Wearing masks and social distancing can help reduce your chance of being exposed to COVID-19 or spreading it to others, but these measures may not be enough. Vaccines prepare our bodies to fight the virus, if exposed, and can be crucial to maintaining long-term control of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although highly effective COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and a plan for national distribution established, polls suggest that a sizable proportion of the US population still does not plan to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or is unsure about receiving the vaccine. Pharmacists, practitioners, and health care workers are well-positioned to educate and advise patients on the efficacy of the vaccine. Remind your patients that established processes and procedures are in place to ensure the safety of any vaccine that is authorized or approved for use by FDA. Safety is a top priority, and there are many reasons to get vaccinated.
How the COVID-19 Vaccine Works
The COVID-19 vaccine will help the body develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without having to get the illness. Different vaccines can work in different ways but all will result in the body being left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future. It takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination. According to the CDC , none of these vaccines can give you COVID-19.
All health care workers, including pharmacists, are eligible to receive the vaccine. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is an important step to protecting yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19. View your state board of pharmacy website to understand the next steps in your state.
Read more below for current COVID-19 vaccine resources for health care providers. Follow us on social media to stay up to date with the latest news.
- Vaccine Development
- Vaccine Distribution
- Vaccine Handling and Logistics
- Vaccine Administration
- Patient Care
The COVID-19 vaccine development process follows a multi-stage development cycle. Download the FDA Vaccine Facts infographic to understand the path for a COVID-19 vaccine from research to emergency use authorization.
Additional resources describing COVID-19 vaccine development and trials can be found below:
- FDA provided a detailed explanation about what emergency use authorization for vaccines entails, including how the phases of the trials are part of this process.
- A new CDC study shows strong evidence that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections throughout real-world situations.
- US National Library of Medicine provides a searchable database with specific details about all COVID-19 clinical trials, including ongoing trials.
- CDC released information to understand the federal retail pharmacy program for administering COVID-19 vaccines.
- HHS released an amendment to the PREP Act which will allow certain pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and pharmacy technicians to administer, distribute or dispense COVID-19 tests and vaccines. The training requirements needed to administer certain childhood and COVID–19 vaccines have also been modified under the amendment.
- VaccineFinder , a resource from CDC, can be used by providers to report COVID-19 vaccine supply levels and assist patients in finding vaccine sites near them.
Handling and Logistics
Challenges have been encountered by the health care community when preparing, transporting, and administering COVID-19 vaccine. Refer to USP’s COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit (updated March 2021) for additional guidance on:
- preparation and labeling,
- storage handling and transport, and
- waste and disposal
Additional resources are also provided by CDC to assist with COVID-19 vaccine logistics.
- Information and training about the administration, storage, handling, safety, and reporting of the vaccine.
- Requirements and resources related to the Vaccination Program Provider Agreement for providers participating in the COVID-19 vaccine program.
Emergency use authorization has been granted by the FDA for three COVID-19 vaccines in the US: Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are administered in two shots. The first shot starts building protection and the second is given a few weeks later. The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine is administered in a single dose.
It is imperative that COVID-19 vaccines be administered and received according to how they have been authorized by the FDA in order to safely receive the level of protection observed in the large randomized trials. Refer to the emergency use authorization pages for additional information.
Pfizer-BioNTech emergency use authorization
Moderna emergency use authorization
Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) emergency use authorization
Current and retired, traditional and non-traditional health care professionals can become part of the COVID-19 vaccination workforce. Find out about new liability protections and how to register to be a part of your state’s vaccination efforts.
Additional guidance and resources on vaccine administration can be found below.
- Immunization Action Coalition published an article clarifying the timing for the second dosing of the vaccine.
- CDC released recommendations and clinical considerations for the COVID-19 vaccines.
- USP released a video with techniques to maximize doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Patient Care and Vaccine Resources
- Refer patients to NABP’s safe.pharmacy site for answers to frequently asked questions and current resources about the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Immunization Action Coalition compiled a variety of COVID-19 resources, including ACIP recommendations, fact sheets, administration and safety tools, and patient education materials.
- Stay up to date with recent COVID-19 resources for health care professionals from CDC and Infectious Diseases Society of America.
- CDC and Infectious Diseases Society of America compiled resources to help health care professionals educate patients about the COVID-19 vaccine. CDC released a presentation about building confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine among patients.
Vaccine Communication Toolkits
- US Department of Health & Human Services released a social media toolkit to recruit health care professionals for the COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
- CDC released communication toolkits for building confidence and educating patients about the vaccine. Toolkits have been created specifically for health care providers, recipients, and long-term care facilities.