COVID-19 Vaccine at TMH

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine Updates

Update: February 9, 2021

Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-315 which allows hospitals to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to persons they deem to be “extremely vulnerable.”

The CDC defines “extremely vulnerable” as:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
  • People who have serious heart conditions.
  • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment.
  • People of any age with severe obesity (BMI >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk.
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Down Syndrome
  • Sickle Cell disease
  • Diabetes
  • Have been classified as clinically extremely vulnerable based on clinical judgement and assessment by the physician.

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) has developed a process for local primary care providers to refer their “extremely vulnerable” patients to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. As these patients are referred and additional vaccine allocations are received, TMH will contact the most vulnerable patients first to schedule vaccine appointments. If you meet the “extremely vulnerable” criteria and are under the age of 65, please contact your primary care provider to be referred to TMH. The general public should not contact TMH directly to request the vaccine at this time.

Update: January 7, 2021

Since receiving an allotment of 6,700 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 23, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) has worked diligently to vaccinate as many healthcare professionals as possible. This has been possible through strong partnerships with other healthcare organizations, including Bond Health Clinic, Capital Health Plan, Neighborhood Medical Center, Tallahassee Primary Care Associates, rural hospitals and many other local medical practices. There are still healthcare workers in our community who would like the COVID-19 vaccine and have not received it yet. TMH has worked with Capital Regional Medical Center to identify vaccine doses that can be used to immediately fill this unmet need. 
Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare has also partnered with the Leon County Department of Health to distribute 6,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to Leon County residents 65 years and older. Once the vaccines are in hand, Capital Health Plan, Tallahassee Primary Care Associates and TMH Physician Partners will be administering the vaccine to eligible patients. These organizations have established vaccine medical teams who have carefully set criteria and thoughtfully reviewed patients who will be eligible to receive these initial 6,000 doses. Patients were selected based on their age, current health conditions and overall health status to ensure the patients with the greatest need receive the vaccine first. Bond Health Clinic and Neighborhood Medical Center are now working directly with the State of Florida and Department of Health to provide vaccines to their patients. The general public should not contact these groups to request the vaccine at this time. Due to the limited supply, eligible patients are being contacted directly by their primary care provider’s office.

Update: December 23, 2020

Late this morning, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) received 6,700 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.   Upon arrival they were unpacked, counted, blessed and thawed by our Pharmacy team and Director of Spiritual Care, before being administered to colleagues. Our first allocation is being administered exclusively to healthcare workers.   The first three colleagues at TMH to receive the COVID-19 vaccine were:
Lorraine Nichols, RRT, Respiratory Therapist
Kenny Maresco, RN, Bixler Trauma & Emergency Center
Charlee Mehr, RN, COVID-19 Unit
Lorraine, Kenny and Charlee have worked on the frontlines caring for patients throughout this pandemic. We are proud to have them as our first vaccine recipients on this monumental day. Dr. Andrea Friall, Vice President/Chief Medical Officer at TMH, and Dr. Dean Watson, Chief Integration Officer at TMH and Capital Health Plan, showed their support and leadership to frontline healthcare providers by being the first leaders to receive the vaccine.

Our goal is to safely vaccinate a large quantity of TMH colleagues, physicians and partners efficiently and as quickly as possible. We are working to distribute a portion of the COVID-19 vaccines to local medical providers and rural hospitals. We’ve also established a drive-thru to safely administer vaccines to TMH colleagues. 

Update: December, 22, 2020

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) is one of the Florida hospitals selected to receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. TMH expects to receive an allotment of 5,600 vaccines on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. A plan is already in place based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for vaccine distribution and the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. TMH’s vaccine working group developed a plan to administer the vaccine to healthcare providers and report immunization records to Florida SHOTS. 

“On behalf of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, we are thrilled to receive our first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccines,” said Mark O’Bryant, President & CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. “Getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing will collectively help us get our families and communities back to normal.”
“We understand our community may have questions about the vaccine and its safety. After closely reviewing the research and current recommendations of experts in this field, we are confident this vaccine is safe and effective, “ said Andrea Friall, MD, Vice President & Chief Medical Officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.
“In addition to vaccinating our own frontline colleagues, Tallahassee Memorial will distribute vaccines to other local healthcare providers so they can begin vaccinating their own frontline staff including Bond Community Health Center, Neighborhood Medical Center, TMH Physician Partners, Capital Health Plan, Tallahassee Primary Care Associates and more,” said Dean Watson, MD, Chief Integration Officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and Capital Health Plan.

For individuals interested in learning more, TMH and The Village Square are hosting a conversation about COVID-19 vaccines and the development of vaccines with nationally acclaimed members of the FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. Join Skip Foster on Jan. 13 at 1 pm as he speaks with Dr. Paul Spearman, Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and Dr. Geeta Swamy, Associate Vice President for Research at Duke University, about vaccine development and safety.


When will Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) receive the vaccine?
Five hospitals in Florida were selected to receive the first distribution of vaccines. These hospitals are Advent Health in Orlando, Jackson Memorial in Miami, Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Tampa General in Tampa and UF Health in Jacksonville. On Wednesday, December 23, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) received 6,700 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

Does TMH have the right equipment, such as freezers, to store and distribute the vaccines?
TMH established a working group who reviewed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for vaccine distribution and developed a plan to administer the vaccine and report immunization records to Florida SHOTS. Our plan is already in place and will be adjusted once vaccine allocation amounts and delivery timelines are available. This plan also includes having the right equipment on-hand to store and distribute the vaccines.

Who will receive the vaccine first?
Distribution guidelines have been established by the CDC to ensure people in high-risk areas, such as healthcare providers and long-term care residents, receive the vaccine first.

Will TMH colleagues be required to receive the vaccine?
TMH colleagues will be encouraged, but not required, to receive the vaccine.

Why aren’t we making the vaccine a requirement for colleagues?
The vaccines being approved are for emergency use only and not yet an established, proven vaccine. 

Can the general public receive the vaccine when it is released?
Not initially. Due to limited supplies of vaccines, priority has been given to healthcare providers and long-term care residents as these groups have a high-risk of exposure to the virus. Many experts expect the vaccine to be available for the general public in spring 2021.

Can I contract COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. The vaccine does not contain the live virus that would cause COVID-19. Instead, it is designed to help you develop antibodies to help fight off the virus. After receiving the vaccine, you may not feel well for a few days as the vaccination will trigger an immune response.

If I receive the vaccine, does that mean I can’t catch COVID-19?
These COVID-19 vaccines, as with all vaccines, are not 100% effective, but are an important part of managing the pandemic. TMH will still require masks, social distancing and proper hand hygiene in our facilities.

Do you know which vaccine TMH is receiving?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both received Emergency Use Authorization
from the FDA. TMH expects to receive the Moderna vaccine first.

What is the effective rate for Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s vaccines?
Pfizer has indicated their vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%, Moderna has announced its vaccine is 94.5% effective. AstraZeneca’s vaccine efficacy has yet to be clearly stated, but it ranges between 60- 90%.

How many doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will I need? What is the time period between the initial vaccine and the 2nd vaccine shot/booster?
Both of the first two vaccines awaiting FDA-approval will require two doses. An initial vaccination and then a second shot either three or four weeks later. The Pfizer vaccine requires a booster 21 days later and the Moderna vaccine requires a second dose 28 days later. The different vaccine products are not be interchangeable. The second dose must be completed with the same vaccine brand as the first dose. Both doses are important to ensure full protection.

What if I miss my second dose of the vaccine?
These two COVID-19 vaccines are not completely effective unless you receive the second dose. Your second dose will be scheduled after you get your first shot. 

Is the vaccine safe?
Vaccine safety is determined in terms of "adverse events", or when a patient experiences a negative effect after receiving their dose. Guidelines around this are very stringent, and too many or too severe events will cause a vaccine to be terminated during initial trials. By the time a vaccine reaches consumers, the risk of a negative outcome is very low.

How long will it take for the vaccine to begin protecting me?
It normally takes about two to three weeks for cellular immunity to develop and several weeks for a full antibody response.

Does this vaccine use live or dead virus?
Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are mRNA vaccines, and AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s are non-replicating vectored vaccines. None of the early vaccines being tested are live weakened versions of the virus.

Do we have knowledge of what products are in the vaccine? Some people have concerns if the vaccine has a blood product, or cells from aborted fetuses due to their religious beliefs. 

  • No COVID-19 vaccine contains cells from aborted fetuses. 
  • Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are synthetic vaccines (genetically manufactured) and do not have a human or blood component. 
  • AstraZeneca has a distant tie to a fetal cell in its manufacturing, however, the vaccine itself does not contain fetal cells.

For Roman Catholics, and other individuals who are pro-life and support anti-abortion measures and others possibly concerned about the shot’s contents, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life says the cell lines used in such vaccines "are very distant from the original abortions." They stated, "We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion," the academy says.  

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Pfizer has said that some Phase III clinical trial participants experienced mild-to-moderate side effects with its investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Scientists anticipate that the shots may cause mild flu-like side effects — including sore arms, muscle aches and fever. Therefore, we are recommending that you take ibuprofen or acetaminophen (if you can safely take them) before you get the vaccine. This will help to significantly alleviate the side effects. Study participants did not take pain relievers before their vaccines.

Will COVID-19 vaccines cause me to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests?
No. These vaccines will not cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccination, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection or vaccination and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.

Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

Will I have to get a COVID-19 shot every year?
Scientists are still studying this and will determine this once the vaccine is distributed and more data is available.

When can I stop wearing a mask after I am vaccinated?
There is not enough information currently available to say if or when the CDC will stop recommending people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection the COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

Does immunity after getting COVID-19 last longer than protection from COVID-19 vaccines? 
The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. 

Regarding vaccination, we won’t know how long immunity lasts until we have a vaccine and more data on how well it works.

Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 experts are trying to learn more about, and we continue to look to the CDC for guidance. 

If I have had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine?
This will be a personal decision. The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Since this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. 

Are there challenges with the distribution?
These vaccines will require two doses and need to be kept at very low temperatures — much colder than a household freezer. Many hospitals and clinics do not have the ability to store the medicine at these ultra-low temperatures, so that must be worked out once these vaccines get FDA approval.

At Tallahassee Memorial, we have ample cold-storage facilities to hold whichever vaccine we use for patients and employees. And, during distribution, we still need to keep the vaccines cold and the temperature strictly monitored, making the distributing challenging. However, TMH has teams working on our plans for this and we are prepared to store and safely distribute the vaccines we receive.