On Thursday morning, CVS announced an important milestone in the race to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus: 10 million shots delivered, and capacity to administer up to 25 million shots per month.
Later that morning, I walked into a CVS on Staten Island and became one of the next 10 million.
The process of getting vaccinated at CVS was so friendly, so efficient, and so well organized that it helped me understand why the pharmacy chain is able to vaccinate so many folks so quickly.
Earlier this week, when vaccine appointment eligibility opened to anyone in New York 30 years of age and older, I went to the CVS scheduling tool, plugged in my information, and found a surprising number of open appointments for Staten Island locations.
I scheduled an appointment for Thursday morning, and received a confirmation email soon after.
As someone who’s been trying, and failing, to buy a PlayStation 5 for months, it was a surprisingly glitch-free experience using the CVS scheduling tool. I was able to simply enter information, select a time, and confirm my selection.
On Thursday morning, before embarking on the lengthy drive from the middle of Brooklyn to the middle of Staten Island, I got a text message from CVS with a link to digitally check in when I arrived at the store:
An hour-plus later, I parked my car and digitally signed in. Having told CVS I was at the store, I turned off my car and walked inside.
Before I could even begin to be confused as to where I should go, I spotted a check-in desk.
Immediately to the right of the entryway doors, CVS employees had created a temporary check-in desk for vaccinations:
There was no line, and check-ins were being handled simply: With a highlighter on paper.
After I gave my name, I was instructed to proceed down the adjacent aisle where a handful of people were already lined up on socially-distanced squares marked on the ground.
As we waited, another CVS employee with a clipboard walked down the line, took IDs, and filled out each person’s coveted CDC vaccination card with information about their first shot – it’s the card that everyone takes selfies with, even though you probably shouldn’t.
By the time I’d received my card, I was moving to the next step of the process: Checking in for a second time with an employee behind a computer who confirmed my address.
At this point, I could see the full operation. Employees had essentially set up a flexible assembly line for vaccinating people, and it was moving rapidly.
From where I was, the next step was getting vaccinated, and then waiting the requisite 15 minutes just in case I had a reaction.
Employees had smartly used self checkout dividers to turn their pharmacy lobby into a socially distanced waiting room. “Endcap” products were displaced for seated patients who were able to sit directly next to each other due to the dividers.
The shot itself was quick, and relatively painless, as expected.
The man who gave me the shot asked if I had any questions, and I blurted out a silly question that I already knew the answer to (“When will I be fully vaccinated?”), and he kindly answered something he’s assuredly answered a thousand times already (“You’ll receive the full benefits of the vaccination two weeks after your second shot.”).
The same employee who gave me my CDC vaccination card ushered me over to the seating area and asked how I was, so I enthusiastically said I was “feeling great.” The truth, of course, is I was feeling unbelievably happy and hopeful for the first time in what feels like forever. It’s been over a year, folks! There’s no getting that time back!
She handed me a 15 minute timer, and I took a seat.
About halfway through my 15-minute wait, an employee came over to ask how I was feeling once again, and I marveled at how swift and efficient their process was. She relayed how happy it made her to help people get vaccinated, and said it makes the day go all the faster.
My appointment was scheduled for 10:45 a.m., and I was back in my car on the way out of the parking lot by 11:21 a.m. I may or may not have bought Easter candy at CVS before leaving, which assuredly added a minute or two.
All in, the process took a little over half an hour from start to finish, and everyone was a delight along the way. From what I saw, it makes perfect sense that CVS is rolling through so many vaccinations so quickly – they’re doing it very well.
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Thousands of people who visited a mass vaccination site in Oakland, California, on March 1 received the wrong dosage of the Pfizer vaccine, according to KTVU.
An estimated 4,300 people were administered less than the recommended dose while getting a shot at the Oakland Coliseum, two unnamed medical workers told the media outlet.
The optimal vaccine dosage is 0.3-mL of Pfizer but thousands of people received around 0.2 mL, KTVU said.
Due to a problem with the syringes, too little of the COVID-19 vaccine was administered, the media outlet reported.
The mixup took place on Monday morning but was identified and resolved by 2 pm, state officials confirmed to KTVU.
Both agencies that run the mass vaccination site – the California Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency – were unaware of the issue until KTVU alerted them of it on Tuesday.
The State Department of Public Health, United States Health and Human Services (HHS), and Pfizer held emergency meetings on Tuesday to discuss the error, a California OES spokesperson told the media outlet.
Officials from the California Department of Health then visited the Oakland Coliseum out of “an abundance of caution,” a spokesperson said.
Ali Bay, deputy director of communications for the health department, told KTVU on Friday that nobody who was vaccinated on March 1 “has been harmed or would be harmed if we conclude they received a slightly smaller dose of the vaccine.”
Those vaccinated on that date are not being advised to seek out additional medical care but, Bay said, patients will be informed “immediately” should they need an emergency booster.
California’s health department is now working with the HHS, CDC, and Pfizer to “ensure that vaccine best practices and quality assurance are adhered to at this site,” Bay told KTVU.
Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday after having received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to his spokesperson.
“U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch received a positive test result for COVID-19 after a staff member in the Congressman’s Boston office had tested positive earlier in the week,” Molly Rose Tarpey, Lynch’s communications director, said in a statement to Business Insider.
“While Mr. Lynch remains asymptomatic and feels fine, he will self-quarantine and will vote by proxy in Congress during the coming week,” she said, adding, “Congressman Lynch had received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and subsequently received a negative COVID-19 test prior to attending President Biden’s Inauguration,” which took place January 20.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can take up to a few weeks for the body to develop immunity to the coronavirus after vaccination.
“That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick,” the agency said. “This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is two doses given 21 days apart. Pfizer said its vaccine is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 seven days after the second shot is administered.
It’s possible to contract COVID-19 during the period between the first and second shot, too.
Another Massachusetts lawmaker, Lori Trahan, tested positive for the coronavirus this week after she had received her first vaccine dose. Trahan got her first shot last week, one of her spokeswomen told The Washington Post Saturday.
COVID-19 vaccines contain tiny pieces of genetic material that teach your immune system how to fight off the coronavirus by developing virus-fighting antibodies. These bits of messenger RNA can’t get you sick with COVID-19, but it takes some time for them to do their job. The Pfizer vaccine, for instance, is only 52% effective at preventing COVID-19 after the first dose.
That’s why it’s critical people continue to wear masks during the stretch of time between doses, and in the weeks following their second dose.
One doctor who got the coronavirus after having received the first dose of the vaccine, Josh Mugele, said his infection wasn’t a sign the vaccine didn’t work.
“This was just dumb luck,” Mugele previously told Insider. “I happened to be exposed within a few days of getting the vaccine, but this still is the best tool we have for fighting the virus.”
As an emergency-room doctor, Mugele also had a higher risk of infection than many Americans, especially because his hospital was filling up with coronavirus patients.
More than 26 million people in the US have contracted the coronavirus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University; more than 440,000 Americans have died.
Aria Bendix, Andrea Michelson, and Anna Medaris Miller contributed reporting to this story.
As of January 22, 17 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States, with close to 38 million doses distributed across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most cities and counties have COVID-19 vaccine information on the website for the local department of health. This website can give you information about what documents to bring to get vaccinated and where you can get vaccinated.
She woke up during the night at the 12-hour mark with a fever and chills, and in the morning had a dull headache that persisted throughout the day. By 48 hours after the shot, however, Henningsen says she “felt essentially back to normal.”
Henningsen says although these temporary side effects are uncomfortable, they won’t happen to everyone and shouldn’t be a deterrent to receiving the vaccine.
I was extremely fortunate to receive the initial dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on December 17, the first week it was offered in the United States outside of a clinical trial. My hospital received doses in the first national shipment and every healthcare worker at my hospital who expressed interest via survey received the vaccine, including me.
I barely felt the first shot, aside from very subtle arm soreness a day or so later.
I also signed up to log my symptoms on the CDC’s V-Safe online symptom tracker tool. My reporting was wholly uneventful; thankfully, as expected, I had no symptoms that impacted my life or activities in any way.
Before I knew how my body would react to the second dose, I prepared myself for the possibility of feeling lousy for a day or two afterward.
If it were an option, I would have scheduled the day off work after the second vaccination to be safe. For me that wasn’t possible, so I scheduled a grocery delivery before my shot and purchased the same items I’d buy if I had a cold or the flu (water, soup, crackers, etc.) I also made sure my pets were stocked up with plenty of food and water.
In addition to comfort food and hydrating liquids, I cobbled together a “vaccine valise” of other supplies to have on hand.
This included an under-tongue thermometer to monitor my temperature and over-the-counter fever reducers. For the whiplash back and forth between fever and chills that some people have reported, I set out washcloths to be used as cold compresses. I also put a weighted blanket and a down comforter near my bed.
I received my vaccine in the afternoon on January 7. Here’s my hour by hour reaction.
3 p.m. (Hour zero): Received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, no immediate reaction.
9 p.m. (6-hour mark): I felt fine until the six-hour mark, when I began to feel a sense of malaise (the medical word for that vague feeling when you know something isn’t quite right at the beginning of feeling sick). Mild muscle aches soon followed, as well as injection site soreness that felt similar to how a tetanus shot feels – that is, a little worse than a flu shot.
January 8 – day one after the shot
3 a.m. (12-hour mark): I woke up with a 102-degree fever and chills, general insomnia.
5 a.m. (14-hour mark): There was some improvement to the fever and chills, but when I woke up the muscle aches persisted, and I had a dull headache similar to what I’d feel if I skipped my daily coffee.
11 a.m. (20-hour mark): I still had a dull headache, and my fever and chills returned and persisted throughout the day, along with exhaustion and an overall “blah” feeling.
11 p.m. (32-hour mark): I was still experiencing a headache, fever, and chills when I went to bed at 11 p.m.
January 9 – day two after the shot
I woke up sweaty, likely from chills and minor night sweats. I got on the scale and saw I’d lost four pounds since I weighed myself the morning of the shot on January 7. Some of that was from being dehydrated; the rest may have been secondary to my body battling what it thought was COVID-19.
3 p.m. (48-hour mark): I felt essentially back to normal.
January 10 – day three after the shot
I felt so much better (almost normal) all day yesterday. I worked out in the morning, and most of the weight came right back when I upped my water intake.
Overall, of my symptoms were mild and a very small price to pay for protection against COVID-19. I believe temporary discomfort should not be a deterrent to receiving the vaccine, and I know these symptoms are a sign of a robust immune system and that my body is priming itself to fight COVID-19 – exactly what it is supposed to do.
It’s important we’re prepared for the possibility of these side effects.
The Pfizer vaccine was vetted by the US Food and Drug Administration which determined that it was safe to be given to people over 16. Millions of Americans need to be prepared for the authorized COVID-19 vaccines’ potential side effects such as fatigue, headache, muscle pains, fever, and chills that are more common with the second dose. For the majority of recipients, these potential effects may be an uncomfortable, but not threatening, part of this vaccine.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s latest projections, we need approximately 90% of Americans to be immunized to achieve herd immunity in order to resume normal life. I believe it’s our civic responsibility to be vaccinated according to the recommended dose regimen to end the pandemic. We all benefit.
It’s smart to prepare yourself for the possibility that dose two of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines may be slightly more challenging. Still, having seen the destruction SARS-CoV-2 can wreak upon the body, I can tell you I’d rather have a night of feeling lousy on the couch watching Netflix any day over serious COVID-19.
An earlier version of this article was published on Business Insider January 8, 2020.
As the coronavirus vaccine rollout stalls in the US, some public health and scientific leaders are suggesting altering the shots’ administration in order to protect more people faster.
But the FDA warned healthcare providers not to halve doses, mix and match shots, or widen the window between the doses’ delivery.
Until we know how protective a single shot is and how long that protection might last, “making such changes that are not supported by adequate scientific evidence may ultimately be counterproductive to public health,” the agency said.
The dire situation has led some healthcare leaders to consider bending the vaccine administration protocol in order to, in theory, protect more people quicker.
But on Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration tried to quash such attempts in the US, issuing a statement urging healthcare providers to administer coronavirus vaccines as they’ve been studied – that is, in two complete doses, made by the same company, and given three weeks apart for the Pfizer vaccine or four weeks apart for Moderna’s.
The chief of Operation Warp Speed mulled giving out half doses, and the UK has discussed mixing vaccines
Moncef Slaoui, chief of Operation Warp Speed, said on Sunday that officials may give out half doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 shot in order to double the number of people immunized.
There have also been contested discussions in the UK about mixing vaccines – that is, giving someone a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and a second dose of Moderna’s, or vice versa, depending on availability. And, the UK’s health service has widened the window between recommended doses in an effort to maximize the number of people with some protection.
In its statement, the FDA said whether such tweaks work are “reasonable questions to consider and evaluate in clinical trials.”
“However, at this time, suggesting changes to the FDA-authorized dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence. Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from COVID-19.”
The Infectious Diseases Society of America concurred, issuing a statement Tuesday in support of FDA’s stance.
Changes to the vaccination schedule “carry the risk of both undermining the effectiveness of vaccines and eroding the public trust necessary for successful vaccine uptake,” it says. “As always, our approach against this pandemic must be founded in science, leadership, funding, collaboration and cooperation.”
We don’t know for sure how protective a single dose is or how long protection from it lasts
The FDA said we can’t know much about how long a single dose is protective, or how strong that protection might be, since those questions weren’t studied and their answers may be related.
Until we better understand those questions, dolling out single or meager doses “is concerning,” the FDA said.
“If people do not truly know how protective a vaccine is, there is the potential for harm because they may assume that they are fully protected when they are not, and accordingly, alter their behavior to take unnecessary risks.”
The agency acknowledged that suggested tweaks to the vaccines’ delivery are well-intentioned, but said, “making such changes that are not supported by adequate scientific evidence may ultimately be counterproductive to public health.”
Pfizer is reportedly close to striking a deal with the Trump administration to supply tens of million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the US in 2021, people familiar with the discussions told The New York Times Tuesday.
The US government wants 100 million additional doses of Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s vaccine between April to June, the Times reported. The drugmaker has said it could supply 70 million doses, the people said, provided it gets better access to manufacturing supplies through the Defense Production Act.
This access would help Pfizer to acquire the nine specialized products it needs to make the vaccine, the people said.
The deal, which could be announced as soon as Wednesday, would help offset a vaccine shortage that could leave up to 110 million Americans unprotected for the first half of 2021, the Times reported.
Instead, the government looked to make agreements with up to six other manufacturers.
Pfizer officials first started asking Gen. Gustave F. Perna, the chief operating officer of the US’s Operation Warp Speed program, for help in accessing supplies in September and have been unhappy about the lack of response, according to documents seen by Times.
One person familiar with the matter told the Times that if the government had agreed to prioritize Pfizer’s supply needs earlier, the company would now be more likely to fully meet the Trump administration’s demands.
Other drugmakers, including Moderna, used federal money for research and development of their vaccines, but Pfizer did not.
The government has not prioritized supplies for Pfizer because it wanted to protect its investment in the other companies under Warp Speed’s umbrella, the people told the Times.
A senior official from the Trump administration told the Times the government had avoided helping Pfizer because the drugmaker refused to promise that it would use the materials to make vaccines solely for American citizens.
“It’s our obligation under that type of priority rating to make sure that assets are used only for US sales or production,” the official said. “They weren’t willing to do that.”
Dr. Joy Henningsen is a diagnostic radiologist at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
On December 17, she received the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine along with other hospital workers at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.
Henningsen says she eagerly signed up to receive the vaccine as soon as it became available. After a temperature check, she says the injection process went quickly and that she “barely felt” the shot.
For now, she says her day-to-day behavior will remain the same: avoiding bars or restaurants, wearing masks outside of her home, and practicing good sanitization, until a majority of Americans have also received the vaccine.
We’re in the middle of winter, with surge upon surge in COVID-19 cases, and the pandemic is far from over. And yet I’m euphoric – a novel feeling in this year dominated by a novel virus – because news of a safe and robust vaccine, while far from being a magic bullet, gives me great hope that the beginning of the end of the pandemic is here.
I felt a rush of optimism when Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna released their impressive vaccine efficacy data and tweeted about my enthusiasm to receive the vaccine.
I believe in vaccines, I believe in this vaccine, and I was beyond eager to roll up my sleeve to get it. I also applaud the FDA’s emergency use authorization for the vaccine given the fact that COVID-19 cases are still on the rise across the US.
I learned that my facility, UAB Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama and the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center would be receiving doses in the first national shipment.
My employer kept us apprised every step of the way. Just before the FDA authorized use of the first COVID-19 vaccine, staff received a survey of interest asking if we would opt to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s available; maybe; or not at all.
Since “yesterday” via time travel wasn’t an option, I went with “as soon as it’s available.” I probably refreshed my work email a thousand times waiting for any update as to my appointment time after submitting the form. Personally, I would’ve taken the first approved vaccine offered to me, no matter the manufacturer.
The brave staff in our ICU and emergency departments are at highest risk and were immunized first, followed by other healthcare workers and long-term care residents.
As a diagnostic radiologist, I’m not on the front lines, but I am a constant witness to COVID-19’s serious effects via the dark tales told by my patients’ medical images. I interpret images of the chest and lungs, which feature prominently in COVID’s respiratory wrath, and work closely with my frontline colleagues to inform them of critical imaging results.
Beyond work, I’m also an outspoken pro-mask, pro-vaccine healthcare communicator who keeps COVID-19 front and center in my mind. I am but one of many critical cogs in the healthcare wheel, but I must stay well so I’m able to provide lifesaving diagnostic information that guides my patients’ care. All members of the healthcare team should be protected.
I had zero reservations about getting the vaccine.
Thousands rolled up their sleeves during the various clinical trials, so even those of us fairly high on the priority list are not guinea pigs. The data from those early, willing trial volunteers gives me confidence that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe, which is why it was approved.
There have been reports of people feeling lousy for a day after the vaccine (pain at the site of injection, headaches, fever, muscle aches and chills – more common after the second dose), but I’ll take a temporary side effect any day over contracting COVID-19. There have also been reports of allergic reactions, particularly in those with a history of severe allergies.
I do not have such a history, but if I did, I would follow CDC guidelines to get the vaccine in a supervised setting and be monitored for 30 minutes afterward after first discussing risks with my personal physician.
The notice of my own vaccine appointment was an additional tangible reminder we’re slowly awakening from this global nightmare.
The vaccine process itself could not have been simpler.
I got the vaccine at the Birmingham VA Medical Center, and when I arrived for my appointment on December 17, it seemed they’d already been doing this for months rather than mere days. Everything was organized and streamlined with designated waiting areas and guided pathways to facilitate social distancing.
It felt very safe, and the holiday music and decorations made the process, dare I say, pleasant. I didn’t expect that. People were laughing and chatting, and it was lovely to have a holiday vibe of good cheer.
After a temperature check, I filled out a questionnaire that asked us our past medical history and questions about allergies. I chose to have the injection in my non-dominant arm since there were reports of soreness.
Still, I found the COVID-19 vaccine to be much less painful than my flu shot earlier this fall – I barely felt it. I waited the required 15 minutes to make sure there were no adverse reactions, and then I was done.
The sooner a majority of Americans can join me, the sooner we can return to the things we love.
I’m ecstatic to have been vaccinated, and am eager for my second dose in three weeks. I can’t wait to one day return to traveling and socializing, but for now, my life will look exactly the same for some time.
I’ll remain vigilant for my family and community, as should every vaccine recipient. My mother is also immunocompromised, which prompted my temporary move this year to be closer to her, so for this reason, my day-to-day behavior won’t change in any way.
I will continue to have groceries delivered; I will not go to bars or restaurants; and I will wear masks anytime I’m indoors outside of my home. Wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing are all here to stay until at least 75% of the American public is immunized by some public health experts’ estimations, so none of my personal practices the last 11 months will change.
It’s still unknown whether or not vaccine recipients can transmit the virus to others – even if it prevents us from becoming ill ourselves. I won’t risk the lives of the ones I love most.
The end of the pandemic can’t come fast enough -and I’m one of the lucky ones with good health, a job, and a roof over my head. Still, there’s also a weight to being a physician and healthcare communicator during a pandemic, especially one some Americans still do not even acknowledge as real.
But hope is on the horizon, and I’m overjoyed to have been a part of this moment in history.
Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla hasn’t taken the COVID-19 vaccine his company developed alongside BioNTech yet – and he told CNBC Monday that Pfizer executives will wait until it’s their turn to get a shot.
“As soon as I can, I will,” he said. But he added that he doesn’t want executives to “cut the line” and set a bad example.
“I’m 59 years old, in good health, I’m not working on the frontline, so my type it is not recommended to get vaccination now,” he explained.
However, Bourla said he would consider getting the vaccine earlier than recommended for someone of his age and health “just to demonstrate the confidence of the company.” This could encourage others to take the shot, he said.
Pfizer runs “a lot of polls” to see what would make people more willing to take the vaccine, Bourla said – and one of the top responses is if he, as CEO, takes it. This ranks even higher than President-elect Joe Biden taking the vaccine, Bourla said.
“With that in mind, I’m trying to find a way that I will get vaccinated, despite if it is not my time, just to demonstrate the confidence of the company,” he said.
“But we have made a decision that if we have to do that we would not do it with our executives, so none of the executives or board members will cut the line.”
They will take it at the appropriate time based on their age and occupation, he added.
“People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary,” he said in a tweet. “I have asked that this adjustment be made. I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”
Former US presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have all said they are willing to take their COVID-19 shots on camera to show the vaccine is safe, and President Donald Trump doing the same is “certainly under consideration,” White House officials said.
In the interview with CNBC, Bourla discussed the distribution of Pfizer’s vaccine across the US. The shots have to be kept at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, which is significantly colder than most other vaccines.
“I am very confident that things will go very smoothly,” Bourla said, explaining that the company had been preparing to distribute the shots for months.
He also added that, despite Pfizer saying it will produce 1.3 billion doses of its vaccine next year, this is just a “commitment to the world.” The company actually hopes to make “much more,” he said.