This article was last updated on April 2, 2021.
As COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue External Site across the United States, the vaccine to fight the coronavirus is now available to some populations. Given all the information about the COVID-19 vaccine External Site taking over news headlines, social media feeds, and during conversations with friends and family, you may have some questions. Questions like: When will I be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Or, how much will it cost me? And, of course, is it safe?
While information about the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be updated, here’s a good place to start.
About the COVID-19 vaccine
At the most basic level, vaccines stimulate your immune system to create antibodies. That means, once you get the COVID-19 vaccine, you begin to develop immunity to the disease without having to get it first. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is what makes vaccines so powerful External Site. While medicines, like an antibiotic, treat or cure diseases, vaccines can prevent them.
Ever since the pandemic began in March 2020, the federal government has been working with a few pharmaceutical companies on vaccines for COVID-19 through a program called Operation Warp Speed External Site.
While getting the COVID-19 vaccine is extremely important to ending the pandemic, experts urge that just getting vaccinated isn't the single answer. Instead, to have the best chance of getting our families, communities, schools and workplaces back to normal, people must use all of the tools the CDC has recommended Opens PDF:
- Get vaccinated
- Wear a mask
- Avoid crowds and maintain a social distance of at least six feet
- Wash your hands often
Why you should consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine
There are many reasons why you should seriously consider getting the vaccine once it’s widely available. Here are three of them.
It’ll help protect you from getting COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines are only approved if they make it significantly less likely you’ll get the virus. Plus, the clinical trials have shown that getting vaccinated may prevent people from getting seriously ill and dying of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated should also help decrease transmission to others, which is especially important to help protect those who have high-risk conditions External Site and are more at-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 External Site.
To make sure the vaccine is as effective as possible, it's important to following dosing and timing recommendations for your specific vaccine. These recommendations may change slightly based on the type of COVID-19 vaccine you receive, so it's important to review this information in these fact sheets developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) External Site. If you have any questions, talk to your personal doctor or pharmacist.
The vaccine is a safe way of building immunity.
Getting COVID-19 may offer some natural immunity. But, it's not clear how long that immunity may last. There's also no way to predict if you'll have serious, life-threatening complications External Site from a COVID-19 infection. Both natural immunity and immunity produced by a vaccine are important aspects of the pandemic that experts are continuing to monitor and learn about.
If you've already tested positive for COVID-19 and are wondering if you should get the vaccine, talk to your personal doctor or pharmacist.
Getting vaccinated is critically important to help end the pandemic.
Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Wearing masks and social distancing can reduce your chance of being exposed or spreading the virus to others. However, the combination of getting vaccinated and following the CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others External Site will offer the best protection from COVID-19 and stopping the pandemic.
The safety of the COVID-19 vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine — and all vaccines for that matter — go through numerous clinical trials External Site to evaluate their safety and effectiveness. If a vaccine is determined to be both safe and effective, the FDA approves its use in the United States.
After a vaccine is authorized or approved for use by the FDA, continued vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for possible side effects. After someone receives a COVID-19 vaccine, they will be monitored for any negative reactions. If a negative reaction occurs and it is determined that the reaction was due to the vaccine, experts review and then decide whether changes are needed in the vaccine recommendations.
The vaccine cannot cause the COVID-19 infection
All the vaccines that have currently completed or are nearing completion of clinical trials do not contain live strains of coronavirus and can't cause you to develop COVID-19. After the vaccination, you might experience mild side effects, such as fatigue, fever, aches and pains, or pain at the injection site — much like a flu vaccination. If you do experience negative side effects after receiving the vaccine, it's important to talk to your personal doctor or pharmacist.
When the vaccine will be available and its cost
The first doses of the coronavirus vaccine were distributed in mid-December External Site. According to the CDC, health care personnel External Site are receiving the first doses of the available vaccine, followed by at-risk populations, like those living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. It’s estimated that the vaccine will be more widely available in Iowa Opens PDF, South Dakota Opens PDF, and throughout the United States later in 2021. At that time, it should be available at doctor's offices, pharmacies, hospitals and health centers.
The COVID-19 vaccine and its administration will be covered at no out-of-pocket cost to you throughout the public health emergency. After the public health emergency ends, the COVID-19 vaccine and its administration will be covered as an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Preventive service at no member cost-share, if applicable under your health plan.
Get important updates regarding COVID-19
As the pandemic continues and more information about the vaccine is released, check back with Wellmark for the most up-to-date answers to top questions regarding COVID-19 and your health plan Opens New Window. You can also download this COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet Opens PDF Opens PDF. Print it out, keep it handy and share with others you know who might also have questions.
At Wellmark, our top priority is the health and well-being of our members. Part of that is keeping you informed about your coverage and benefits.
- CDC.gov — Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine External Site
- CDC.gov — Ensuring the Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines in the United States External Site
- CDC.gov — 8 Things to Know about the U.S. COVID-19 Vaccination Program External Site
- CDC.gov — Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination External Site