Updated Jan. 12, 2021
We are collecting and answering common COVID-19 questions here. This list will continue to evolve as we learn more. Submit your own anonymous question.
Why do we need a COVID-19 vaccine if social distancing, wearing masks and handwashing prevent the virus from spreading?
Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, helps reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others if you have the virus without knowing. But vaccines are even better – they work with your immune system to ensure your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are ever exposed.
The best way to stop this virus is by generating COVID-19-specific immunity within our community. We can achieve this immunity in one of two ways: through illness (natural herd immunity) or through vaccination. Since illness leads to severe disease or death for many, a safe and effective vaccine is a much better alternative.
Preventing COVID-19 spread by social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask will continue to be important until more Americans are vaccinated.
Should children get the vaccine?
Children will not be given the vaccine at this time. Children will likely become eligible to receive the vaccine once we get more data from the vaccine clinical trials that are now including children.
I have a medical condition or have had a previous reaction to a different vaccine. Should I plan to get the vaccine?
You should discuss any personal medical conditions or vaccine concerns with your doctor. Together, you can determine if a COVID-19 vaccine makes sense for you.
Should pregnant or breastfeeding women get the vaccine?
There were no pregnant women included in the initial COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. In the data submitted to the FDA from Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial, eight women became pregnant during the trial, so they were removed. Eventually, 23 people became pregnant after receiving both doses of the vaccines. Pfizer reported one poor pregnancy outcome, but that person was in the placebo group, so they did not actually receive the vaccine. We have no reason to believe any of the COVID-19 vaccines would harm a developing fetus or a nursing infant. What we do know: Data suggests that a pregnant woman who develops a COVID-19 infection is likely to become sicker than a non-pregnant woman who develops a COVID-19 infection. We encourage women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to discuss the benefits and risks of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination with their doctor.
Should immunocompromised people get the vaccine?
Yes, we recommend immunocompromised people get the vaccine. If you have concerns, or a specific question related to your personal condition, we encourage you to speak with your doctor before getting the vaccine.
Should people with allergies get the vaccine?
If you’ve had a severe, anaphylactic reaction to components inside the COVID-19 vaccine, you should speak to your doctor before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. This does not include allergic reactions related to things like bee stings or certain foods – it only involves severe reactions exclusively related to vaccine components. If you receive the vaccine at a Nebraska Medicine location, health care professionals will monitor you for 15 minutes after receiving the shot.
Do any of the vaccines cause infertility?
There is no reason to believe any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause female or male infertility.
There’s a rumor that antibodies against the spike protein will also target the syncytin-1 protein. Syncytin-1 is a protein that’s critical to form placentas in pregnant mothers. But antibodies formed against the spike protein won’t target syncytin-1, since they don’t share enough similarities for antibodies to target them both.
Does the Pfizer vaccine cause Bell’s palsy?
No, there is no reason to believe the COVID-19 vaccines cause Bell’s palsy at this time. During the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, four people (out of 22,000) developed a case of Bell’s palsy. (Bell’s palsy is a type of temporary facial paralysis.) That is a 0.018% occurrence rate. Studies report that Bell’s palsy affects 11 to 40 people per 100,000 people each year. That is a normal occurrence rate of 0.011% to 0.040%. The Bell’s palsy occurrence rate among people participating in the Pfizer clinical trial did not exceed the normal occurrence rate seen among the general population. Because of this, experts determined that the four cases of Bell’s palsy were probably unrelated to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can any of the COVID-19 vaccines change your DNA?
No. They cannot change your DNA.
Some of the vaccines in development use mRNA, or messenger RNA, to instruct your body to build the coronavirus’ spike protein. Your body then produces antibodies to combat the coronavirus when it encounters it later. Learn more about mRNA vaccines.
mRNA is very fragile, and it’s very quickly degraded once inside the body. That’s one of the reasons why these vaccines have to be so carefully preserved at very low temperatures, and why you need two doses.
Additionally, DNA is stored in the nucleus of your cells. mRNA vaccines are designed to do their work outside of the nucleus, and have not been observed to interact with the nucleus.
Will it cost money to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, both doses of the vaccines are free. Vaccine providers are allowed to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. This fee will be paid by your insurance provider. If you do not have health insurance, Medicare will cover the fee.
What happens if I have a reaction from the vaccine and end up with unexpected hospital bills?
So far, reactions from the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely rare. However, if you find yourself in this situation, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has a program called "Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP)" that will reimburse people who end up with unexpected medical bills due to the COVID-19 vaccines.
Getting the vaccine
Who will get the vaccine first?
At this time, we are only vaccinating Nebraska Medicine and University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) health care workers who have a high risk for exposure. When supply increases, the State of Nebraska vaccination plan identifies who gets the vaccine first. We will give the first doses to those at highest risk for spreading or contracting the virus, and those at highest risk for death. These groups include:
- Health care workers and first responders
- High-risk groups such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions
Our plans are in alignment with multiple local, state and federal guidelines. We are committed to distributing this vaccine in a fair, ethical and transparent way.
Can undocumented immigrants receive the vaccine?
Nebraska Medicine does not request or require your immigration status to receive any vaccines.
How do I get a vaccine?
We will continue to communicate about vaccine availability to those who are eligible to receive it as we move through this process. Nebraska Medicine is planning a large vaccination response. Supply is expected to increase substantially in 2021. We will provide detailed information when the vaccines are ready for wider distribution. This will include notifying Nebraska Medicine patients.
Is there a waiting list?
A waiting list is not currently available.
When will there be enough vaccines for everyone?
We do not know for sure, but if both Pfizer and Moderna deliver the amount estimated, most of the people who want a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to get one by summer 2021.
It is also possible that the vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca will become available too, which would change this projection.
Vaccine storage and distribution
Which health care providers will have the vaccine?
View a map of COVID-19 vaccine phase 1 health care providers in Nebraska.
Where will Nebraska Medicine give the vaccines?
We have converted a former grocery store to a vaccine administration center. It includes large indoor spaces, so people receiving the vaccine can remain socially distanced. Once vaccines are ready for non-health care workers, vaccines will be available by appointment only. The vaccine doses are not currently stored at this location.
Why do the vaccines need to be kept so cold?
A key ingredient in the vaccines, mRNA, or messenger RNA, is very fragile. Additionally, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines don’t contain any preservatives. Keeping the vaccines at really cold temperatures preserves the vaccine and protects the mRNA.
If you’ve already had COVID-19
Will the vaccine help people with lingering long-term effects?
The lingering effects of COVID-19 are concerning, and we still have much to learn about them. If you were already infected, the vaccine is not likely to ease these effects. However, the vaccine may lessen the amount of long-term effects in those who haven’t had a COVID-19 infection.
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
We do not know how long COVID-19 natural immunity lasts. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may wane over time, but we need more studies to understand it better. At this time, we do not know if people who have had COVID-19 need to get vaccinated, but we expect to learn more soon.