to reschedule my second dose of vaccine?

Should you need to move your already scheduled second COVID-19 dose vaccination appointment, please log-in to your online MyChart account in advance to cancel your second dose and reschedule by calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center at 860-679-8888. Note, it is ideal that your second dose be received within a 4 day time window of the initial target vaccination date you received. Your second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible. However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series. Source: cdc.gov.

Why is UConn Health distributing the vaccinations, and who is receiving them?

In early November UConn Health was asked to join the State of Connecticut’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program. This made UConn Health one of four prepositioned health care systems in the state to receive and distribute the first COVID-19 vaccines once they become available. Dr. Kim Metcalf, Associate Vice President of Pharmacy and Ancillary Services, is serving as UConn Health’s Primary Vaccine Coordinator and is responsible for the program’s logistics and vaccine roll-out, distribution, and administration. She is assisted by Co-Primary Vaccine Coordinator, Dr. Adam Jankowski of the Department of Pharmacy Services.

The federal and state governments are establishing the rules regarding who is eligible to receive the vaccines when, and are rolling out the vaccines in phases. To date, they have allowed access to the vaccines for those in “Phase 1a” of the state COVID-19 Vaccination Program roll-out, which includes health care workers who may be directly and indirectly exposed to patients or infectious (COVID) materials, and long-term care residents.

On January 11, 2021, the state announced that it is beginning to also allow vaccines for some “Phase 1b” populations – specifically, individuals who are 75 years of age and older. Also, on February 11, 2021 the state officially allowed those who are 65 years of age and older to be eligible for vaccination. UConn Health follows these state guidelines in administering the vaccines.

Why are health care workers receiving the vaccine first?

On December 1, 2020 the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel advising the CDC, voted to recommend that residents and employees of nursing homes and similar facilities be the first to receive coronavirus vaccines, along with health care workers, because of these people are especially at risk of being exposed to the virus and are at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and/or death from the disease. The final decision for implementation of the CDC/ACIP recommendations is decided by each state’s governor and/or department of public health.

Once I get the COVID-19 vaccine am I protected from getting COVID-19 infection right away?

No. It takes some time to develop immunity from the vaccination, and the maximum effect is only achieved after you receive both doses of the vaccine. Even after you get vaccinated, you should still take precautions to prevent yourself from getting or spreading COVID-19 infection until more people are vaccinated over the coming months. Continue frequent handwashing, wearing a mask, and safe social distancing.

How much will the vaccine cost or is it free?

Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers such as UConn Health are able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Will travel restrictions change after vaccination?

We do not anticipate that general travel recommendations/restrictions would change in the immediate 2-3 months following the start of vaccinations. Any significant changes in travel guidelines would likely end up taking much longer and they would depend on things like: how many people nationwide get vaccinated, the trends in overall case rates and/or percent positive tests in various states as well as guidance from the state and public health authorities.

Will the two doses I receive of the COVID-19 vaccine be the same vaccine?

Yes. You will receive the same product for both the 1st dose and the 2nd dose of your vaccination. This is because there is no information to support either the safety or the effectiveness of using two different vaccine products for the two doses.

Is there anyone who should not get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The following people should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • People with a history of severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to any ingredient of the mRNA vaccines.
  • People with a history of allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate.
  • People who had a severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to the 1st dose of either COVID-19 vaccine.

Although not considered contraindications to receiving the COVID-19 vaccines, these may be examples of some other people for which the vaccine should only be given after a discussion of risks versus benefits with their health care providers:

  • People who have had an immediate allergic reaction to other types of vaccines.
  • Pregnant women or women planning to get pregnant during the time they would be receiving the vaccine.
  • Breastfeeding women.
  • People with known or suspected immunodeficiency or in those taking immunosuppressive medications.
  • People taking continuous doses of immunosuppressive medications such as cancer chemotherapy or corticosteroids.
  • People who have had COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days.
  • People who have had COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days and who have received an infusion of the monoclonal antibody therapy to treat COVID-19 infection.

The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.

Once I am fully vaccinated, can I still carry or spread the COVID-19 virus?

At this time it is not known if someone who is COVID-19 vaccinated can still be a carrier and/or spread the virus to another person. Until we learn more, it is still essential to take safety precautions of frequent handwashing, universal masking, and proper social distancing.

Should people who are in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, but the vaccination should be deferred until the quarantine period has ended to avoid exposing health care personnel or others during the vaccine visit.

About the Vaccine

How effective are the COVID vaccines?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approximately 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. Efficacy for both vaccines was consistent across all age, race and ethnicity demographics. Both vaccines also significantly reduce the risks of developing severe infection.

How safe are the COVID vaccines?

The data from both research studies and from the initial phase of vaccinations under the Emergency Use Authorization indicate that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are very safe. Both vaccines have gone through rigorous, and large Phase III clinical trials with strict standards set forth by the FDA. In total, over 70,000 people participated in the two trials, and about half received the active vaccine. The clinical trial research generated scientific data and other important information that helps the FDA determine each vaccine’s safety and effectiveness for Emergency Use Authorization. As of early January 2021, there have been very few serious safety concerns with either vaccine. The CDC recently reported that for the Pfizer vaccine, only 21 cases of anaphylaxis were reported to their Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System out of nearly 1.9 million doses administered. This is an anaphylaxis risk of only 0.0011%. Only 83 cases of non-anaphylaxis allergic reactions (such as itching, rash, or itching/scratching sensations in the throat) were reported, as well.

How are the vaccine supplies being safeguarded and stored?

While the Moderna vaccine is kept in normal freezers at temperatures of 32 degrees or below, the Pfizer product must be kept in specialized -80 subzero storage freezers. Each subzero freezer being used must be registered with the state and monitored closely with temperature monitoring and regular maintenance. Thanks to UConn Health’s large research enterprise we have one of the largest subzero freezer capacities in the state.

Each person receiving the vaccine at UConn Health, including each UConn Health employee, must register in MyChart to both schedule their vaccination and to ultimately receive it. Also, each COVID-19 vaccine shipment, and each first and second dose administration, is being individually tracked by the State of Connecticut electronically via its CT WiZ online database.

Will a cold or subzero freezing vaccine be administered to me?

No. While the Moderna product is stored in regular freezers and the Pfizer product needs to be stored in -80 temperature subzero freezers, both vaccines are thawed to room temperature before administration and retain their activity for many hours after thawing.

What are the potential side effects from the vaccines?

The reported post-vaccine side effects have been minimal. Like all vaccines, the new COVID-19 mRNA-based vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. Most people who received the vaccines and who experienced side effects described them as “mild” or “moderate” in intensity and the side effects usually resolved within 1-2 days after vaccination. According to the CDC these symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. In the Phase III clinical trials, the most frequent adverse reactions in participants for both vaccines were:

  • pain, redness, warmness, and/or swelling at the injection site
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • muscle pain or joint pain
  • chills
  • fever

The chances of you experiencing these side effects are higher when you receive your 2nd dose of the vaccine.

How do the new Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines work?

The COVID vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are new messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine types that work differently. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein” which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. After the protein is made, the mRNA is destroyed. Our bodies’ immune system then recognizes that the protein should not be there and produces antibodies, as well as T-cells and B-cells that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future. This will protect you from infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Will the vaccine give me COVID-19 or change my DNA?

No. There is no live virus in the vaccine and the vaccine cannot cause COVID-19. The mRNA material in the vaccines do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. In fact, the mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA or genetic material resides. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions to produce the spike protein.

What are the biggest differences, both good and bad, between the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines?

There really are very few differences between these two vaccines. Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines had reported effectiveness of approximately 95% in their clinical studies. Both of these vaccines have the same mechanism (mRNA vaccines) and the same reported side effects. The two vaccines were studied in similar numbers of trial participants have been studied, and their characteristics (age ranges, sex, ethnicities, chronic illnesses, etc.) are also somewhat similar. The only real difference between the two vaccines are the storage conditions and the stability of the products.

What cells are targeted by the COVID-19 vaccine?

The mRNA should be capable of entering a wide variety of human cells after injection. However, it’s most likely that the majority of it will get taken up into the muscle cells surrounding the injection site. After the cells manufacture the spike protein, they can present them on their surface/outside the cell to the immune system for antibody development, and T-cell responses.

How long does the COVID-19 vaccine last, do you have to get vaccinated every year?

At this point, we don’t have a definitive answer as the long-term follow-up on the vaccine effectiveness is still ongoing. So far, the information from the clinical studies suggests that immunity generally lasts for at least 3-4 months. There is a very good chance that we will find out it lasts much longer than that, too.

Based on more data in the upcoming 2 years (the total planned duration of follow up of subjects in the clinical study), we will have a better idea of how long immunity lasts and if/when we would need to administer a “booster” dose.

What is the vaccine recommendation for individuals with a history of anaphylaxis?

The following people should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • People with a history of severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to any ingredient of the mRNA vaccines.
  • People with a history of allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate.
  • People who had a severe (anaphylaxis) or non-severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling, wheezing) to their 1st dose of either COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC recommends that if you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.

The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications—such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies—get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine recommendation for individuals with immunocompromising and autoimmune conditions?

Persons with immunocompromising conditions and/or autoimmune conditions may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection. There is limited data on safety and efficacy of the vaccine in these groups, however, per CDC guidance these individuals can receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless otherwise contraindicated.

If a person has multiple sclerosis, how will this vaccination affect them?

We are not aware of specific data presented yet about whether any study participants had MS. However, people with MS were not excluded from participating in the trials. At this time, per CDC guidance, individuals with MS can receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless otherwise contraindicated.

I am pregnant. Should I get the vaccine?

Since pregnant women are considered to be immunocompromised it is believed that they are at higher risk of potential severe COVID-19 infection. There are currently few data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, including mRNA vaccines, in pregnant people. However,  experts believe that mRNA vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the pregnant person or the fetus because mRNA vaccines are not live vaccines. The mRNA in the vaccine is degraded quickly by normal cellular processes and does not enter the nucleus of the cell. The CDC recommends that pregnant women be offered the vaccine for their protection. But each pregnant woman should consult with and follow the advice and guidance of their own doctor.

Have any serious side effects been reported like transverse myelitis or Guillian-Barre syndrome?

No, those two adverse effects have not been reported with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Cases of Bell’s palsy were reported following vaccination in participants in both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials. However, the FDA does not consider these to be above the frequency expected in the general population and has not concluded that these cases were causally related to vaccination. The CDC does not consider a history of these illnesses to be a contraindication to receiving the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines.

What is the recommendation for individuals who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine, such as the flu shot?

The COVID-19 vaccine should be administered alone with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration with any other vaccines​.

Can recipients of the COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days after receiving a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody to avoid interference of the treatment with vaccine-induced immune responses.

Can I take any fever/pain reducing medications if I develop a fever after the COVID-19 vaccine; or should I take anti-fever medications to prevent developing a fever after receiving the vaccine?

Anti-fever and pain-relieving medications can be taken after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Taking these medications prior to your vaccination for the purpose of preventing fever or other symptoms is not recommended.

Are there any non-mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in development that may be coming out in the next few months?

Yes, there are some vaccines that just contain the “spike protein” from SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are also some vaccines that use another harmless virus to deliver the materials that our immune system will react to and then develop immunity. The one closest to possibly becoming available is the Astra-Zeneca/Oxford vaccine. The only single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in development and currently being tested in clinical trial is made by Johnson & Johnson. It is estimated that clinical trials for that vaccine will be completed in early 2021.