The Doctor’s Note: Answering your questions about the coronavirus vaccine

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the long-awaited coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is now available. There are many questions and feelings of uncertainty when it comes to a new vaccine and we want to help you feel safe and informed. We asked Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Fong, to answer the frequently asked questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes, the vaccine is safe and approved by the federal government for use. Some people who received the vaccine during the trial phase did note potential side effects from the vaccine, such as but not limited to redness or pain at the injection site and/or other symptoms such as fever, tiredness and headache. It is important to follow all safety instructions given after receiving the vaccine. For more information about the steps taken to ensure the reliability and safety of the vaccine, visit the CDC website.

When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available ?

The first approved vaccine is now available, with additional vaccines going through the approval process by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Once approved, they will go into production within 24 hours and then be shipped to states. The COVID-19 vaccine initially will be available in very limited doses – but will scale up in production rapidly, allowing for enough supply to vaccinate all.

The first approved vaccine contains a series of two shots – the second shot given 21-28 days after the initial first shot. It is critical to receive the second shot in the allotted time frame for the vaccine to have maximum effectiveness.

Will the vaccine be available to everyone?

The COVID-19 vaccine initially will be available in very limited doses – but will scale up in production rapidly, allowing for enough supply to vaccinate all. However, the vaccine will be available in three phases.

  • Phase one – healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities
  • Phase two – populations that were not completely vaccinated in Phase 1 as well as additional critical populations
  • Phase three – general population

The most up-to-date information can be found on the KDHE website.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be available for children?

More studies will need to be completed before a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for children.

Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Not every medical provider will be able to provide the vaccine. Providers must sign up through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to administer the vaccine. Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is only available to a limited population (healthcare workers, long-term care residents) by a small number of providers. Those persons who are eligible to receive the vaccine will be contacted by state officials or their employer to schedule their vaccines.

The vaccine is not currently available to the general public. It is not anticipated to be available until late spring/early summer. We will share more details as they become available.

What will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

The vaccine will be available to all Americans free of charge. The federal government is funding the cost of the vaccine. Certain vaccine providers may charge an administration fee for giving the shot, but that cost will not be passed on to the patient, regardless if they have insurance or not. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) will cover that cost for our members. Any member that receives a bill for the administration fee for the vaccine should submit a claim to BCBSKS.

The federal government is also warning Americans to beware of potential scams related to the vaccine. If someone is offering you a place in line or the opportunity to move up the line for a fee, it is a scam and should not be trusted. You cannot pay for a place in line or to put your name on a list for access to the vaccine. No one can be charged for the cost or administration of the vaccine.

It is vital to continue taking all precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. Remember to wash your hands, wear a mask in public and stay home if you feel sick. Contact your doctor immediately if you have shortness of breath or trouble breathing.

It’s important to get information that you can trust. Experts are learning more about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine every day, so things are changing quickly. These websites provide the most up-to-date information:

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

• World Health Organization (WHO)

• Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

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