COVID-19 vaccines: what you need to know

Due to vaccine shortages, SCCA is not scheduling any new vaccine appointments right now. Please do not call your care team about getting vaccinated. 
    

The information presented in this page is subject to change pending guidance from the CDC, WHO and/or Public Health – Seattle & King County. Some of the information on this page has been adapted, with permission, from UW Medicine’s COVID-19 Vaccines webpage.

Updated January 25, 2021
 

What we know

  • There are many benefits of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and doing so will help end the pandemic. We recommend that you get vaccinated when you are eligible.
  • We are currently in Phase 1B Tier 1 of the Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline. This phase is for people 65 years or older and all people 50 years or older in multigenerational households.
  • Two COVID-19 vaccines have received FDA emergency use authorization. One vaccine was developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other by Moderna. Both vaccines are equally safe and effective. SCCA has the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
  • All of us need to wear masks, practice physical distancing and wash our hands to prevent the spread of the coronavirus before and even after getting vaccinated.
Dr. Catherine Liu, Co-Medical Director of Fred Hutch/SCCA Vaccination Program, provides a COVID-19 vaccine update on January 25, 2021.

Availability

When will SCCA start vaccinating patients?

Due to vaccine shortages, SCCA is not scheduling any new vaccine appointments at this time. As supply allows, we will release new slots. Unfortunately, we don’t know when that will be. 

Will SCCA have the vaccine for family members and caregivers of patients?

Dependent on supply, we are offering the vaccine to SCCA caregivers who meet the criteria under “Who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine?

Who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine?
  • Patients and caregivers 65 years or older
  • Patients and caregivers who are 50 years or older living in a multigenerational (two or more generations) household, defined by Washington state as: 
    • People who are 50 and older and unable to live independently, who either:
      • Are receiving long-term care from a paid or unpaid caregiver, or
      • Are living with someone who works outside the home
    • People who are age 50 and older and living with and caring for a grandchild, niece or nephew

      No one under age 50 is eligible, and no one age 50 and older caring for a partner, friend or child (unless that child is a grandchild, niece or nephew) is eligible as part of this first group of Phase 1B.
       
  • High-risk health care workers, first responders, and staff and residents of long-term care facilities

Care-related restrictions

  • Patients receiving care at the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinic or Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic should follow these restrictions:
    • Autologous and allogeneic transplant patients and immunotherapy patients must be more than three months post-transplant/treatment.
    • Patients on 1 mg/kg or more of steroids such as prednisone should talk to their providers to determine the best time for vaccination.
  • Patients currently enrolled in a clinical trial will need to contact their clinical or research team to confirm if they are eligible to receive the vaccine.
How will I be notified when I can schedule my vaccine?

Patients 65 and older

  • Based on available supply, patients 65 and older will be emailed a link to our online scheduling platform for patients and caregivers. If you have not received an email, that means all slots are full. As supply increases, we will contact you when more time slots are released. Alternatively, you can also visit DOH's online Washington state clinic locator to find a clinic near you.
  • Patients 65 and older who don’t have an email address on record will be contacted by phone.

Patients 50 and older

Where can I get the vaccine?

As supply allows, SCCA is offering the vaccine at:

  • The Fred Hutch/SCCA COVID-19 Vaccine Program site (located a block from SCCA’s South Lake Union clinic) 
  • SCCA Peninsula and Issaquah clinics
  • SCCA community clinics at UWMC – Northwest, Overlake Medical Center and EvergreenHealth

If you receive care at UW Medicine, you may be able to receive it at one of their clinics. We will post information to guide vaccination in people with cancer as it becomes available. 

As supply of the vaccine increases, there will be other locations in Seattle King County, such as clinics, community sites or your local pharmacy, where your family members and caregivers can get vaccinated. Make sure you use PhaseFinder to confirm your eligibility. 

Which vaccine will SCCA be offering?

SCCA will be offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has received FDA emergency use authorization. 

General

covid vaccine infographic

How do vaccines work?

The COVID-19 vaccine teaches your immune system to recognize the coronavirus. When you get the vaccine, your immune system makes antibodies (“protein fighters”) against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These antibodies stay in your blood and protect you in case you are infected with the virus. 

These vaccines have been shown to prevent the major complications of infection, COVID-19 disease and hospitalization. When enough people in the community can fight off the coronavirus— something called herd or population immunity—it has nowhere to go. This means the virus has a harder time spreading, and we get closer to ending the pandemic. 

Watch this video from the Washington State Department of Health for more information on how vaccines work:
How Vaccines Work in Your Body Video

Why should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Studies show that people who were vaccinated against COVID-19 were less likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 even if they were  infected with the virus. Although the level of protection for people with cancer isn’t clear yet, experts recommend that many people with cancer get vaccinated. Vaccination may also help reduce the spread of a virus and protect the people around you, including those who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Will the vaccine stop the pandemic?

Based on what we know about viruses, vaccines are likely to be a critical part of curbing the pandemic. Stopping a pandemic requires us to use all the tools we have available, including masks, physical distancing and vaccines to help limit the spread. The more people continue to follow good prevention practices, the faster we can get this pandemic under control — but we aren’t there yet.

Safety

Is it safe for people in active cancer treatment to get the vaccine?

Each person with cancer has a treatment plan tailored to their disease and unique health situation. Data on vaccine safety in cancer patients receiving active treatment is limited. However, based on what we know about the vaccine in other groups, these vaccines appear to be safe. We will also post guidance on the vaccine and people with cancer, which is currently being worked on by a national team of experts, including members of SCCA.

How do we really know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe?

COVID-19 vaccines were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. Many people were recruited to participate in these trials to see how the vaccines offer protection to people of different ages, races, and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions. 

In both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trials, the rate of serious adverse events was low. Additional data on long-term safety will be available with more time and as more people get vaccinated. 
 

Watch these videos from the Washington State Department of Health and FDA to learn more about how vaccines are approved:
How COVID-19 Vaccines Are Made
What Is an Emergency Use Authorization?
 

Will the vaccine give me COVID-19?

No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. The new COVID-19 vaccines use inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus, parts of the virus (like the spike protein) or a gene from the virus. None of these can cause COVID-19.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

Vaccine side effects may be unpleasant but are not dangerous. In clinical trials, some people experienced fever, muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue and headaches. Most people will not experience side effects that prevent daily activity.

Special circumstances

Should pregnant and breastfeeding mothers get the vaccine?

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should get the vaccine once it is available to them. We know that:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women were not included in the COVID-19 clinical trials.
  • The risk of maternal or fetal harm from an mRNA vaccine is unknown but thought to be low.
  • COVID-19 disease carries an increased risk in pregnancy. This is particularly true for patients with obesity or other medical conditions.

The UW Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support offering the COVID-19 vaccine to pregnant and breastfeeding patients.

Please speak to your doctor if you are concerned or have more questions.
 

I am enrolled in a clinical trial. Can I get the vaccine?

If you are enrolled in a clinical trial, please contact your clinical team to check to see whether you are eligible to receive the vaccine.

I receive care at the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinic or Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic. Can I get the vaccine?

Transplant and immunotherapy clinic patients should follow these restrictions:

  • Autologous and allogenic transplant patients and immunotherapy patients must be more than three months post-transplant/treatment.
  • Patients on 1 mg/kg or more of steroids such as prednisone should talk to their providers to determine the best time for vaccination.

What to expect

How many shots of the vaccine will I need?

The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available need two shots to be effective.

How long will the vaccine protect me? Will I have to get a COVID-19 shot every year?

We don’t know yet. Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are trying to learn more about.

If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, should I still get vaccinated?

The CDC recommends that people who have had COVID-19 and recovered — and are no longer required to be in isolation — get the vaccine. Because it is uncommon to get COVID-19 again within 90 days of initial infection,  it may be reasonable to delay your vaccine until the end of the 90-day period. 

If I get a COVID-19 vaccine, do I still have to wear a mask and practice physical distancing?

Yes. To prevent unvaccinated people from getting sick, it's important to continue washing your hands, wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from those outside your household, and limiting gatherings until enough people have received the vaccine.

We know vaccination will prevent you from getting sick, but we don’t yet know if the vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus to others.
 

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