What You Should Know About the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccine

What to know about Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines are an important step in slowing the spread of the disease. And it will take time to make enough vaccines for everyone. Due to the initial limited supply, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health departments are coordinating who should get vaccinated first and where vaccines are available. We are committed to providing helpful vaccine information, resources to support you and $0 cost-share on COVID-19 vaccines through the national public health emergency period.

How to get a vaccine

Due to limited supply, COVID-19 vaccination is occurring in phases. People at highest risk are getting vaccines first. Vaccine availability and eligibility may vary locally.

Vaccine protection and safety

Vaccines help save lives. FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines will help protect you, your family and friends from getting the disease. They are as safe as possible.1

$0 vaccine cost-share

During the national public health emergency period, FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are available at no charge to you, no matter where you get it.

Preparing for your appointment

Once your vaccine appointment is scheduled, find out what information you might need and what to expect while you’re there.

Tips for getting a COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine availability changes quickly. If you’re eligible to get the vaccine, we encourage you to go to multiple local resources to find a vaccination list or secure an appointment. Here’s a list of available resources to help you take steps toward getting vaccinated.

  • Get the latest vaccine information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Visit your state or local health department websites to see when it’s your time to get a COVID-19 vaccine and find vaccination providers
  • Sign up to get vaccine notifications from your state to get regular updates
  • Keep up with your local news for information on where vaccines may be available in your area
  • Ask your doctor or local pharmacy about vaccine availability and any vaccination lists they might have in place

Remember that some of your family or friends who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine may need help with technology to sign up. Lastly, an important reminder that you should not be asked to pay to be put on a vaccination list.

Answering your questions

To help you plan and feel informed, we’ve pulled together key information on COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC remains the best resource on COVID-19 vaccines

Protection and safety

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized 2 COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use. These vaccines were developed to protect you from COVID-19 and currently require 2 doses. Like other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines can take several weeks after the second dose to provide protection.

According to the CDC, the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines will help protect you from COVID-19. In fact, each vaccine reported strong protection from the disease: 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech According to the FDA, the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was ~95% effective at preventing COVID-19 in people age 16 and older, based on the Pfizer-BioNTech Phase 3 trial.
  • Moderna According to the FDA, the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was ~94% effective at preventing COVID-19 in people age 18 and older, based on the Moderna Phase 3 trial.

Follow vaccination instructions from the manufacturer. The effectiveness is the level at which the vaccine prevents COVID-19.

Two important reminders on the protection COVID-19 vaccines provide:

  • Vaccines will help protect you from getting COVID-19, but you should follow CDC and state health guidelines to stop the spread of the disease to others.
  • The duration of protection against COVID-19 is currently unknown.

Because of these reasons, continue to follow public health safety guidelines to help protect yourself and others. Wear a face mask, practice physical distancing and wash hands regularly.

The U.S. vaccine safety system makes sure all vaccines go through an extensive process to confirm levels of safety. The recently FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines went through this process. Even after emergency use authorization, the FDA continues to review clinical data about the vaccines. The CDC website has additional COVID-19 vaccine safety information

The FDA has a review process for safety and effectiveness that it completes before it will authorize vaccines for emergency use by the general public. Once the FDA authorizes a vaccine, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet to vote on recommending the vaccine.

When evaluating an emergency use authorization (EUA), the FDA carefully balances the potential risks and benefits of the products based on the data currently available. During the national public health emergency period, the FDA continues to monitor both the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

As more COVID-19 vaccines are authorized, the ACIP will quickly hold public meetings to review all available data about each vaccine and make recommendations for their use in the United States. Learn more about how the CDC is making COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.

The current FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are not recommended for people with certain conditions or of different ages. There are other special considerations for the following:

  1. If you've recently been exposed to COVID-19, see the CDC guidelines for getting the vaccine. 
  2. If you’ve had monoclonal antibody treatment or received convalescent plasma, the CDC states vaccination should not occur for at least 90 days.

Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

According to the CDC, if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or an injected medicine, you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. A severe reaction is one that requires treatment at a hospital or with medications like an EpiPen (epinephrine). According to the CDC, the likelihood of severe reaction to the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines is very low.    

The CDC recommends the people who have seasonal allergies or allergies to food, pets or oral medications, can still be vaccinated. If you have any questions, you should check with your health care provider. 

For more information, you can read the FDA’s Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccinations should be offered to people regardless of whether they have previously had COVID-19. You do not need an antibody or diagnostic test before or after you are vaccinated to learn if the vaccine worked.

However, anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and after they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation. Additionally, current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. So, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period.

Side effects from vaccines are normal signs that your body is building protection. As with other vaccines and according to the CDC, people have reported some side effects with the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. Side effects might include a sore arm, feeling flu-like symptoms and other symptoms that might even affect your ability to do daily activities. But they should go away in a few days. You can learn more on the CDC website.

In the event of an emergency, you should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

If you have side effects that bother you or do not go away, you should report them to your vaccination provider or primary care provider. You should also notify the CDC at 1-800-822-7967. This is because the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. You can also use the CDC’s v-safe mobile app, which will help you monitor side effects and get second dose reminders.

According to the CDC, experts are continuing to study the variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. There are multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, and these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death. FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines play an essential role in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting people’s health. To help protect your and your loved one’s health, you also need to follow public health safety practices:

  • Wear face masks
  • Physically distance
  • Isolate or quarantine when sick

 Visit the CDC website to learn more about the virus variants.

Cost and coverage

You will have $0 cost-share (copayments, deductibles or coinsurance) on FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines as noted below, no matter where you get the vaccine and including when 2 doses are required. In fact, you shouldn’t receive a bill for the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Plans through Employers and Individual health plans, including Student Resources, Short Term Limited Liability and Exchange plans: Members will have $0 cost-share at both in-network and out-of-network providers through the national public health emergency period.
  • Medicare plans: Members will have $0 cost-share at both in-network and out-of-network providers through Dec. 31, 2021. Providers should not ask you for payment, up front or after you receive the vaccine.
  • For Medicaid members in UnitedHealthcare Community Plans: Members will have $0 cost-share for both in-network and out-of-network providers through the national public health emergency period. State variations and regulations may apply during this time. Please review the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan website and your state’s site for the latest information. If no state-specific guidance is available, UnitedHealthcare plan guidelines will apply.

If you get a COVID-19 vaccine during a regular office visit, your office visit will be covered according to your plan benefits. You may have a cost-share for the office visit.

If a COVID-19 vaccine is received during a regular office visit, the office visit will be covered according to plan benefits. You may have a cost-share for the office visit, while the COVID-19 vaccine will have $0 cost-share for the time periods noted above.

No. If someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee, don’t share your personal or financial information.

  • No one should ask you to pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine
  • No one should ask you to pay to get early access to a vaccine

You can report suspected fraud to UnitedHealthcare, and we’ll help you file a report, which could help you and others. 

Learn more to help protect yourself from fraud

Distribution and availability

FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines will be available at participating retail pharmacies, doctors’ offices, hospitals and federally qualified health centers. Supplies are currently limited, and local availability may vary by time and day. We encourage members to look to local news, health departments, pharmacies and health care providers for information and resources on vaccine availability in their area. 

Find resources about vaccine availability for your area

Since supplies are limited at this time, vaccination is occurring in phases, with those at highest risk getting vaccines first. FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine distribution is being coordinated by the CDC and state and local health departments.

According to the CDC recommended phasing, the first groups of people to be offered the vaccine should be:

  • Phase 1a: Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities
  • Phase 1b: Essential workers (e.g., police officers, firefighters, teachers, etc.) and people age 75 and older 
  • Phase 1c: People who are 65 to 74 years old; people 16 to 64 years old with high-risk, underlying medical conditions; and other essential workers (e.g., transportation, food service, public safety, etc.)

States and your local area may vary from this guidance.

Find resources about vaccine availability for your area

COVID-19 vaccines may be more available in the spring to mid-year time frame as additional vaccines may be FDA-authorized, produced and distributed. As these vaccines may become more widely available, we’re committed to helping you get a COVID-19 vaccine easily and conveniently.

While we are working to provide you the current information, look to the local news, health departments, pharmacies and health care providers for information and resources on vaccine availability in your area.

Find resources about vaccine availability for your area

If you have questions about vaccine recommendations given your specific health conditions, talk to your health care provider or other health care professional.

Like the flu vaccine, vaccination providers will administer the COVID-19 vaccine based on availability. Vaccination providers may not have all FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines at their location. If you have questions, we encourage you to talk to your health care provider.

Preparing for appointments

Here’s what we understand today: 

  • Be prepared to show your photo ID, such as a driver’s license, to show proof of age. You might also need proof of residency. Your health department website or vaccination provider may also have a list of required documents.  
  • Medicare plan members: 
    • You will need your red, white and blue Medicare card because Medicare is paying for your vaccine in 2021. If you don’t have your Medicare card, you can find it by logging in to your Social Security account. More information can be found on the CMS site.
    • If you receive your vaccine at a regular provider visit, you will also need your UnitedHealthcare member ID card.   
  • Non-Medicare plan members: Bring your UnitedHealthcare member ID card. 

Remember to wear your face mask and to physically distance at your appointment. 

Additional information on preparing for your vaccination appointment can be found on the CDC website.

Here are 3 key points from the CDC to keep in mind for your appointment: 

  1. Your vaccination provider will likely monitor you after receiving the vaccine. This is in case of a rare allergic reaction. So, you’ll want to plan some extra time.
  2. Plan ahead for your second dose by scheduling your second vaccine appointment if possible. You can also sign up for free text messaging through the CDC’s VaxText to a get a reminder about your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  3. You should receive a vaccination card during your appointment that says which vaccine you received, the date received and where it was received. We suggest you keep it in a safe place to help in getting your second dose. After your second dose visit, you will receive an updated vaccination card. We encourage you to keep your card with you.

Your first dose

Side effects from vaccines are normal signs that your body is building protection. As with other vaccines and according to the CDC, people have reported some side effects with the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. These might include a sore arm, feeling flu-like symptoms and other symptoms that might even affect your ability to do daily activities. But they should go away in a few days. You can learn more on the CDC website.

In the event of an emergency, you should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.  

If you have side effects that bother you or do not go away, you should report them to your vaccination provider or primary care provider. You should also notify the CDC at 1-800-822-7967. This is because the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. You can also use the CDC’s v-safe mobile app, which will help you monitor side effects and get second dose reminders. 

No. The CDC continues to recommend that people wear face masks and keep physically distancing at this time. After your immune system builds a response, the vaccine will prevent you from getting sick. Still, viral particles may colonize in your nose. At this point, experts believe you could breathe those particles onto the people close to you, putting them at risk for infection. 

Visit the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and others. 

No, the CDC does not recommend you get COVID-19 antibody or diagnostic testing.

We encourage you to carry it with you.

Your second dose

You will need to get both doses to have protection from COVID-19. Make sure both doses you receive are from the same manufacturer and get your second dose as close to the recommended timing as possible. Follow the vaccination instructions from the manufacturer:

We strongly encourage you to schedule both doses at the same time to meet these time frames and get protection from COVID-19. The vaccination provider should assist you with scheduling the second dose when you receive your first dose. They should be able to tell you when to get the second dose. 

You can also sign up for free text messaging through the CDC’s VaxText to a get a reminder about your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC recommends getting the second dose as close to the recommended timing as possible. Follow the vaccination instructions from the manufacturer.

If you miss your second vaccination appointment or are outside the recommended second-dose timing, you can still get the second dose. Schedule your next appointment with your vaccination provider as soon as you can. You won’t need to start over with the first dose. And even if the second dose is late, you will still get protection from COVID-19.

You should have received a vaccination card at your first appointment with information on the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, date of vaccination and when the second dose is due. If you cannot find that, your vaccination provider can help you know which vaccine you received.

Stay safe and healthy

It’s important to follow public health guidelines to help you stay healthy, even after you get vaccinated. Continue to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 by following these simple steps:

  • Wear a face mask
  • Continue to physically distance
  • Avoid crowds
  • Wash your hands

Remember to stay on top of your doctor appointments like annual checkups and care for anxiety, depression and loneliness. Most providers also offer telehealth visits to help you get the care you need.

Helpful Resources

Want to learn more? Here are clinical resources from various authorities to help in understanding COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine fraud awareness

Be on alert for fraud. If someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee, don’t share your personal or financial information.

  • No one should ask you to pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine
  • No one should ask you to pay to get early access to a vaccine

If you have questions or need information about your benefits

Call the number on your member ID card or sign in to your health account.

Disclaimer

The benefits described on this website describe federal requirements and UnitedHealthcare national policy, additional benefits may be available in some states and under some plans. 

This page describes benefits we offer to all members in all states. They also include federal requirements. More benefits may be available in some states and under some plans. We have created rules and practices that may apply to some of our products at this time. The information is a summary and is subject to change. For more information, contact your account representative  or call the number on your member ID card.