COVID-19: Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

We are working to ensure the successful rollout of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Vaccination program. We know this effort requires adaptability and patience by all Wisconsinites and appreciate your ongoing partnership in this historic undertaking. We are committed to the equitable and fair distribution of the vaccine. We are following prioritization guidelines from the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. You can find the other COVID-19 vaccines that are in trial phases II or III through this COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

*Due to the quickly evolving nature of the COVID-19 vaccination initiative, information may change or be updated frequently. DHS will make every effort to communicate the most up-to-date information as soon as it is available.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccine. This page was last updated on March 1, 2021.

About the vaccine

Why do we need a COVID-19 vaccine?

Getting vaccinated will be one of the best ways to protect yourself and your community. A COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick and potentially prevent you from spreading the virus to those around you.

A vaccine, however, does not replace the need to continue other actions to stop the spread and keep ourselves healthy. This is especially true while we are in the process of administering vaccine, as it will take many months to provide vaccine to everyone who needs it.

Will the vaccine be free?

Yes, the vaccine will be free to everyone.

You may see a charge from the vaccine clinic to your health insurance provider for the cost of the vaccine, but it can't be passed on to you in any way. Both private insurance and public programs will cover 100% of the vaccine administration fee.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required by the state? Will employers require it?

The state will not mandate the vaccine. Private employers may determine whether they will require their employees get vaccinated.

What can I expect following vaccination?

Some people have side effects such as a sore arm, slight fever, or feeling tired. These are all expected and normal effects. It can be a sign that your body is building an immune response. Check out our webpage that explains your next steps after you get your first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website also has this information about what to expect after vaccination in other languages.

Can I get vaccinated at a pharmacy?

Many pharmacies across Wisconsin are enrolled as vaccinators and currently administering COVID-19 vaccine in their communities. Individuals who are currently eligible for vaccination in Wisconsin and are interested in getting vaccinated at their local pharmacy can contact the pharmacy or check out their website to find out if vaccine is available. Individuals can also reach out to their local or tribal health department to learn more about options for receiving vaccine in their community.

In addition, as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, COVID-19 vaccinations are available at select Walgreens locations across Wisconsin. Vaccines will be available for anyone in the currently eligible populations but participating locations may be limited in how many individuals they can vaccinate. As more vaccine becomes available, the program will expand to include more locations and increased vaccine capacity. 

To get vaccinated at Walgreens, you will need to schedule an appointment directly through the Walgreens online registration website or by calling 1-800-Walgreens. You will not need to enter a code to register but will have to complete a short screening to confirm eligibility. For more information about the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we encourage you to visit the CDC’s Frequently Ask Questions page.
 

I live in one state but will be traveling or working in another state. How can I get my second dose of vaccine?

You should follow local vaccination policies wherever you are. If you get your first dose and then travel, be sure to bring your vaccination record with you. This will help your vaccine clinic know which product you will need for the second dose and when. When you set up your second dose appointment, be sure to ask if the vaccination clinic will be able to give you the same product that you got for your first dose.

Does immunity after being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 infection last longer than protection from COVID-19 vaccines?

The natural immunity someone gains from having an infection varies depending on the severity of the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. We know that reinfection is uncommon within 90 days after infection, but cannot confirm this extends past that point. Thus, individuals who have previously been infected with the disease are still recommended to receive vaccination.

If someone I know gets vaccinated, even if I have not been vaccinated yet, does that mean we can spend time together?

It’s important to remember that vaccination has been studied and is approved for preventing disease. It is not yet known what protection the vaccine provides regarding protection from infection or the ability to transmit the virus to others and therefore, even if you are vaccinated, you need to take all of the proper precautions. It is important to remember the current FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are a two dose series and you need both doses to ensure you have the full benefit of protection provided by the vaccine.

What can we do until a COVID-19 vaccine is ready for the public?

It will take many months to vaccinate all Wisconsinites. In the meantime, there are many ways we can protect ourselves and others from COVID-19.

Ways to stop the spread include:

  • Staying at home as much as possible and especially if you are sick.
  • Wearing a mask in public.
  • Staying at least 6 feet away from other people when possible when you leave your home.
  • Avoiding close contact with people, particularly those who are sick.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Getting tested if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash and washing or sanitizing your hands.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

While we wait for more COVID-19 vaccine to be made available, we encourage everyone to get their yearly flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine will not protect against the COVID-19 virus, it can protect you from the flu. By doing so, we can help keep health care resources available for those with COVID-19.

How will the state be tracking and posting on the website how many people have been vaccinated?

The Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR) is used to report all doses administered. It receives data directly from vaccinators. Data is currently available here.

Vaccine allocation and distribution

    How will DHS ensure the vaccination program is equitable and accessible to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus?

    The State of Wisconsin is committed to the equitable and fair distribution of the vaccine. Our allocation process will incorporate the Social Vulnerability Index and considers the social determinants of health that exacerbate health inequities.

    How many vaccine doses have been allocated to Wisconsin? How many people have been vaccinated?

    The first shipments of vaccine arrived in Wisconsin on Monday, December 14, with the first vaccinations occurring that afternoon. Hospitals and clinics have a number of steps they must take in order to begin administering the vaccine. They are doing everything they can to vaccinate as quickly and safely as possible. As efforts ramp up, we expect to see the amount of people vaccinated keep pace with the amount of vaccine shipped to Wisconsin.

    Allocation, shipment, and administration numbers are available on the vaccine data page. These numbers are updated weekly. The federal government will continue to provide Wisconsin with vaccine doses as more supply becomes available. Allocations of the FDA-authorized vaccines are expected to increase in the coming weeks and months.

    What are the roles of the distribution hubs in Wisconsin?

    The hubs are part of the Hub and Spoke model of distribution Wisconsin is using to distribute COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine across the state. The eight hubs have the freezer ability to store the Pfizer vaccine. The hubs are intended to receive the vaccine and then distribute to spoke sites. Some will distribute primarily to their own health systems, while others are willing to distribute across their area. The Hub and Spoke model will only be used for the Pfizer vaccine.

    Who is distributing the vaccine from the hubs?

    The state has distribution hubs for the Pfizer vaccine. Personnel from the Wisconsin National Guard and Department of Natural Resources are staffing five of the hubs. They are repackaging the vaccines and, with the help of the Wisconsin State Patrol, are transporting the vaccine to vaccinating entities. The remaining hubs have the infrastructure to do their own distribution. The Moderna vaccine is being shipped directly to vaccinators.

    How will the vaccine distribution be monitored?

    Every dose of COVID-19 vaccine administered is reported to the Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR), which allows for state and locals to identify who is getting vaccinated, where they are getting vaccinated, and helps health officials identify gaps.

    Why hasn't the state disclosed the list of distribution hubs of the COVID-19 vaccine?

    For security reasons, we are not disclosing the locations of the distribution hubs where the vaccine is being stored and delivered from. This is the guidance the state received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As we continue to distribute and administer vaccine, DHS will give more details on who has received it.

    How is the state determining the amount of COVID-19 vaccine to distribute to each site?

    The Wisconsin Vaccination Program Team receives a report of all registered and trained providers. This report also includes the number of vaccines each provider is requesting for the current prioritized population (currently Phase 1A population). Demand for each provider is determined from a weekly survey that the providers have submitted. The team compiles that information into an allocation model using the General Algebraic Modeling System. The model, which is built using expert federal and state guidance, determines the allocation to providers based on how much vaccine the state has been allocated from the CDC for any given week.

    It is also necessary to take into account logistical constraints, including the vaccinator enrollment process and the storage needs of the Pfizer vaccine. The distribution process is limited to providers who are enrolled in the COVID-19 vaccine program and trained to receive, handle, and administer the COVID-19 vaccine. This was done in order to ensure a safe and efficient rollout of the vaccine.

    Will vaccinating entities only receive one brand of vaccine?

    Ideally, providers will receive only one brand of vaccine to ensure people receive two doses of the same brand and to avoid vaccination errors. The vaccines are not interchangeable. However, we remain open to the possibility that providers may need to switch to providing another vaccine based upon the available supply. Our planning is taking changes in the vaccine supply chain into account.

    How is the Moderna vaccine being distributed?

    The Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage. DHS surveys all vaccinating entities and orders vaccine on their behalf. After DHS places a vaccine order, the vaccine gets delivered within the next few days. For Moderna, the vaccine can be shipped directly from the manufacturer to the vaccinator.

    Vaccine eligibility and priority populations

    When can my child vaccinated?

    Children will not be vaccinated anytime soon. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorizations for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use in adults and older teens. Moderna’s vaccine is authorized for people ages 18 and older, and Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for use in people ages 16 and older.

    Pfizer and Moderna just started clinical trials to see how safe and effective their vaccines are for children ages 12 years and older. Trials haven’t started for infants, toddlers, or kids under age 12. Right now, it seems unlikely that a vaccine will be ready for children before the start of the next school year.

    When will vaccine be available to the general public and how will it be administered?

    It will likely take several months before we are able to provide widespread vaccinations in Wisconsin. Once the vaccine is available for the general public, there will be a number of ways to receive it including, through a doctor’s office visit, at local pharmacies, local and tribal health departments, community based clinics, and mobile vaccination sites. We are committed to ensuring that the COVID-19 vaccine is accessible to all Wisconsinites through planning, distribution, and ongoing partnership with our local, state, and federal partners.

    Which groups are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine? 

    The federal and state advisory councils, the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), are providing guidance about which populations should be included in the different eligibility groups. Learn more about vaccine eligibility on our webpage.

    Vaccine monitoring and safety

    How do we know that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective?

    Vaccine approval is driven by science. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers of Disease Control (CDC,) and independent advisors review all vaccine safety and effectiveness data before any vaccine is approved or allowed for distribution. COVID-19 vaccines are going through all the same steps in the trial phases that all vaccines go through to get the full FDA vaccine license and approval.

    During emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA can issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to let people get a vaccine before all the trials are complete. The FDA will only give a COVID-19 vaccine an EUA if the current phase III trial data shows the vaccine is safe and has more benefits than risks. Like with all vaccines, after a COVID-19 vaccine is made available to the public, the FDA and CDC will continue to closely monitor the vaccine to help ensure any issues are immediately addressed.

    COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. Thousands of people were recruited to participate in these trials to see how the vaccines offer protection to people of different ages, races, and ethnicity, as well as those with different medical conditions.

    Visit CDC’s website for more information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

    What kind of safety monitoring is being done to monitor for any adverse reactions?

    There are a number of systems in place to monitor reaction to the vaccine.

    • VAERS is the national system that collects reports from healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and the public of adverse events that happen after vaccination; reports of adverse events that are unexpected, appear to happen more often than expected, or have unusual patterns are followed up with specific studies. Providers are required to report any adverse events to this system.
    • V-safe, a smartphone-based after vaccination health checker program through the CDC uses text messages and web surveys to check in with vaccines for the first 14 days post vaccination. Text messages are also sent as reminders to receive the second dose.
    • Vaccine Safety Data Link is a network of 9 integrated health care organizations across the United States conducts active surveillance and research; the system is also used to help determine whether possible side effects identified using VAERS are actually related to vaccination.

    It is also important to note that the guidance regarding vaccination includes monitoring of individuals for a short time (around 15 minutes for more individuals) after vaccination to be able to manage any immediate reactions.

    What do we know and not know about the vaccine safety for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children and what are we recommending here in Wisconsin for this group of people?

    The data is not yet available to establish the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes to pregnant women. We do know that pregnancy may increase the risk of illness from COVID-19. Studies are ongoing and more are planned. The recommendations state if a pregnant woman is part of a recommended group, such as a health care professional, she may choose to be vaccinated and have a conversation with her health care professional about risk and benefits. For women who are breastfeeding, mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to breastfeeding infants and she may choose to be vaccinated as well. More data is needed for children, which is forthcoming. Learn more on CDC’s website.

    Long-term care facilities

    What are the steps for vaccinating people living in long-term care facilities?

    The Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program was activated to provide on-site vaccinators for Wisconsin’s long-term care facilities. This program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC. CVS and Walgreens pharmacies have been contracted to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination services to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities once vaccination is recommended for them.

    This will facilitate safe vaccination of this critical patient population, and reduce the burden on Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCF), Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF), and health departments. This program began vaccinating patients at skilled nursing facilities on December 28.

    Vaccinator enrollment

    How will small, independent practice's health care personnel and unaffiliated health care personnel be vaccinated?

    In collaboration with health care systems, local health departments and other public health partners, the Wisconsin Vaccination Team continues our planning efforts to deliver vaccine to EMS and other unaffiliated Phase 1A health care workers. As more vaccinating entities across the state continue to build up their vaccine infrastructure, we are leveraging local capacity to provide vaccinations to unaffiliated Phase 1A health care workers.

    Local health departments, who have had a longstanding role in mass vaccination efforts in Wisconsin, will play a lead coordinating role for vaccinating EMS and other unaffiliated Phase 1A health care workers. As the planning continues, the state is working to ensure local health departments have the support they need to coordinate these efforts. Hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies are also critical partners in vaccinating unaffiliated Phase 1A individuals. Providers are encouraged to partner with their local health department to deliver vaccines to EMS and other unaffiliated Phase 1A health care workers.

    Vaccine administration

    Will a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) be available for COVID-19 vaccines?

    VIS’s are information sheets produced by the CDC that explain both the benefits and risks of a vaccine-to-vaccine recipients. As COVID-19 vaccines are approved under an emergency use authorization (EUA), a fact sheet produced by CDC will be available and will contain similar information of a VIS. It is now available for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

    Are there restrictions in administering COVID-19 vaccine to individuals that do not reside in Wisconsin?

    For Phase 1A, we expect that health care entities are vaccinating all their staff. Wisconsin based health care employees serving Wisconsin patients are eligible to be vaccinated.

    The federal government allocates vaccine to states and each state is responsible for vaccinating their residents.

    Will CDC or the state be providing a template consent form?

    There is no special Federal or State requirement for consent forms for COVID-19 vaccines, so the CDC and DHS are not intending to provide templates. Vaccinating entities are free to use a consent form they have developed for their own needs. There is a requirement to provide the Emergency Use Authorization Fact Sheet for the specific COVID-19 vaccine to each person administered COVID-19 vaccine.

    There is an EUA for medical providers too. Please consult your legal counsel if you have questions regarding the consent process at your site or facility. There is a screening form available from CDC.

    General questions? Send us your general COVID-19 vaccine questions.

    Thank you for your continued patience as we move to implement an important tool in the fight against COVID-19!
    Last Revised: March 1, 2021