For many Americans, the COVID-19 vaccine represents the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. But understanding the facts around the vaccine – including how it should be properly administered and tracked – will be key to achieving a wholly positive outcome.

As many of you are aware, there is no shortage of false information surrounding the new vaccine. In pursuit of the truth, HHAeXchange consulted credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Partnership for Medicaid Home-Based Care (PMHC), and our own in-house industry experts. In this blog post, we’ll break down everything homecare agencies need to know about the vaccine – from how, when, and where to be vaccinated, to best practices for ensuring safety among your staff and patients.

How many COVID-19 vaccines are there?

Currently, two vaccines are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19:

  1. ​​​​Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

  2. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine​​

There may be more on the way, as multiple COVID-19 vaccines are still under development. As stated by the CDC, large-scale clinical trials are in progress or being planned for the three following COVID-19 vaccines: AstraZeneca, Janssen, and Novavax.

What’s the difference between the two authorized COVID-19 vaccines?

Both vaccines have been proven safe and effective; there are mainly only small differences between the two. While Pfizer’s vaccine is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, Moderna’s is 94.1% effective. The Moderna vaccine should be delivered in two doses spaced at least 28 days apart; Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses spaced at least 21 days apart.

The one major difference is in required storage temperature: The Moderna vaccine should be stored at -4 Fahrenheit, while Pfizer’s needs to be stored at a much lower temperature of -94 Fahrenheit.

Should I be worried about the side effects?

The vast majority of people may experience a range of only mild side effects – such as headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, pain or swelling near the injection site, chills, or a low fever.

You should consult your doctor or healthcare provider if redness or tenderness near the injection site increases after 24 hours, or if your side effects persist after a few days.

If I already had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?

Current evidence suggests that it is unlikely someone will become reinfected with the virus in the first 90 days after COVID-19 infection. But experts do not have a concrete answer, as this “natural immunity” appears to vary from person to person.

For long-term immunity to the virus, the vaccine is recommended. However, more data is needed to determine precisely how long the vaccine will work in protecting against the virus.

Will I have to pay for the vaccine?

No; the vaccine is free for all individuals. While you should not have to pay anything out-of-pocket, you will be asked for your insurance information. Even those who do not have health insurance should be given the vaccine at no charge. Congress pre-paid vaccine manufacturers for hundreds of millions of doses in order to make the vaccine free for every American. 

If I get the vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing?

Yes. Clinical trials completed thus far have not determined whether vaccinated people can still spread COVID-19 without developing systems. Every member of the population must do their part to prevent the spread of the virus – and that includes those who have been vaccinated.

How is the vaccine being distributed in my state?

COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans vary by state. PMHC created a website with each individual state’s plan – you can check it out here.

How can I track who’s been vaccinated on my staff?

Homecare agencies have an advantage over nursing homes in the sense that they don’t have to store and administer the vaccines themselves; the disadvantage is that it becomes harder to track who has received both doses, since it’s out of your hands. Careful record-keeping and proof of vaccinations will be key to safety and success.

HHAeXchange has added new functionality to our compliance module in order to help agencies track and record which caregivers have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

How can I encourage more members of my staff to get vaccinated?

There are several ways you can encourage your caregivers to get the vaccine:

  1. Remind them of its importance in protecting themselves, their families, and their patients against the virus.

  2. Make sure they know it’s safe. There is a good amount of false information surrounding the vaccine, so do your part to give them the facts and call out non-credible sources where possible.

  3. Consider asking members of your staff who have gotten vaccinated to speak to those who might have hesitations. Hearing their coworkers’ reasons for getting the vaccine can motivate them to get it themselves and may also help to ease any concerns they might have. Additionally, you can direct them to PMHC’s website, which has tons of inspiring stories from caregivers who have gotten their COVID-19 vaccine.

How can I learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine?

For detailed information on COVID-19 vaccination, visit the CDC website.

For more COVID-19 resources and ideas on how to encourage your staff to get vaccinated, visit PMHC’s Be Wise, Immunize website.